Things You Should Know About Dates Other Than The Iconic 'Yusuf Taiyoob' Whisper

There is so much more to dates than the seductive whisper of "Yusuuuuf Taiyooob..."

Cover image via My New Roots

A staple fruit of the Middle East, dates (known as kurma in Malay) are particularly prevalent during the month of Ramadan where they are eaten to break the fast or given as gifts

During Ramadan, the far-flung Muslim communities of the world are unified by one food: the date, one of the earliest cultivated crops and an ancient icon of the Middle East, where the thick-trunked date palm is a symbol of hospitality, rest and peace.

Traditionally known as the food Prophet Muhammad ate when he broke his fast, dates have played a key role in the cuisine, culture, and rituals surrounding hospitality in Middle Eastern countries

In the hadith, a collection of sayings attributed to the prophet Mohammed, it is recorded that he always broke the fast with dates and water, so many Muslims are careful to follow, whether the fruit is called balah (Arabic), khajoor (Urdu), hurmah (Turkish) or buah tanggal (Indonesian).

For centuries, nomadic people in the Middle East relied on dates as a diet staple. Not only can they be kept for a very, very long time, dates are an excellent source for nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, and a variety of minerals.

That's why dates are an essential part in breaking fast during Ramadan. Besides providing essential nutrients for those who are fasting, carbohydrates in the fruit ensures that you have enough energy to get you through the day as they digest much slower than fried or fatty foods.

Aside from that, dates also come attached with a lot of health benefits, including:

1. Dates are composed of soft, easily digestible flesh and contain simple sugars like fructose and dextrose which replenish energy and revitalises the body when eaten.

2. Dates are rich in fibre, hence promoting healthy bowel movement (yay, no constipation!) and prevents colon cancer.

3. Dates contain tannins containing anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic properties that prevent easy bleeding tendencies.

4. Rich in Vitamin A, dates also have antioxidant properties and promote healthy eyes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

5. Antioxidant flavonoids such as ß-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin protects the body from colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers, as well as against age-related macular degeneration, especially in elderly populations.

6. Potassium in dates help regulate heart rate and blood pressure, hence offering protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases.

7. Date fruits are also rich in minerals like calcium, copper, and magnesium. Calcium is an important mineral that is an essential constituent of bone and teeth, and required by the body for muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve impulse conduction. Copper is required for the production of red blood cells, while magnesium is essential for bone growth.

Too many words? Okay, here's a TL;DR version:

Image via Organic Facts

Thousands of date varieties are available around the world, categorised into three basic types - soft (e.g. barhi, halawi, khadrawi, and medjool), semi-dry (deglet noor and zahidi), and dry (thoori)

Their flavors range from rich molasses to light butterscotch to honey, sometimes accented with the headiness of cognac, the succulence of prunes and the burnt-sugar edge of caramel.

Some of the most common and popular types of dates.

Image via The Same Rainbow's End

While dates are available all-year round, they are pretty hard to come by. However, come Ramadan, you will see mountains of boxes of dates piled up high in your local supermarkets and grocery stores in preparation for the fasting month.

Some of the most popular date varieties available in Malaysia include mazafati (also known as kurma madu), piarom or maryami, ghasb, sayer, ajwa (kurma nabi), and of course, mehjood, which is considered the best date fruit in the world

Mazafati or kurma madu: One of the most famous and delicious date varieties originating from the southern city of BAM in Iran, mazafati dates have a delicate and rich flavour, with notes of caramel.

Piarom or Maryami: Black-brown and semi-dry with 15% moisture, piarom dates are one of the best and richest dates in the world.

Ghasb: Also known as zahedi in some areas of Iran, these semi-dry dates are well-known for its beautiful bright golden color, glossy skin, mild sweetness and its unique pleasant acidity level.

Sayer: Semi-dried with moisture under 15%, these dates are dark orange-brown, of medium size, soft and syrupy.

Ajwa or kurma nabi: A soft dry date cultivated in al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, ajwa dates are soft and fruity with a fine texture.

Mehjood: Often described as the king of all dates, mehjood dates are the largest among all types of dates and have a caramel-like taste. As they are plumper, they can be stuffed with walnut pieces, almonds, or other nuts to create a healthy and nutritious snack.

There are quite a number of date suppliers and brands in Malaysia, but the most well-known of them all has got to be the best-selling Yusuf Taiyoob dates... all thanks to its iconic 'whispering' ad

Ramadan in Malaysia is not complete without this ad making its rounds on national TV. It's so iconic there are memes inspired by the ad.

Image via Shaolin Tiger

While dates - whether fresh or dried - already taste good on its own, you can also elevate and incorporate the fruit into some pretty amazing snacks. All you need are some fresh dates, a food processor, and these simple recipes:

To satisfy your chocolate cravings: Combine chopped dates with semi-sweet chocolate morsels, butter or margarine, sugar, eggs, and flour to create a delightful chocolate date cake. Bake in a 220-degree Celcius oven for 15 minutes, or until edges set and center is still moist.

A gourmet date treat: Steam and then puree dates in a food processor along with roasted almonds. Add cinnamon, honey, orange blossom water, form the paste into balls and roll in coconut before serving.

Bumping up the protein: Mix dates in with cooked chicken, lentils, and sauteed vegetables. Serve over rice for a satisfying meal.

Or simply take a leaf out of local celeb Neelofa's book and pair it with some honey and milk!

If you wanna be a little fancier with your leftover dates, check out these awesome recipes:

Last week on SAYS Makan, we went on a number of dates with these gorgeous cakes by local Instagram bakers:

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