Iftar is the religious observance of breaking a fast when the azaan is called out by muezzins from mosques after sunset. This happens during the holy month of Ramadaan or Ramzaan like how it is known here in in India. About five years ago, we started going to the iftar spreads to indulge in the meaty treats at Frazer town, Bangalore. It continues even now.
During the 30 days of Ramzaan, you find specific restaurants offering iftar food alongwith their regular fare. You also find pop up stalls that have mushroomed after this type of food gained popularity in Bangalore. I am also told by friends that Delhi’s Jumma masjid and Hyderabad’s Charminar iftars are really huge with specialty foods and events especially around this theme. I tend to agree because whilst living in Mumbai, I have been to Mohammed Ali road during iftar time and there is just no comparison to the recent food phenomenon here. However, the tasting and availability of certain varieties of food made only during Ramzaan make it worth a visit.
Some of the dishes that I’ve had the good fortune of tasting have been Albert bakery’s ever popular mutton mince and onion mini samosas (a family favourite) and brain puffs , varieties of kababs primarily non vegetarian, though the succulent, juicy and spicy seekh kabab continues to be a favourite. Quail is offered too, though somehow I could not bring myself to eat it thus far.
The other dishes you get here are Anda kheema roti, shawarma rolls, varieties of naan and roti’s like baida, khoya and sheermal. Sheermal naan‘s are mildly sweet with hints of saffron. This succulent bread is one of those that can stand alone or can compliment other accompaniments with it. This I always pack for home with kababs or a gravy that has caught my fancy. Another dish that gets the pack-for-home status is Rahham’s mutton biryani which has unsurpassable delectability.
You also get khichda (a mutton, lentil, barley and wheat dish) and curries like Kut kofta, gurda, kaleji, kheema and paya shorba (a thick lamb trotter soup) whose strong and spicy aromas waft as you pass the stalls. The much loved haleem at Chichbaba’s Taj is a must try too. Haleem and Khichda are made with the same ingredients, I was told . While the Khichda has chunks of meat cubes with bones; Haleem is a completely blended mixture of these ingredients.
Camel meat is another specialty. I’ve heard it is very delicious but unfortunately, each time I’ve wanted to taste this, the stalls have already run out of it. The other regular stuff you get are the kheema buns, cutlets, dahi vada and aloo bondas. Limited varieties of seafood is also available, but what I have tried here are the marinated deep fried prawns with mint chutney.
Another Iftar “special” that I like is the patthar ka gosht – a popular lamb dish, marinated overnight slow-cooked on slabs of stone, heated by charcoal fires underneath. The slabs being thick, takes ages for the mutton to cook. By the time it is done, the meat acquires a silky, melt-in-the-mouth texture. When I had it the first time, it definitely was all it promised and the subtle stone and smoky flavours are truly unique and something that I hadn’t tasted before.
For people with a sweet tooth, the usual double ka meetha, shahi tukda’s and jalebi’s abound, you also get varieties of halwa, burfi (try the dry fruit one), sesame and dates laddoos, pedas, gujiyas and matkas filled with kheer , rabri, falooda, or phirni. How could I forget the mouth watering gulab jamoon and khubani ka meetha! The sevaiyan is a personal favourite and a new sweet dish I tried this time was the gulabi caramel, you can never get enough of this rather clever dish.
After this very heavy and hearty affair you have the option of rounding this off with hareera – a hot saffron and dry fruit laced milk drink, or you can try the various thandai’s, kulfi’s and sherbet’s (juice) that are available. For me it has always be the ambrosial sulaimani chai which marks the end of this gastronomical smorgasbord of very epic proportions. 🙂
The visual and sensory experience of people from all walks of life congregating because of their love of food or simply respecting the ones that are breaking their fast is something that I love during this period. You see people walking, jostling, feasting and gawking. You also see people that are completely overwhelmed seeing all roads converging here for that exuberant gastronomic experience. Then, you also have some camera happy people like my cousin who feasts with her eyes first while capturing the beautifully laid kababs, pakoras and other fried delicacies in layers of concentric, colorful semi- circles as other goodies are being prepared in the center of the heavy and very wide griddles.
Ramzaan is all about bringing people together, celebrating special bonds with each other over delectable food, and offering prayers to the Almighty for happiness and a good life. What better way than to see people from all faiths gather and celebrate this!
A perfect way of transcending cultural borders and celebrating diversity.