City Faith – Ramzan Treats, Old Delhi and Around Town
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Jama Masjid is lit for night. The facing street is jazzed up with lamps, buntings and selfie clickers. Salam Namaste to this evening in Ramzan, the Muslim month of quiet days and festive nights. This moment, everyone in Old Delhi’s Matia Mahal is looking happily distracted. You might imagine that the distinguished Haji Mian of the iconic Haji Hotel too must have just ended his day-long roza, the Ramzan fast, at his hotel’s stunning monument-facing balcony. But he lies buried in Dilli Gate Qabristan, claimed by the coronavirus during the deadly wave of 2021. The world has clearly moved on, the Covid-triggered tragedies seem to have scarcely been. Here are some tips to help you navigate the Ramzan nights across the Delhi region.
Bazar iftari, Turkman Gate, Old Delhi
Walk on any lane around the fast-breaking time, 6.45pm or so. You are certain to be invited by friendly shopkeepers for iftari snacks, comprising spiced and sweetened fruit salad called kachalu, samosas, matar, sliced melons and roohafza milk. The blowing of the siren gives the signal to start eating (in Jama Masjid, its a Diwali wala gola-pathakha–see photo 1a below). The initial minutes are total silence as folks dig into their first meal in 12 hours. The entire ilaka, so noisy otherwise, falls pin-drop quiet.
Plaza outside Jama Masjid, Gurgaon
The epicentre of Gurgaon’s Ramzan nights. The mosque-facing plaza in Sadar Bazar teems late into the night with traders, cooks, labourers, students, gossipers, time-passers and beggars. Many huddle around a much-loved hookah, which belongs to Khurshid Bhai, the founder of the plaza’s only kebab stall. Very tasty kebabs.
Asgher Bakery, near Chitli Qabar, Old Delhi
The special coconut paratha here is sweet, milky, and looks like a huge bun. The dish pops up only during Ramzan.
Shahi Cool Point, Matia Mahal, Old Delhi
Give yourself royal treatment with their primary speciality— sweet, sticky shahi tukda. Deep-fried and malai-covered, these bread slices lie soaked in flavoured chashni (sugar syrup), simmering piping-hot on a giant round platter. Available the year round, but Ramzan raunaq spikes up its joy.
Meerut Wale’s Sheermal, Zakir Nagar
Haji Imran’s so-named establishment makes three types of sweet sheermal roti—Half Badam, Full Badam and Kaju Pista Badam Chironji. Dripping in desi ghee, all are too heavy, too addictive. Near the area’s Jama Masjid.
Nawabuddin Khajoor Waale, near Jawahar Hotel, Old Delhi
A modest dates cart that gets immodestly spectacular during the Ramzan. Currently stacked with too many varieties of dates. Try harmuni from Iraq, so spongy and sweet that it is nicknamed gulab jamun.
Haji Tea Point, opposite Kallan Sweets
The Purani Dilli aesthetes celebrate the landmark for its morning-hour halwa poori. In Ramzan though, the eatery gives precedence to sevai (roasted vermicelli) and pheni (deep-fried vermicelli). Served with piping hot doodh.
Kallan Sweets, Opposite Haji Tea Point
Ask for super-thick pheeki jalebis, made only in the Ramzan month. Dunk them in thanda doodh.
Khan’s ‘biskut,’ Gurgaon
Naseer Ahmad Khan’s cart, beside the Masjid Udyan park in Sadar Bazar, is forever loaded with so-called “biskut,” sourced from Kanha Bakery in the great temple town of Ujjain. These crackly biscuits are the most playful tidbits to nibble away the hours between the iftari and dinner.
Evenings for memories