Over the last month, the narrow bylanes of Delhi’s Jama Masjid have been saturated with sights and sounds of milk bubbling in vats, the sizzle of skewered meats and the soporific cloying of chashni. As thousands of adherents streamed out of the main mosque to break their fast, they were joined by the curious and the hungry, caste and religion no bar. While most eateries here such as Al Jawahar and Aslam’s kept their regular hours, the area’s focal point, Karim’s, remained open until the wee hours of the morning through the month, ladling out sehri in the form of piping hot paya and nihari. As the fasting is left behind and the feasting begins, street vendors hawk a kaleidoscopic array of foods from the au naturel of dates, sliced fruits, and jamun to the heavily embellished whole chicken doused in crackling butter and fried vermicelli in bewildering shape. Flashing orange jalebis clamour for attention among displays of more sober hued mutton samosa and fat-slathered sheermal.
In Mumbai, the gastronomical pleasures offered to both the pious and the plain are at Mohammad Ali Road and other areas such as Mahim, Kurla and Govandi. “When it comes to the Muslim community, they prefer to break their fast at a more private set up. So it is actually people from other communities who often come by. For instance, the kebab items are very popular with the Catholic community,” says Sami Suvanur, who handles the brand marketing at deGustibus Hospitality Pvt Ltd that runs Neel, which specialises in Nawabi cuisine and is holding a month-long Ramadan festival at both of its outlets in Mumbai. “People are often seen sharing the menu and photos of various dishes on Twitter and Instagram,” he says.
Kalyan Karmarkar who runs a popular food blog, http://www.finelychopped.com, believes that the city has always been interested in this cuisine.
“People plan annual visits to Minara Masjid like they would to Lalbaghcha Raja during Ganesh Chaturthi,” he says. Karmarkar would also organise Ramadan walks for those interested in trying out the different kinds of traditional delicacies such as malpua, phirni and baara handi, that are available only during the festival.
In Lucknow, a city with a rich Muslim legacy and even richer kebabs, eateries make elaborate arrangements for the festival, at times even offering free food to all. The celebrated Tunday Kababi even offered free Iftar thalis at its Aminabad establishment as did Tandoor restaurant at Nakkhas in Chowk area and Mubeen Restaurant at Akbari Gate. This generosity even plays out in the markets.
But in Kolkata, while streets of Muslim-dominated areas like Zakaria Street are full of continued…