This year's month-long Ramzan has blessed us all with a mid-week holiday. While our Muslim brothers and sisters across the country and world celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks an end to the month-long period of fasting and prayers, the mid-week holiday is reason enough to join in on the feasts and festivities.
For India, the month of Ramzan fell right in the middle of the country's most dramatic elections. Despite news headlines reporting episodes of communal disharmony, the holy month saw several acts of communal kindness and harmony. Ramzan, which comes about 11 days earlier every year, also occurred at the peak of summer this year. The shortage of Rooh Afza, a significant part of the subcontinent's Ramzan traditions, did dampen spirits at the beginning of the festival but supply was restored soon.
Muslim neighbourhoods across the country transform overnight during the month of Ramzan. Decorated with lights and engulfed in the aroma of Ramzan delicacies, fasters and feasters alike flock these narrow lanes from dusk to dawn. No matter which part of the country you find yourself in this Eid, here's a guide to navigate Ramzan hotspots in various Indian cities and what to eat when you get there.
The next time you're planning a trip to the capital of India, schedule it around Ramzan. And if you're in the city already, you couldn't be luckier. The transformation of old Delhi during the Muslim holy month, particularly at night, has gained iconic status for the streets that seem to be stuck in time. As soon as the aroma of kebabs and tikkas hits your olfactory system, you will know you have reached the bylanes of old Delhi. There is no better way to celebrate Eid!
Where to Go
You can head to the areas around Shahjahanabad and Jama Masjid. As soon as the sun sets, these neighbourhoods breathe a life of their own during Ramzan. Expect illuminated streets and hungry patrons crowding makeshift food stalls.
What to Eat
You will find an assortment of kebabs and tikkas like sutli, shammi, dori and boti. In the huge variety of biryani that awaits you, keep your eye out for a particular achaari-flavoured biryani. Nalli Nihari, a type of slow-cooked meat stew with marrow, served with Khamiri Rolls is another favourite with the locals.
Haleem, a popular Ramzan delicacy across the country, has no takers in Delhi! In fact, eateries around Jama Masjid are known to completely stop making haleem during Ramzan.
Iftar For All
A group initiative started by a young Supreme Court lawyer in Delhi, volunteers of Iftar For All distributed fruit and pakoras as iftar meals to one and all around GB Pant and LNJP Hospitals during the month of Ramzan.
Author Nazia Erum along with a group of 12 others, for the third consecutive year, hosted an interfaith Iftar Party in Chandni Chowk. More than 100 women were present at the old haveli which was engulfed in the aroma of home-cooked kebabs, biryani and chole.
Ramzan in Refuge
A group of single Afghani refugee women, ILHAM Afghan Cuisine, have been treating Delh-ites to Afghani delicacies this Ramzan. Their most popular Ramzan dishes include kabuli pulao, shammi kebab and manthu.
- Mutton burra and mutton qorma at Karim's, Jama Masjid
Think Ramzan in Mumbai and everyone is going to direct you to Mohammed Ali Road to celebrate Eid. This area around Minara Masjid all the way up to Crawford Market is the place to be if you want to experience the peak of Ramzan celebrations in Mumbai.
Delhi-based Chef Sadaf Hussain visited Mohammed Ali Road for the first time this year and brought back glimpses of his favourite Ramzan foods from the neighbourhood. Of course the chat ended up in a Mumbai vs Delhi debate so watch to find out which city serves up better Ramzan fare!
In the lanes of Mohammed Ali Road and Bohri Mohalla, you will find all varieties of samosas and kebabs, tandooris and tikkas, paya and haleem, qorma and biryani. Besides the Nihaari which is a crowd puller, you can also expect exotic treats like quail roasts served with baida rotis.
Mohammed Ali Road Menu
The city's favourite haunt for unlimited food, Barbeque Nation brought Mohammed Ali Road to the dining table of its patrons this Ramzan. Barbeque Nation outlets across the country are hosting Daawat-e-Ramadan, an iftar special menu which begins with Rooh Afza and Laban. Main course includes treats like Badami Gosht, Murgh Mussalam and Zam Zam Pilaf. Sheer Korma, Chanari Halwa and Sabja Falooda will greet you at the dessert counter.
The iftar parties at Islam Gymkhana, Marine Drive are a personal favourite of Mumbai's very own foodie Kunal Vijayakar. Reminiscing about their mutton biryani, Kunal says, there is "no other place and no other time in the year when a mutton biryani tastes as good as this. Maybe it is the bulk cooking on coal or just the collective prayers of the devout that make this biryani breathtaking."
Kunal lists the other treats on the iftar platter at Islam Gymkhana, Qorma, Khichda, Mihari, Kebabs, "legendary" white chicken, tava full of Gurda Kaleji Kheema accompanied by soft, frehly baked Khammeri Roti and Naan. On the dessert menu, he lists: Rabdi, Ghevar, Malpua, Mava Roll, Gajar Halwa, Kulfi and Falooda.
Feast at Mazgaon
Another of Kunal's memorable Ramzan feasts has been at King's Kitchen in Mazgaon. On Munir Kachwala's Ramzan-special menu you will find a variety of kebabs, Nalli Nihari and Mughlai Paya. One of their most popular highlights, Kunal informs, is their Seekh Biryani.
Treats on Tava
The humongous tava that dominates every food stall in every lane of the country during Ramzan is Kunal's favourite sight during the holy month, he reveals. "No iftar meal can be complete without the quintessential tava," he says, before listing all the tava-special delicacies that make his mouth water. "Beja, Bhuna, Gurda, Keema on a tava with Rotis and Parathas, tumbled together with Biryani Rice as a Tava Pulao."
If you're feeling rich this Ramzan, Kunal recommends the Kebabs and Kurries Ramzan-special menu at ITC Grand Central in Parel. He recommends their "Lamb Shorba simmered with hand-pounded spices, Silbattey ki Shammi (tender lamb minced in a traditional mortar and pestle and delicately spiced), Dum ka Murgh, Sarai ki Biryani (long grained basmati rice and lamb simmered with potli masala scented with mace and cooked on dum)." End the your Ramzan feast with their Gulaab ki Kheer and Shaahi Tukda, suggests Kunal.
Kunal received a majestic welcome Courtyard by Marriott's Ummrao where he was treated to authentic Ramzan specials like Awadhi Paya Shorba, Shatavar ki Galouti, Murshidabadi Gosht Seekh and Malpua Aamras Kulfi. The invitation was from an old friend, Mukhtaar Qureishi, who Kunal says is creating "almighty drama" in his restaurant this Ramzan.
For those going easy on the pocket but not that easy, Kunal recommends The Bohri Kitchen's Ramzan-special menu at the Flea Bazaar Cafe, Lower Parel which has "gone all out this Ramzan". He recommends their "Bohri Khichda (mutton slow-cooked to disintegration, with broken wheat, daals and spices) served with Khammi Roti and Nalli Nihari with Sweet Sheermal. Smoked Mutton Keema Samosas, Chicken Keema Pattices, egg and crumb coated Mutton Cutlets, keema-stuffed baida roti, malai khaja (layers of puff pastry stuffed with cream), homemade Phirni, Red Masala Raan, Nalli Nihari (slow-cooked mutton gravy with shank and bone marrow cooked in a medley of masalas) served with Masoor Khichdi." After that feast if you're still feeling gastronomically adventurous, don't forget to end your meal with their Royal Falooda.
Iftar in Uniform
Even the police stations of Mumbai host their own iftar meals and take the month of fasting and feasting as an opportunity to better mingle with the Muslim community in their jurisdiction.
During Ramzan, the streets of Srinagar are engulfed in the aroma of freshly baked bread and festive meaty treats. You will also find a variety of refreshing beverages during the festival. The most popular drink is the Babri Tresh, made using grated coconut and sabja or chia seeds. This refreshing drink which is said to have been introduced by Mughal Emperor Babur is popularly made for auspicious occasions in the region. Another refresher you will find here is the Kateer Sherbet which is made of gond, a popular ingredient used across the country to bring relief from the heat.
A Hindu family in Varanasi's Afsanganj is celebrating Ramzan this year too. The family, along with their neighbours, is producing the traditional seviyan for their Muslim neighbours throughout the month. The dried vermicelli is a significant ingredient used in khurma, a sweet dish which is an essential part of the iftar meal that breaks the day-long fast.
While this city has been embroiled in hot political and communal debate for decades, a Hindu temple in Ayodhya hosted iftar meals in its premises during the month of Ramzan. "This is the third time we have organised an iftar party," said Yugal Kishor, priest, Shri Sita Ram Temple. "I will continue to do the same in the future as well. We should celebrate every festival with great zeal."
The culinary treats that Lucknow has to offer are so legendary that delicacies from the region's cuisine still dominates most Indian restaurant menus. Come Ramzan, the frenzy in this foodies paradise is said to multiply ten-fold with food stalls selling their wares into the wee hours of the night. If you happen to be in Lucknow, the only way acceptable way to celebrate Eid is by feasting on all the kebabs!
Where to Go
The bylanes of old Lucknow around Akbari Gate will lure you with the perfect tunday kebabs and phirni in clay pots. The midnight markets around Aminabad and Nazirabad lanes offer many Ramzan treats as well. Groups in the also host midnight food walks through its lanes.
Haleem vs Khichda
While the spicy Haleem may be a popular Ramzan treat in Hyderabad, in Lucknow, it's the milder khichda that enjoys the limelight. "While haleem has more of pulses, our khichda is grainier," explains chef Ranveer Brar.
In Lucknow, the popular Nihari is savoured with kulchas. In fact Achhe Bhai sets up shop in Patanala during Ramzan just to serve kulcha and nihari. Hungry and loyal customers spill out on the roads for this Ramzan-special delicacy.
Month of Charity
Ramzan is as much about fasting and feasting as it is about charity. Several individuals and organisations in the city of Nawabs marked the Muslim holy month by engaging in acts of kindness. Volunteers in Moulviganj, Aminabad and Wazirganj areas of the city distributed sehri and iftar essentials to over 600 underprivileged families during the month of Ramzan.
This Ramzan, eateries in Lucknow are whipping up unique Ramzan special dishes. These are customised to customer requests to keep the sweltering summer in mind. Peshawari Pizza Naan with toppings that help the body retain water was a favourite Sehri meal in the city during Ramzan. Shahi Tukda packed with cool ingredients is also recommended this summer. Meanwhile, paan shops ensured several betel leaf concoctions to help patrons keep the heat at bay this Ramzan.
- Kashmiri Chai at Mohammed Sabir's Stall, near Akbari Gate
- Barbecued Kaleji at Bismillah Kaleji Corner
- Chicken Tikka at Al-Anas
- Shikanji at Aaquil's Shikanji Shop in Sharbat Wali Gali
- Khichda at Hum Dum Foods, near Chhota Imambara
- Keema Samosa at Sippu's, Udaiganj
- Kulcha Nihari at Raheem's, near Akbari Gate
- Kebab's at original Tunday's, Chowk
- Khoya-stuffed Khajla at Maulana's, near Akbari Gate
If you're in Rajasthan or around Jaipur during Ramzan, head to the famous Sufi shrine in Ajmer which takes a life of its own during the holy month. Ramzan delicacies like Mutton Nahari, Nalli Paya, Korma and Stew enjoy the Ramzan limelight in this region. Shabbir Khan, owner of Khwaja Garib restaurant works throughout the day during Ramzan. "Our work cycle changes upside down during Ramzan," he says, "We spend the day preparing for dishes while after dusk the challenge is to meet the expectations of all clients."
Not for profit organisation Sahapedia hosted three-kilometre-long Iftar Walks, starting and ending at Jama Masjid, which took the participants around old Ahmedabad city which is basked in heritage. Led by an associate from the city's prestigious IIM-A, the food tour also aimed to bust myths around the Muslim ritual of iftaar which is wrongly considered a huge party or feast by non-observers of the Ramzan fast.
Surat's Ramzan Bazaars, flocked by the religious and non-religious, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, are known to be a foodie's paradise.
Where to Go
Food stalls in the lanes around Chowk Bazaar, Rander and Jhapa Bazaar, Mahidharpura, Salabatpura, Navsari Bazaar and Sagrampura, are so popular during Ramzan that this year, the smart city's police commissioner issued a formal notification allowing these food haunts to stay open till late for the whole month.
What to Eat
The Rangooni Paratha, a layered deep-fried keema paratha, is a special delicacy in Surat during Ramzan and so are other varieties of meat-stuffed parathas. Also look out for the Silver Foil Chicken, Machchhi Masala Chicken and Burra Murg which is stuffed with dried fruits and nuts. For breakfast or sehri, locals feast on Khausa, a regional version of the Burmese Khow Suey, which comes with its own interesting history of origin.
- Chicken at Mamas Chicken and Chicken Centre
- Paratha at Petiwala Paratha
- Lara Litchi Kulfi at Modan
- Kulfi Faloodas at Lord's Ice-cream and Kulfi Centre
- Seasonal and Unique-Flavoured Kulfis at Tajmal
Those in Vadodara go on food walks around Salatwada and Tandalja during the month of Ramzan. Often the food trails are spread over multiple days since there is so much Ramzan food to savour in these narrow lanes! Make sure you're patient when you go here as the waiting period for the Ramzan treats tends to be long but absolutely worth the wait.
The areas around Hazrat Mehmood Shah Char Peer Dargha, Ghansoli and Kausar Baug in Pune come alive during Ramzan with food stalls dotting every corner of these neighbourhoods. Some of the eateries in the city's Kausar Baug area remain open for both the sehri and iftar meals during the month of Ramzan.
At Sultan'z you will come across a variety of delectable samosas. Punekars head to Arabian Bites, a restaurant run by Hyderabadis, for their Haleem fix. The restaurant also boasts a platter of Middle Eastern desserts. Ahmed Bajaman's food stall and Aurangabad's Naan Qalia are popular with engineering students living in the city.
Bhopal's love for Haleem goes back to the time of Hyderabad's royal courts which had a great Persian influence on the neighbouring regions, informs Nawabzada Raashid Ali from the royal family of Bhopal. However, the region has given its own twist to the Hyderabadi delicacy. "Bhopali haleem is lighter than haleem elsewhere," says the prince, "Condiments like zaban (goat's tongue), dry fruit, curd and eggs are not added, giving it a texture that's a lot lighter and smoother."
- Haleem and Khichda at Haji Hotel, Chatori Gali
While the iftar meal usually takes the limelight during Ramzan, not many people talk of sehri, the meal that's had in the quiet of the night just before sunrise. This Ramzan, several families in Raipur hosted sehri parties and potluck meals in their homes and invited Muslim and non-Muslim loved ones alike. Several food shops in the city remained open around the time of sehri to offer fresh food to their patrons.
While skewers at food stalls in other cities of India may be lined with rows of roasting chicken and mutton, in this Bengali city, you're going to find every variety of fish dressed up in Ramzan's festive flavours. Expect to be greeted by rows of rohu, katla and pomfret bathed in the choicest marinades in the streets of Kolkata during Ramzan. Head to Zakaria Street around the city's biggest mosque Nakhoda Masjid to celebrate Ramzan in Kolkata.
What to Eat
The Haleem found in the streets of Kolkata is said to be "undisputedly the best in Ramzan" and its history only lends to its iconic status. Legend has it that the haleem recipe used in this city comes straight from the secret recipe book of the last Nawab of Awadh. Haleem is traditionally enjoyed with Bagarkhani which is studded with poppy seeds.
Other Ramzan-special treats include Sheermal, Roghani and Meetha Naan. White Lachcha, shredded flour vermicelli fried in ghee, is another local favourite during Ramzan. Khajla, flaky flour discs fried in ghee and dunked in hot milk, is a popular Sehri meal in the city.
Born on the day of Eid ul Fitr, Chef Sharad Dewan of The Park Kolkata recollects childhood memories of Ramzan, talks about what the festival means to him and how it became more prominent in his life after donning the chef's hat. Don't miss his Ramzan-special recommendations from around the country and world.
Expect extravagance if you find yourself in Hyderabad during Ramzan. The city's haleem and biryani is popular all-year round, around the world so you can only imagine what their Ramzan treats would be like. You will find the choicest qormas, kebabs, sheermal, qubaani ka meetha and double ka methai in the city of Nizams during Ramzan. Head to the lanes around Char Minar to find food stalls dotting every nook and corner.
The haleem in Hyderabad is said to be slow-cooked in a bhatti on a wood-fired flame for over 12 hours. Its chief ingredients are goat meat and pounded meat which is stirred continuously to achieve its famous smooth consistency. Food historian Mehboob Alam Khan has been preparing haleem for over six decades in 200-year-old vessels. He says red chilli powder is his secret ingredient and notes that the ratio of wheat to meat is what brings out the flavour.
For a Haleem Trail in Hyderabad, start with Prime Pista Houz in Vanasthalipuram. The two-and-a-half-year-old restaurant has already earned loyal patrons who return annually to soak in the Ramzan spirit. Naaz Haleem in LB Nagar's RTC Colony has been serving haleem for eight years and attracts fans from across the state. The haleem at New India Cafe in NTR Nagar is a favourite iftar meal for many locals. Suprabhat Hotel in NTR Nagar is another restaurant in the city attracting loyal haleem fans.
Food stalls and shops in the streets of Bengaluru during Ramzan boast the most exotic meats cooked in a medley of masalas. Besides the usual Ramzan favourites, you will find Ramzan-special Camel Meat Roast, Quail Roast, Roasted Ox Tongue and Goat Brain Puffs. To satisfy your sweet tooth, don't miss the Badam Hareera, a popular almond milk drink, and the Faloodas and Lassis. The Sulaimani Chai is a must-try during Ramzan in Bengaluru as well.
Where to Go
Loiter around Mosque Road in Fraser Town, Rehmat Nagar, Tilak Nagar, Johnson Market, Bilal Masjid and Shivaji Nagar to meet most of these meaty Ramzan delicacies. Food walks in these neighbourhoods are known to feature 12 to 14 courses so it's best to go on an empty stomach. Kormangala has been a rising Ramzan star in recent years. Go there for Shrimp Kebabs.
The Silicon Valley of India is giving the popular Haleem a contemporary twist this Ramzan. Chef Tanmoy Savardekar is serving up several variations of Haleem to his diners. The vegetarian version is packed with eight vegetables and five lentils. The chef has also prepared a kathal haleem with raw jackfruit sourced from Kerala. There is also prawns haleem with prawns cooked three ways. That's not all. There is also haleem with duck and turkey meat options. Go feast.
More Than Iftar
Farheen Hussain recollects the Ramzan special foods from her childhood prepared by her mother and sent over neighbourhoods. However, amid all the food talk, she reminds readers that the month of Ramzan is more than just the iftar feasts that the mainstream media tends to talk about. She narrates memories of celebrating Ramzan as she grew up in Bengaluru and explains the family tradition of early Eid shopping.
-Beef Seekh Kebab Rolls at Fanoos, Fraser Town
- Malabari dishes, Iftar Cafe
- Goat Brain Puffs at Albert Bakery, Fraser Town
- Beef Kebabs at Khazana Food Paradise, Johnson Market
- Soda at Madeena Store, Johnson Market
In Kerala's Kozhikode, you will be treated to traditional Malabari food during Ramzan. The traditional Thari Kanji, a flavourful porridge of semolina and coconut milk, is a local favourite for iftar meals during the holy month. The state also based rice-flour based Ramzan special snacks like ottada, sukhiyan and mutta surka. Don't forget to try Kerala's favourite banana snacks like unnakkai.
In the state's capital, the traditional Nombu Kanji and Hyderabadi Haleem are enjoying the limelight during Ramzan. Nombu Kanji, a lightly-spiced lentil porridge, is served as the iftar meal by most of the city's mosques during Ramzan. However, Jumah Masjid in Chala is known for specially inviting a chef to prepare their Kanji for the month of Ramzan when 60 kg is made daily. Meanwhile, haleem is selling like hot cakes in the city's restaurants.