City Hangout – Ramzan Nights, Old Delhi
The season’s destination.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
No secret is being leaked if The Delhi Walla tells you to head to Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid area one of these Ramzan nights. I go there every year in the holy month of fasting. There is a familiarity, and yet, there is a thrill — as if I’m experiencing this world for the first time.
Since the eateries remain open until the morning prayers, it’s best to get there only after midnight. There is no knowing what you may come across. In my most recent excursion, I saw a man on a horse wading through an impossibly dense crowd. I also saw, amid sights of festive happiness, scene of absolutely wretched poverty.
Across the road from the Jama Masjid, Kallan Sweets was started in 1939 by Kallan Mian of Peshawar. People in the neighbourhood love its paneer jalebi. During Ramzan, however, we encourage you to feast on its super-thick pheeki jalebis made in pure desi ghee. If you want to pass off as an all-knowing local, go a step further and dunk thetwisty delicacy in a bowl of cold milk.
I’m often wistfully told of a time when idle Old Delhiwallas sat on the stairs of the Jama Masjid and chatted over kebabs. The vendors stood at the bottom of the stairs. These days the kebab sellers line up at Urdu Bazaar, which faces the mosque. Go to Nadeem Chicken Corner for fish fry, Lalu Kababee for tikka, Tajuddin’s stall for seekh kebab and mint chutney, and Ahmad Chicken Corner for roast murga. Make sure to watch the cooks in action — their arms move so fast they are a blur.
Nawabuddin Khajoor Waale
This booth hoards a great variety of dates during the fasting season. I cannot get enough of harmuni. Imported from Iraq, this date variety is so soft and sweet that it is nicknamed gulab jamun.
Kamaal Sweet House
You’ll find this small shop stacked with flaky khajlas, that colossal ghee-rich puffy bread that, we’re told, goes best with milk. Kamaal’s khajlas are preferred by the area’s “snobs” because it has its own bakery. Most other shops get their supply from east Delhi’s Seelampur.
Haji Tea Point
This tea house is much loved during Ramzan for its sevai and pheni. While sevai is roasted vermicelli, pheni is its deep-fried version. The shop serves both in bowls of milk.
You must have the coconut paratha here. Sweet and milky, it looks look like a huge bun and is a perfect accompaniment to chai.
Muhammed Imran’s Chai Stall
End the escapade in this quiet corner — yes it remains quiet even during Ramzan. Imran’s tea stall stands alone on the other side of Jama Masjid (gate no 2). The chai itself is not extraordinary and I’m not not asking you to go there for its over-sweet brew. Instead, just sit on the wooden bench and soak in the atmosphere after the noise and lights of Old Delhi. There are barely any people here at this hour. Jama Masjid look like a shadow, and Red Fort a shadow’s shadow. It’s a magical way to end a magical night.
That time of the year