If food is what you worship, holy month of Ramadaan is probably the most eventful, festive month in your calendar. Word festive is incomplete without feasting. Right from bhog served to god in a temple to the rum-soaked Christmas pudding, it is a fabulous agglomeration of delicious flavors.
Indians are big time foodies. Given the different cultures and traditions of our widely diverse yet united country, every city has its own platter filled with different colors, taste, and recipes. Ramadaan in every city has its individual significance and ultimately, its own special food.
Old Delhi is without a doubt the busiest and the most hip-happening city in India during Ramadaan. Right after sundown, areas near Jama Masjid come to life. With stalls, hotels, kabak venders, food is served wherever you look at. As you walk into Matia Mahal lane, right opposite the marvellous red sandstone mosque, there is Al Jawahar. This place is famous for mean mutton ishtu (stew) and chicken Jahangiri (sweet–sour chicken curry) and khameri rotis. Right ahead in the same lane, there is Aslam chicken corner. Butter chicken served here literally justifies the name, butter and chicken, laced with fresh cream. Along the way, as you walk further ahead, crisp aroma of freshly baked confection such as cakes, pastries, puffs will surely pull you toward one of the bakeries. Specialties of these places include malpua, jalebi, and sevai. Also, a glass of warm milk to accompany the jalebi and savai goes a long way.
In the state of Gujarat, this city, during Ramadaan, is always a melting pot of flavours, spices, recipes, and varieties from all parts of the country. A must-try food item is haleem. Haleem is a delicious stew made with lentils and mutton. Next must-try item is keems parantha near Shah e Alam Dargah. Khas Bazaar is one of the popular places to go to after Iftaari. In Bhatiara Galli in Khas Bazaar is known for seekh kabab and naan, silli gosht and chicken dana. Falooda and sheer kurma are few of cherished dessert dishes.
In Surat, Rander is an area with a large population of Muslims who have worked in Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, and Sudan. This small town Rander, located on the banks of Tapi River, visitors get Rangooni paranthas, which are layered with sizzling keems. Apart from these paranthas, khow suey and machchi masala chicken are also served across majority of stalls. Silver chicken is another specialty. chicken is marinated with green chilli–garlic paste and baked in a foil, whereas burra murg, another dish locals take on, is nothing but chicken stuffed with dried fruits and nuts.
When it comes to Ramadaan, Jammu and Kashmir is a state wherein the festival is observed with profound respect for its utmost significance. Though not all places are open during daytime, the city is a beautiful amalgamation of authentic Kashmiri recipes. The lanes outside Hazratbal, the revered shrine, are much celebrated for exotic combination of halwa-parantha. Ironically, food coma is a reality for every person who has tasted these delicious breads. Nanwais are local bakeries that churn out sweet and savoury breads along with freshly bakes cakes.
On a Ramadaan night, tourists may think that all insomniacs of the dream city have gathered at Mohammed Ali road, under JJ flyover. Cars jostle for parking at 3 in the morning. Even at such an odd hour, streets are crowded like that in 7 in the evening. Apart from regular chicken, mutton and beef recipes, including kebab, quorma, and tikka, meat lovers also love feasting on quail meat. Baida roti is a roti stuffed with fried eggs phirni is a pudding-like sweet made out of rice and is usually available in kesar, mango, and blackcurrant flavors mawa jalebis and rimzin—a masala drink with jeera—are cherished sweet dishes after done feasting on the variety of main course. Shawarma stalls near narrow lanes of Mohammad Ali Road, near Minara Masjid are also must-visit destination. A small makeshift ramshackle that exclusively serves skewed meat, Haji Tikka is Bhendi Bazaar’s hidden gem. It skews soft tikkas that not only melt in your mouth, but also leave you yearning for more. Dishing out made-to-order kebabs, Bar-B-Que Corner is known for barbequed offals like khiri and kaleji. Surti Barah Handi refers to 12 parts of goat, slow-cooked overnight in 12 different pots handis.
Let’s not forget about the city of Nizams Hyderabad. Indulgence in the food has been of utmost priority for Nizams. Hyderabadi cuisine, or so called Deccani cuisine, is the native cooking style of the Hyderabadi Muslims and Nizams. The most beloved and finger-licking good recipe coming from the historical roots of this city is Hyderabadi dum biryani. Cooked with either mutton or chicken, and laced with rich ingredients, this recipe is the stairway to heaven and not only during days of Ramadaan. Believe it or not, this dish is such a favorite that people do not mind having it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Areas within Lucknow are quiet during day time, but that is only to wake up to food frenzy festival after dark during Ramadaan. The feast begins at iftaar and continues till sehri. One of the uniqueness about this city is the mangoes add a distinct local flavour to the iftar spread of dates, fruit chaat, kebab, kulcha, nihari, paya, sheermal, kulfi, and phirni.
It is said that Bengalis can be recognized by the way they indulge in the food. Appreciating food and knowing the right way to consume the food are two factors that differentiate Bengalis from others. Apart from mishit doi, rosogulla, maccher jhol, and jhal muri, Kolkata has much more to offer. Aliah, an eatery on Bentinck Street, is a Mecca for foodies. Mutton rezala, soft rotis, and melt-in-mouth biryani are the specialties.