When is Eid?

sunset is at 8:38 today

sunset is at 8:38 today

The Islamic calendar is lunar. This is why no one is ever quite sure when Ramadan starts and when it ends too- Muslims are looking to the moon. Some believe that the moon must be seen with the naked eye while others contend that a telescope or astronomical calculations are good enough.

I sat on the South Indian beach one sultry night watching the sky with Muslim friends. It seemed very romantic to me- waiting for the moon to tell us whether fasting would begin the next morning.

I was in Kerala, on Kovalam Beach. It’s a humid place with salt in the air, where the electricity goes off every day at 6 p.m., and I always kept careful track of my candles and matches. It’s a place with spiders as big as my hand and snakes as large as my body, a place where I had to walk down a jungle path shared by such spiders and snakes twice a day.

Kovalam is very close to the equator:  sunrise and sunset were at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day of the year- a 12 hour fast. (In Canada, the fast varies widely depending on the month. This July has been hot, the fast being 15 long hours without drink, food or cigarettes.)

We sat in a crowd on the beach that night, in a deep enveloping darkness, watching for the full moon over the hard-pounding surf of the Indian Ocean. The locals had relaxed into a holiday mood, but I was concerned- it was cloudy and the stars weren’t visible. We didn’t see the moon although we sat for hours, and the light-heartedness of my companions did not diminish.

“But how will you know?” I asked my friend. “Who will tell you?”

“In Saudi, they will be seeing the moon.”

“What if it’s cloudy there too?”

He laughed. “They are not having clouds in Saudi.”

“Well, how will you know tonight?” There was no electricity, no radio or television. In fact, I was quite sure he didn’t have a telephone.

“I am starting now because maybe tomorrow is being the first day.”

“But how will you know?” insisted my Western personality.

He looked at me kindly. “Ramadan is being in the heart. It is bringing me closer to my God. If I am being early it is wonderful thing and I am not taking the chance for missing even one day. It is best days of all the year. It is happiest time for me:  My heart is singing with the God every day in the Ramadan.”

I thought these Indian Muslims were quite different from the Turkish Muslims I had known. In Western Turkey, Ramadan had been announced by the imam at the mosque; the restrictions were resented but endured by the people I hung out with there. Appearances and judgmental neighbours were a real concern. I’d never heard anyone speak of Ramadan with this kind of excitement and devotion.

The arrival of Eid which marks the end of Ramadan is also washed with uncertainty. This year it may be Monday or Tuesday. Funny pie chart here lists ways of discerning the date including “My mom will tell me” and “Just keep fasting until the phone explodes with Eid texts”.

In every Islamic culture I’ve been in, and also in Canada’s Muslim community, Eid is greeted with euphoric celebrations. No holiday is greater in Islam. The joy (and even relief) is profound.

The phrase “Eid Mubarak” means “Blessed Celebration” or more loosely- “Happy Festival”, and so on Monday, or maybe Tuesday, it’s the the thing to say to your Muslims neighbours.

sunset on the beach

sunset on the beach

Japanese gyoza recipe (a.k.a. Chinese pot-stickers)

A Japanese teacher invited a bunch of us newly-arrived English teachers from Canada, U.K. and Australia to her home. The activity waiting for us was gyoza-stuffing. We sat around a table and scooped spoonfuls of the stuffing into dumpling wrappers and chatted. When we’d finish a pile, our host would take them into the kitchen for a few moments and come back with hot treasures that we dipped in a sauce that dribbled down our chins. Delectable. Her stuffing was cabbage, minced pork, carrots, garlic, and pickled ginger.

garlic, ginger,carrots, cabbage and dumpling wrappers. Fresh red chili and tamari sauce for dipping.

garlic, ginger,carrots, cabbage and dumpling wrappers. Fresh red chili and tamari sauce for dipping.

Gyozas are stuffed dumplings that are fried and steamed at the same time.

Suggested stuffings:

1- cabbage, carrots, tofu, ginger and garlic

2- minced pork, garlic, ginger

3- scrambled egg, green onion

4- shrimp, corriander

use the back of a spoon to wet the outer edge of dumpling wrapper

use the back of a spoon to wet the outer edge of dumpling wrapper

The combinations are limitless. On St. Laurent in Montreal’s Chinatown there is an exceptional gyoza shop that’s always packed with diners. They serve only gyoza, but the menu is four pages long.

The dumpling wraps are available at Asian shops but I noticed the package also says “perogy wrappers” so that may be easier to find in some towns. I always buy a few packages and freeze them until the urge for gyoza hits.

add stuffing

add stuffing


So here we go- this is more fun with company- thanks Anne!


Grate all ingredients (or in the case of shrimp, chop small) and mix in a big bowl.


moistened edges stick easily

moistened edges stick easily

Put one wrapper flat on your hand and use the back of a wet spoon to moisten the outer edge.


Put a big spoonful of stuffing in the middle, fold it over and squeeze the edges shut in a half-moon shape.


stuffed gyozas

stuffed gyozas




Yeah, maybe put some music on.



non-stick pan

non-stick pan


Put a little oil in a non-stick pan and bring up to medium heat.

Place the gyozas in the pan and shake to be sure they aren’t stuck.

Stand back and add a little water. Say 1/4 cup.


hot gyoza

hot gyoza



They take about 10 minutes- just check the bottoms- they’ll be brown and crispy.

By now they’ll be stuck together- hence the Chinese name: pot-stickers.

brown and crispy on the bottom

brown and crispy on the bottom





Flipped a few here so you can see the colour.

Gyozas freeze well.

dip in sauce

dip in sauce

The sauce is vital. You can use tamari sauce with a bit of water to thin it, or soy sauce thinned by 50% water or, if you’re lucky, you can find and buy gyoza sauce.

Regardless, add a teaspoon plus of fresh red chili sauce (comes in jars- most grocery stores carry this now) to about 3 tablespoons of tamari. It’s thin and drippy.

Dip and slurp and tell me you love me.

Canada is a good place to be.

I was in downtown Ottawa today for a haircut. That took 10 minutes, so I went for a walk down Bank Street in the sweltering heat. Immediately, I came across a new Asian restaurant (202 Bank St.) that screamed BUBBLE TEA in two-foot high letters. To my delight, they served bento- a Japanese box lunch. As I sat by the wide-open double doors and people-watched, I picked up one treasure after another with my chopsticks: tempura shrimp, yam and bean; candied chicken satay; california rolls; gyoza; chicken teriyaki with rice. It came with a green salad and miso soup. Took me back to Japan- yum. And only $10.99.

I was unable to eat it all so I gave the leftovers to some pigeons in a small square. A gull came and harassed them, but they got a bit. One male pigeon was all fluffed up- larger than the rest- and uninterested in food. He was hounding a pretty female who kept 2 steps ahead of him at all times.

A smelly man, quite drunk at 1 p.m., stopped and watched with me. “The gulls are bullies,” I said. “Everyone’s gotta eat,” he answered.

A young Chinese man stopped me for directions to Rideau Street. We chatted and I learned he was from Shanghai and would study at the University of Ottawa. Today was his first day in Canada, so I walked with him down Sparks to the Rideau Centre where he would find the monthly bus pass he wanted. That made me happy…and hot, so I slipped into the Lord Elgin Hotel for some air conditioning.

The hotel is quite posh, but I thought that since I was wearing a fedora and the holes in my cut-off shorts were few, that I could fit in. I chose a comfy couch by the window of the lobby and read a newspaper someone had left behind. The bathroom is the cleanest that I know of downtown, one George Costanza would approve of.

Once refreshed, I hit Elgin Street and soon crouched beside an ancient black man sitting on a step playing the harmonica. Summertime blues. A little further down the street, at the Human Rights Monument, I came upon a rally for peace. The flags were Palestinian and as I got closer I read the signs: “Stop killing our children!” “Violence must end.”

I’ve known many Palestinians over the years, and I wandered through the crowd looking for Students I Have Known. No familiar faces, but familiar music, familiar black and white scarves, familiar troubled expressions. I wasn’t the only white Canadian there; I settled on a stone and watched.

Soon four men in black coats, round furry hats, beards and ringlets by their ears came walking toward the crowd. Hasidic Jews. Without a word, they stood in the middle of the crowd and unfurled their signs: “Stop the violence!” “Judaism does not condone war.”

Emotion caught in my throat as a throng of Palestinians gathered in front of the Jewish men to read their signs. Eyes comprehending; eyes meeting and touching. I had no camera, so my mind took the shot- a moment to remember.

I walked away then, but all the way back home I felt grateful to be living in Canada. And so grateful for all the people who have made it here, no matter why they came. This is a good place to be.

Anne's summer reading

summer reading