Ramzan taste trails

DECCAN CHRONICLE | DIPTI
Published Jul 12, 2015, 9:01 am IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 2:01 pm IST
Ramzan taste trails
 Ramzan taste trails

The month of Ramzan has at its core two contrasting fundamentals — fasting and feasting. Dawn to dusk fasting marks one of the most important months in the Islamic calendar, as Muslims around the world practice abstinence to come closer to Allah. According to tradition, only two meals a day are allowed — pre-dawn sehri and iftar at dusk.

Even though the period of fasting in India stretches to more than 15 hours, food lovers and gastronomes are spoilt for choice when feasting time arrives, with infinite options dotting the streets of several cities across the country, making them fertile territory for delicious Ramzan food walks.

Tasting times in the dark of the night in Hyderabad

Gopala Krishna, a member of Hyderabad Trails which organises the Ramzan Night Walk in Hyderabad, shares, “Our cultural heritage is important. Festivals like these bring people together. This is possibly the only time when more than 50 people can walk down the streets of Old City, Hyderabad, late at night. From haleem to patthar ka gosht, this is the perfect time to taste various culinary delights. These walks embody a communal experience. There’s an energy to them that wouldn’t be there if it was just you and your friends heading out. And you meet many interesting people too.”

The group organises walks like the Sham-e-iftar walk, Shab-e-Ramzan and Sehri walks, many of which go on till the wee hours of the morning. Neidhi Kumaar from Food Drifters, who have been organising “completely food” walks for three years now, says, “We have two slots, one that starts around iftar time and one later, around 10 pm.

We walk around the whole of Old City, trying out street food at the many famous food joints there. What’s really different about going for such walks is that you get to know about the different kinds of foods available and not just the famous ones you already knew about. We talk about the ingredients present in haleem, for example, and how the dish is different in one store from another because of the spices used in it. The walks involve interactive sessions where one can know about the history of the food and also talk to the chefs cooking it. For example, on a recent walk we took the participants to Hameedi to have jouzi halwa, which is a dessert from the Nizams’ era and is available only in that one place in Hyderabad. A tourist wouldn’t otherwise know about this.”

Hyderabad Trails’ Ramzan walks cost Rs 100 per person, and people buy food on their own

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A walk while the world sleeps in old Delhi

From delicious biryanis, keema samosas and nihari to succulent keema golis and khajurs, Delhiites dig in and taste some of the best flavours during Ramzan with Delhi Food Walk’s famous iftar and sehri walks. “There is an almost indescribable beauty about experiencing Ramzan on the streets of old Delhi. It is the Mecca of authentic food in Delhi,” says founder Anubhav Sapra.

The iftar walk commences at 6 pm at Chawri Bazar metro station and goes on till 10 pm. The array of dishes the walkers try out is the stuff of a foodie’s dreams. Anubhav shares, “Our first stop was the iconic Jama Masjid, and at iftar time we entered the holy place with 35 boxes of keema samosa, paneer ki jalebi from Kallan sweets — an iconic landmark in the capital’s foodscape, it overlooks one of the gates of the Jama Masjid. Started by Mohd. Shaan in 1939, one of their specialties is the bright orange, thick paneer ki jalebi which uses cottage cheese paste instead of flour unlike the regular jalebi. Other hot favourites are shammi kebabs from Bhaijaan Kebabs, keema golis from Haji Mohd. Hussain Fried Chicken. In that twilight hour, we wait for the gong to sound, signalling sunset, and the azaan to begin so that people can break their fast. As crackers go off, inviting the faithful to an evening meal, we start out on our journey of feasting. We explain to the walkers the significance, relevance, traditions and customs associated with Ramzan.”

The group covers the whole of Bazar Matia Mahal in old Delhi during this walk — trying out butter chicken with roomali roti and chicken seekh kebabs at Aslam Chicken Corner to dishes from Taufiq Ki Biryani and nihari at Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale. “And then it’s time for Gur ka sherbat which is only available at Mohalla Pahadi Imli near Chitli Qabar. Followed by Sherbat Pyar Mohabbat Wala, a drink with a blend of milk, Rooh Afza and chunks of watermelon. And the sweet ending is Shahi Tukda at a 25-year-old place called Cool Point in Chawri Bazaar and black dates at Khajoor Factory.”

Anubhav is conducting two sehri walks this year. “A sehri walk gives you the chance to experience an altogether different dimension of old Delhi — walking through the streets when the rest of the world is sleeping takes the experience to a whole new level,” he says.

(Delhi Food Walk’s iftar and sehri walks cost approximately Rs 850 per person)

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Tracing iconic neighbourhoods in Bengaluru

While there are many food walks that take place during the holy month of Ramzan, one of the most popular ones is Bangalore Eats, the food walk organised by Seema Jaising. She makes the experience more fun by adding a treasure hunt to every food walk as well. Another is the Oota walk by Simi Mathew, a psychotherapist who helps people explore Bengaluru through its iconic neighbourhoods seeped in history. But the walk that is the oldest and most popular is Bengaluru by Foot. People from all walks of life experience different cultures, besides gorging on kebabs (chicken, mutton, beef, camel), biryanis, kulfis and the fabled Sulaimani chai.

Mansoor Ali, an architect by profession, and Ameen Ahmed, an environmentalist, organise Bengaluru by Foot and claim they are the first ones to start the concept of Ramzan food walks in Bengaluru. “Our food walk is not just about sampling culinary specialties, but also about exploring historical nuggets and learning about customs. Since we are both Bengalureans, we know every nook and cranny of the city and that’s why we have also had people from Egypt, US and Scotland taking part in our walks. Every year, we do about 12 Ramzan food walks and this season too, we are hosting them in three places — Russell market, Johnson market and Frazer town. We are also hosting iftar parties, where groups get to sample exclusive Muslim cuisine that hotels don’t serve, such as Kutchi Memon and Bhatkali cuisine,” they share, adding, “We tell people about the five compulsory acts (farz): saying the kalma, offering namaaz five times a day, fasting, giving alms and going on Haj.

We talk about how the concept of fasting started and how Prophet Mohammed used to break his fast with an odd number of dates, water and a pinch of salt. We take people to sample delicacies like hareera, made from raw poppy seeds, coconut milk and dry fruits. We visit old places that have a tradition of their own like the Albert bakery which has been there since 1902 and boasts of specialties like khoya naan, sheermal naan, keema chicken and mutton samosa. There is also Luna sweets which is 50 years old and has halwa puri, choba puri, malida (wheat rotis mixed with dry fruits and grated coconut, made during Muslim weddings), and we also show them the furnace at Pista House, Mosque road where they make 500 kg of haleem every day.”

Bengaluru by Foot’s three-hour food walks cost Rs 1,000 per head

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Aflatoon and Anjeer Malai delights in Mumbai

A Ramzan walk in Mumbai doesn’t just follow the food trail but also takes the walkers to Bohri Mohalla, where there is Saifee mosque — one of the biggest mosques in India which has the whole Quran scripted by hand across its walls.

Asim Shaikh, operations manager at Reality Tours and Travels, tells us, “Our walk lasts for about two and a half hours after we meet at McDonalds opposite VT station and take a taxi or bus to Minara Masjid, we then take a short walk and settle down at Marhaba Fast Food. We wait for the prayers to begin and once it is time to break the roza, we dig in for the feast. The fast is traditionally broken by eating a date. In addition, chicken rolls, baida roti and even quail preparations are must-haves here. From here, we head to Hindustan, which is famous for its beef chota kababs. 

For dessert, we visit Zamzam which is famous for its aflatoon, anjeer malai, mango barfi and kaaju khatri. Since some folks are keen on knowing about how Muslims break their fast during Ramzan, we take them to one of the local houses where guests can interact with a family. Then we move on to Bohri Mohalla to a shop called Dawat Tawakkal, which serves the best malpuas in town. We conclude our walk at the 125-year-old Taj Ice Cream for fresh, handmade indulgences.”

(Reality Tours and Travels’ Ramzan walks cost Rs 1,500 per person)

With inputs by Julie Sam, Namita Gupta and Sanchita Dash

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