Ramadan also known as Ramzan is the holy month of Muslims. It is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar when the holy book Quran was revealed to the prophet. After fasting during the day (dawn to sunset), the fast is broken at evening with 3 dates, fruits and an Iftaar feast.
Every year during Ramadan the street food scene in Bangalore takes a different twist. Earlier what was known to be centered around Fraser Town and Shivaji Nagar is now visible around other areas as the city continuously stretches out its borders. The food fest is a mish mash of offerings from well known outlets and make shift festival stalls which dole out specialities for Ramadan along with their regular dishes. Every evening around 5 pm these street corner stalls come alive doing brink business until late into the night selling delicious kababs, biryanis, fries and sweets. The 4 key areas are Koramangala, Fraser Town, Shivaji Nagar and Banerghatta. This year I managed to go around 2 areas sampling food from different areas absorbing the spirit of Ramadan and observing people of all communities, different walks of like being united by food every evening.
The food stalls are next to Empire Hotel near the Mosque. The enclave next to Empire was just too crowded on a Sunday evening so we sampled the stalls outside. The chicken cutlet had more potato and less chicken but the Sheekh Kabab was very good. Actually, a sheekh kabab leaves very little room for adultery with potatoes and is the best bet in most situations.
The Keema Naans were nicely done with good filling and the Quail Fry was crunchy but tasty. There was a stall selling different types of Chicken Kababs all of which looked good and colorful. A bite into a few and the marination and spice had hardly seeped through so kind of a let down. With glasses of colorful lemon soda, we sat down in a small enclosure by Zeeshan and had the Chicken Biryani and Egg Rolls both of which were delicious and my foodie nieces gave a big thumbs up too.
I had joined the Food Walk conducted by Bengaluru by Foot. We started off from the Coles Road junction of Mosque Road and visited about 6 outlets getting to taste some iconic specials of Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cutchi community, Morocco and of course be a part of a traditional Iftaar. Once the centre of Ramadan Food Festivity, Fraser Town food stalls are a skeleton of the past but still the most sought after. We started off at the 50 year old Luna Sweets which is famous from Shivaji Nagar area. The popular Halwa Puri was already over so we bit into the Chaubey Puri which had a sweet coconut filling. Next, we walked down Mosque Road trying to enter the 100+ year old Albert Bakery.
After a little bit of push and expert maneuvering our guide got Keema Samosa and Kova Naan for us. Actually, they make Brain Puffs during Ramadan which were over by the time we reached. It is best to get there before 4 pm to avoid crowd. The mini keema samosas were a hit, perfectly fried with a generous dose of onion and keema. The naan was filled with kova ( sweetened creamy dried milk) and one bite into a creamy delight; you know it has been made with lots of love. A little ahead on the other side of the road, Pista House had set up their Ramadan enclosure serving lip smacking Mutton Haleem and Biryani. It is worth driving across town for this best of town offering.
We walked past Paradise and Karama and turned right into a lane past a pretty house to arrive at Anisa’s Kitchen where Warqi Samosas were waiting for us. The samosas did perfect justice to the name Warqui – Paper. The wafer thin layers were delicately folded like the frills around a lady’s dress and required careful handling lest they get hurt :). These samosas are a Cutchi Memon specialty. The meat filling was smooth and tasty and I washed it down with Falooda served in a bowl which tended towards a custard. We emerged on to MM Road through the by lane and the crowds in front of Charminar and New Taj was swelling. The crowd in front of Chichabas Taj was equally overwhelming but we managed to get a seat inside for a traditional Iftaar. As soon as the Maghrib prayers were over at the big mosque nearby we had the dates and fruits followed by bowls of Khichrda( rice and lentils) cooked with mutton chunks and glasses of rose milk with sabja seeds. The best was yet to come; the variety of chicken and mutton kababs each one well spiced and cooked to perfection.
After all the spice the fragrant and very mildly spiced Arabic specialty- Mandi Mutton rice was a welcome change. The mutton pieces deliciously soft. Though the Mandi Mutton is a cousin of Biryani, they are miles apart in terms of spice levels. The last stop of the day was in Alibaba’s located down MM Road. It was partially closed due to renovation and the owner kindly offered us bowls of Moroccan Harira Soup and special Moroccan Tea (generous dose of mint in green tea) in a nice traditional pot. The Harira soup is a specialty prepared during Ramadan with chickpea, meat, eggs, rice, wheat paste, lentils with onion, ginger and tomatoes.
The die-hard foodie, could not return without tasting Patthar Gosht. The stone is heated for 5-6 hours and then strips of lamb meat are roasted on hot stone. Based on the stall, you may get to taste lamb, beef, camel or chicken cooked on stone. Since I was full to the brim, opted for a takeaway which was soft and flavorful (kasoori methi, mint and coriander) when I had it the next day. I did miss out on the kababs and biryani from some of the other famous outlets Rahhams, Charminar and New Taj but there is always a next time.