” रमज़ान की आमद का है चारों तरफ चर्चा,
इस माह में बहुत ‘रब’ मेहरबान है होता,
तेज़ धूप की तपिश सबको सताएगी,
भूख़ प्यास की शिद्दत तुम्हें आजमाएगी,
रोज़ेदारों तुम हर हाल में सब्र रखना,
ये आजमाइश ही तुम को जन्नत में ले जाएगी “
The streets of Old Delhi or “Dilli 6” are a treat for a foodie throughout the year, especially for authentic street foods, which I am sure you would have enjoyed in the past with your family and friends. But sampling the mind-boggling gastronomic treasures found here during the holy month of Ramzaan is an altogether out-of-this-world experience, as Old Delhi during Ramzaan turns into the proverbial ‘Jannat’….paradise for food connoisseurs!
During these roughly 28-30 days of Ramzaan, world-over, devout Muslims keep a day-long fast, the ‘Roza’ from sunrise to sunset, one of the fundamental tenets of Islam, towards the path of spiritual salvation. Abstaining from anything to eat or drink through the day, a devout Muslim is allowed to have only two meals….the pre-dawn ‘Suhur’ and the ‘Iftar’ meal at sunset. At the end of the day-long fast, the ‘Iftar’ prayers and meal are of utmost importance amongst the ‘Rozadaar’….the faithful who have fasted. And this Iftari invariably thus becomes the most sought-after grand feast at the end of the day for one and all.
Streets near Delhi’s Jama Masjid, which incidentally is the second largest mosque in India, welcome ‘Rozadaars’ each evening to a wide assortment of delicious foods & beverages being sold at brightly decorated shops. Bazar Matia Mahal, Chitli Qabar and Chandni Mahal, gali Chooriwallan and Ballimaran all within rickshaw-ride vicinity of each other, where you can savour the choicest of delectable fare like Dahi-Pakodi, Khajla-Sherbets, Samosas, Kebabs, Kheers and aromatic Biryanis!
But how does one choose what to eat and what to miss? To make your task of choosing the best easier, here is my set of 10 favourite foods & beverages which are bound to set your taste buds to work overtime right away!
#1 Bade Miyaan Ki Kheer (2867, Bazar Sirkiwalan, Lalkuan Bazar Rd, opposite Badal Beg Mosque)
What better place to start your Ramzaan food-a-thon, than with a bit of ‘sucrose-energy’ in form of the best Kheer (rice & milk pudding) to be sold in Delhi! This more than 130 yr old shop run by Jamaluddin Siddique or Jamal Bhai as he is popularly known, has been rendering a service to the people of Delhi without compare! Being a Bengali, I can vouch that Jamal bhai’s kheer can beat any kheer coming out of the house of even a true-blue Bengali household! The not-so-sweet, chilled, creamy-textured, brown-tinged kheer, which leaves a slight smokey after-taste, comes from hours of cooking the milk and broken rice on a slow wood-fuelled fire. But reach here early, since by 8pm his supplies are over, though during Ramzaan a little extra is prepared as back-up by Jamal ji.
#2 The Kababs:
Ustad Moinuddin Qureshi’s Kebabs/Sangam Biryani Corner (1612, corner of Gali Qasimjan, off Lal Kuan Bazar Rd, opp old Hamdard Dawakhana)
This tiny hole-in-the wall shop, near the haveli of the famous Urdu Shayar (poet), Mirza Ghalib, serves buffalo meat (buff) kebabs that are just as subtly nuanced and poetic as the verses penned by the great shayar! These soft, succulent and delicately spiced seekh kebabs coming hot off the charcoal fire, served with onion and green pudina (mint leaf) chutney, are so mouth-watering, that I can challenge you to take a picture before you gobble them up! Hours of marinading & pounding the meat by hand gives the meat its melt-in-the-mouth texture! Sadly the great Ustad (master) himself is no longer there to dish out his love in form of those delectable kebabs, as he had been keeping unwell for quite some time and left for his heavenly abode 2-3 months ago. But worry not, his legacy is safe as is in evidence that the kebabs made by his sons who are keeping the family tradition alive, still run out by 9:30pm every night, so during Ramzaan you know by when you need to reach this spot!
Babu Bhai Ke Sutli Kababs (1465-B, Masjid Sayed Rafa, Bazar Chitli Qabar, below street level)
My second most favourite buffalo-meat kebab joint after Sangam Kababs (see above), their preparations are so deadly that I have seen even non-buff eaters change their minds and given in to the temptation of the aromas and visual appeal of these kebabs! Starting from sunset till about 11pm when their stock runs out during Ramzaan, this place is a must-visit. Babu Bhai ke Sutli Kababs are called so since the minced & tenderised meat that goes around the seekh is so soft that they have to be held onto the skewers with a fine string or sutli – in fact while they are cooking on the charcoal fire, some of the string burns off and the tender meat starts slipping into the fire. That’s the sign for the Kababchee (Kabab maker) that the Kebabs are done, which he then slips onto a green leaf covered plate, yanking off the unburnt string, as the meat shreds off onto the plate!! Yes it’s a fantastic sight just watching him do the whole process! Finding this neary 70 yrs old shop is tricky since the family members who carry on this tradition, make the kebabs sitting in a strange sort of a sunken room/bunker sort below street level, near the mosque’s entrance.
NOTE: Those who do not eat buffalo meat, can eat the goat-meat seekh kababs at Al Jawahar Restaurant, which I prefer over the ones at Karim’s!
#3 Manzoor Hotel’s Egg Curry & Dahi-Pakodey (20m beyond Sangam Biryani, Gali Qasimjan)
Looks like any other run-of-the-mill food shop of Old Delhi, but looks can be deceiving. My two favourites here, the Egg curry and Dahi-Pakodey, are good enough to kill and die for! Not many outsiders venture here but Sareem and his elder brother are found dishing out these gems of currys with soft khamiri rotis to the dwellers of this alley till 1:30am in the night during Ramzaan. The eggs are slightly fried and then along with potatoes cooked in a delicious tomato-based gravy, lovingly made just like at our homes. While the tangy Dahi-Pakodey, which is somewhere in the middle of a Dahi-Bhalla and Kadhi-Pakoda, can actually make you go into raptures of food orgasm! The exact recipe Sareem never shares with me, but what I have understood after multiple trials is that after the pakodas are dipped in the liquidy dahi (curd), a chonka (oil tempering) of saboot Zeera (Cumin) & Methi (Fenugreek) and Haldi powder (Turmeric), garnished with fresh corainder leaves does the magical trick.
#4 Buttery Chicken Roast at Anmol Chicken Corner (4120, Urdu Bazar Rd, opp. Jama Masjid Gate #1)
When is a chicken, Butter Chicken? Only when its been made by the expert tandoori chicken makers Chand bhai & Irfan at this stall which is literally on the road! Chunks of chicken marinaded in basic tandoori masala are roasted right in front of you on a charcoal grill. A heady concoction of lemon juice, Anmol’s secret spice powders and loads of melted utterly butterly Amul butter is prepared and the scrumptious tandoori pieces are dunked into this concoction, the Amul butter making the pieces juicy and adding that extra layer of fat around your waistline! So if this is not “Butter + Chicken” then what is!!! And some indulgence in Butter-Chicken, every now & then is OK I guess! This one is my favourite, beating, albeit by a small margin, the more famous Aslam Chicken Corner, which we always avoid during our Ramzaan food walks.
#5 Haji Mohd. Hussain’s Fish Fry (113, Bazar Matia Mahal Rd)
Imagine, a piece of fish, which has been dipped in besan (chickpea-flour) batter and then deep-fried in a huge cauldron of boiling oil and served straight out of the vessel with a chutney made of kachi haldi (raw turmeric roots) raw mangoes, chilli, lime juice and accompanied with raw onion rings….and as you bite the crunchy exterior, the piping hot, soft white fish releases flavours of the various spices it was marinaded in…just heavenly!!! Haji saahab is a lovable guy with his shy smile, who always invites one of our group members to help him fry chickens, which is the other thing they serve at this almost 50 yr old shop! And even though his fried chicken, which I refer to as HFC (Haji’s Fried Chicken) is as awesome as KFC, if not better, yet my recommendation is the fish. Open till around 12:30am during Ramzaan, it is another must-have!
#6 Mutton Qorma & Chicken Kashmiri Curry at Al-Rehmani (
A pretty much new entrant going by Delhi-6 standards, Al-Rehmani Restaurant has been around for just about a decade and a half, but their Goat meat Qorma and Chicken in a Kashmiri-style white yoghurt curry is a much sought-after local favourite. The qorma is hot, spicy and the meat tender & juicy, the Qorma masalas perfectly balanced with a mix of both powdered and whole spices. The yoghurt curry chicken, on the other hand is more sedate; the heavy curry isn’t spicy and is served doused with dollops of white cream and coriander leaf garnishing and is almost similar to a Kashmiri Wazwan’s Goshtaba curry in texture & taste, except the flavour of Saunf (Fennel) which is otherwise present liberally in a Goshtaba.
#7 Changezi’s Mutton Nihari & Shahi Paneer (2614, Gali Churiwallan, off Bazar Matia Mahal Rd)
Meat preparations usually mean loads of fiery hot spices/herbs and copious amounts of ghee/oil thrown in, to create flavourful, rich Mughlai style dishes. And which will add a few inches to your waistline too! But what if you could get the combo of healthy plus yummy! Changezi Chicken has been serving such a dish for almost last 30 yrs or so, popularly known as the Nihari. This goat-meat dish which was actually created by the Hakeems (traditional Unani doctors) in the court’s of the Mughals/Nawabs to help patients suffering from the Flu/Cough/Pneumonia/Asthma albeit in a flavourful way! Nihari is meat shanks cooked with 40+ different spices & herbs overnight on a slow fire, to be had as a breakfast dish, thus fortifying a person against the muggy/chilly Delhi climate of monsoons/winters respectively. Served piping hot with a garnish of ginger & green chilli slivers, the Nihari’s, meat pieces melting in your mouth as soon as you bite into them, is bound to forever change the way you think of meat stews! Changezi also comes to the rescue of the vegetarians with their own take on the Shahi Paneer which is so yummy that even a die-hard non-vevegtarian like me doesn’t mind a few morsels of this paneer dish! So howsoever you are stuffed already, make space for these two dishes!
#8 The Biryanis:
Biryani Mirch Masala at Pehelwaan Biryaniwale (#701, Haveli Azam Khan, off Bazar Chitli Qabar Rd)
When you meet Haji Mohd. Anwar, sitting at the threshold of his shop, his very formidable frame almost resembling the shape of his giant cooking pot, you can’t stop falling in love with him! Popularly known in the area by the name of Mota Biryani Wala, he always has a warm & affectionate smile on his face; and a man whose smile is so congenial, imagine how nice the Biryani he must be dishing out! A buffalo meat biryani, a mix of exceedingly tender meat and perfectly moist rice which are cooked separately and then packed together in that huge Degh (Pot) over a slow fire ‘Dum Biryani-style’. The twist is that his biryani isn’t spicy hot as the name suggests, but some morsels of the biryani have a spicy, tangy zing which comes from the pickled green chillies which are added during the marination of the meat! During Ramzaan his shop is open till past midnight as the big pot seemingly has a never ending supply of Biryani!
Mohd. Taufik’s Dil Pasand Biryani (735, Haveli Azam Khan, off Bazar Chitli Qabar Rd)
Again a buffalo meat briyani seller, his biryani is all about chunks of juicy buff meat, with the rice, almost shining with all the oil used in cooking the meat. The heavenly aroma of the fragrant rice, saffron having been liberally used, makes Taufik bhai’s biryani really drool-worthy! The place is a really difficult one to find; after you pass Pehelwan Biryani’s shop (above) keep going straight, then turn left, a right and another left to reach there. His supply during Ramzaan runs out by 12:30am, so you can reach late as well!
NOTE: If you do not eat buffalo meat, then don’t fret, you can eat pretty decent chicken & goat-meat Biryani at both Al Jawahar Restaurant and Karim’s!
#9 The Ice-Creams:
Cool Point (972, Bazar Matia Mahal Rd)
After a lot of spicy and hot delicacies, how about you cool it off with something chilled and sweet! So head off to Cool Point, established almost 30 years ago by Mohd. Zahid, where my pick out of the variety of chilled deserts is Phirni, Rabdi, Shahi Tukda and mango with vanilla ice cream. Phirni is a mouthwatering dessert of milk and crushed rice served chilled in clay containers, while Rabdi is sweet, thickened milk, served chilled with a smattering of nuts. Shahi Tukda literally meaning ‘A Royal Piece’ which is a dessert made of bread fried in ghee, dipped in a syrupy solution of saffron & cardamom infused milk, sprinkled with a variety of nuts & raisins and all this kept & served at a piping hot temperature maintained using a slow fire and continuous adding of ghee throughout the evening! It is really very sweet, overflowing with calories and even the die-hard foodie skips a beat before eating this goodie! But the high point here is the chilled combo of hand-churned mango and vanilla ice-cream, which, as per many who have joined our food walks say is better than the ‘Gelato Vinto’ ice creams available at South Delhi malls!!!
Ahmed’s Roller Kulfis (Just beyond Chitli Qabar Chowk)
Roller Kulfis/ice creams is a yummy and very innovative style of making ice cream right in front of your eyes! This truly is a Ramzaan special, since it is only during the festival time that you will see a man pushing a cart which carries a cylinder suspended horizontally on a wooden frame, apart from a heap of different varieties of fruits and drums of creamy vanilla flavoured milk that lie on the cart. The roller consists of a hollow metal cylinder which is packed with ice sprinkled with anti-freeze salt, to prevent the ice from melting. Over this ice-cold metal cylinder, which is being continuously rotated, a mixture of freshly extracted juice & pulp of fuits like oranges, grapes, pomegranates, papaya, banana etc mixed with the vanilla milk is slowly poured over, so that the liquid instantly gets solidified because of the ice! The solidified creamy layer is then literally scraped off the roller and served. Unfortunately Ahmed bhai never seems to stick at any one place, instead preferring to move up & down the road beyond Chitli Qabar chowk going towards Chandni Mahal. He stops his cart at, as he says, wherever his customers are!
#10 The Sherbets:
Gorging non-stop on lip-smacking delicacies during Ramzaan will make you thirsty, so quench your thirst with these chilled beverages by the innovative Sherbetwallas of Old Delhi!
Nawab Bhai’s Watermelon-Roohafza Milk Sherbet (Cart at intersection of Gali Churi Wallan & Bazar Matia Mahal Rd)
Many years back I asked Nawab miyaan what’s the name of the pink concotion of Amul milk, Roohafza (bottled Ayurvedic medicinal summer drink concentrate), cubes of watermelon and iced water that he makes. He replied “Yeh hai Sherbet ‘Pyaar Mohabbat Mazaa’…Main Pyaar sey banata hoon, aap mohabbat sey peetey hain aur sabko mazza aa jata hai” (I make this Sherbet with affection, you love the drink and we all have loads of fun!). This drink is so simple to make, and is such a refreshing summer thirst quencher, that it is no surprise that nobody can have just only one glass of it!!!
Mohd. Shahid’s Apple-Vanilla Custard-Milk Sherbet (Cart goes up & down Bazar Matia Mahal Rd and beyond Chitli Qabar Chowk)
Replace the above watermelon sherbet with grated apple, the Roohafza concentrate with vanilla flavoured custard powder and add Amul milk with iced water to these ingredients; you have got yourself another killer sweet sherbet to enjoy! Easily giving Nawab (see above) a big run for his money, sometimes Shahid bhai stands with his cart right opposite where you will find the Watermelon-Roohafza induced bliss. Sometimes he is found further towards Chitli Qabar chowk. Where ever he may be, don’t stop asking people till you find him, because this sherbet will rejuvenate you like no other!
Gudh ka Sherbet (Stall at turn of Gali Churi Wallan & Bazar Matia Mahal Rd)
Sometimes it’s hard to believe the ingenuity of people in Delhi-6. When you are served this golden-hued liquid in a glass, you may think it to be an Old Delhi version of the ‘Lipton Iced Tea’ that comes out of a tetrapack in our homes. But this is not tea, it’s chilled Gudh ka Sherbet (Jaggery Sherbet)! The jaggery is soaked overnight in water in a big container, the pieces of the jaggery dissolve in the water, a dash of lemon juice is added and suddenly the common-place Gudh has been transformed into a healthy, soul-nourishing and refreshing drink! But don’t expect it to be open beyond 8pm even during Ramzaan, so you better hurry!
#11 The Mithaais (Sweets)
Paneer Jalebis at Kallan Sweets (4&5, opp. Jama Masjid Gate #1, corner of Matia Mahal)
Anybody worth his foodie leanings would have tasted the Rabri, Phirni, Sohan Halwa and other milk-based sweets at Muhammad Shaan’s sweet shop that’s more than 75 yrs old. But come Ramzaan, and people flock here for the Ifaari special of Paneer Jalebis (Cottage cheese Jalebi) ! Thick orange colored jalebis, with a crunchy exterior that easily yields its secrets of soft, syrupy paneer inside sending sweet notes of pleasure down your throat! Open till 12:30am in the night during the holy month, it is a not-to-be missed sweet stop, to be tried out even if you aren’t a sweets-lover!
Khoya Samosas, Khajlas & Dry Jalebi at Al-Ameer Sweets (57, Haveli Azam Khan, Bazar Chitli Qabar)
And if you have been wondering what to take back home with you, so that your familywallas don’t get cross with you for enjoying all the goodies all alone, well then Al-Ameer Sweets has the answer! Continue to enjoy the Ramzaan feast the next day with your loved ones, with Al-Ameer’s dry, packageable stuff like Khoya Samosas, Khajlas and Sukhi Jalebis! Think the North Indian Holi special, ‘Gujiyas’, change their shape and you have the most amazing Khoya Samosas in Old Delhi! The samosa has a thin pastry like crust which as you bite in, releases the mildly sweet, moist mixture of khoya mixed with spices like cardamom & cinnamon making you remember “Maa ke haath ke Gujiyas”. This nearly 100 yr old establishment, run by Hazi Mohd. Zafruddin also specialises in Khajlas (Mildly sweet fried flour puffs) & Sukhi Jalebis (Dry Jalebis).
#12 Assorted Rusks and Breads at Golden Bakery (543,)
Another set of food items that you could take back home, along with your memories, are what the numerous bakeries prepare each day during Ramzaan. All the bakeries in the area have their baking unit right behind or above their shops, so you can pick what you need, literally out of the oven! The smell of fresh batches of baked cakes/breads will automatically guide you in to these shops. Baked products are very popular during Ramzaan as they are easy to digest, provide energy for a longer period of time and can be had as quick Iftar snacks with tea or glasses of hot milk. Some of my favourites from Golden Bakery are Coconut Bread, Fruit Bread, Jam & Butter Roll, Suji & Bread Rusks, assorted cakes, muffins and cream rolls.
I wish you a very happy month of fun…fasting and feasting at its best in the gastronomic hot-spot of Delhi!!!
DelhiByFoot organizes special Ramzaan food walks as per a set calendar, to help you relish and participate in the customs, rituals and partake the special foods during this holy month of Ramzaan. For details, visit our Facebook page or our Website . If you wish to organise a customised Iftar Cultural & Food Walk for you & your family/friends/colleagues then E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org