The Grandiose Feasthttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/the-grandiose-feast/

The Grandiose Feast

Banquet halls across the city are treating Puneites to mouth-watering traditional delicacies during the holy month of Ramzan

It’s that time of the year when one can follow the aroma of roasted chicken set in piping hot tandoors mixed with petrichor at sundown and find the way to streets packed with food stalls at Babajan Chowk and Khondwa. Ramzan,the month of sawn (fasting) and salat (prayers),has been in full swing since July 10 and will continue till August 8. Once maghrib,the prayer immediately after sunset,is over,families come together for iftar,which is the breaking of the daily fast at various banquet halls and stalls,temporarily built all across the city during the festival. Chicken tandoori,murg musulam,chicken biryani,seekh kabab,firni and much more beckon devotees as they break fast. The intoxicating ambience also draws people from other communities,for whom it is an annual epicurean celebration.

In its 28th year of laying out lavish spreads for iftar,Imdadi Banquet at Babajan Chowk is offering its “usual”. “We don’t experiment with taste here. We love to keep the traditional essence and the flavours intact in our delicacies,” says Asiz Bagwal,a member of Imdadi Trust,which organises the banquet.

Among the 70 items on the menu,chicken tandoori,murg musulam,mutton dalcha rice,mutton imdadi,chicken biryani,gurda kalagi and beef kadi gosht are the most popular,shares Bagwal. In desserts,firni and shahi tukda,made of fried bread,milk and sweetening agents,steal the show almost every year,he adds.

Shakil Mujahid,one of the organising members,says profits from the banquets are divided among the masjids in the city and a portion of it is also distributed among the underprivileged. The banquet,arguably the largest in the city,has this year shifted from its usual location beside Babajan Dargah to a hall named Ashirvad due to traffic snarls. “However,the eclat and the splendour remain the same,” assures Bagwal,who oversees all the cooking.

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Imdadi is not the only place offering lip-smacking Ramzan food. Far from the city’s maddening crowd,a cluster of stalls at Kondhwa,NIBM,are also being sought out by gourmands. The three biggest banquets at Kondhwa — Taj Darbar,Imdadi and Shareef Caterers — lined in a row give cut-throat competition to each other and open a large variety of food options. “Our specialities are seekh kebab and moghlai paratha,” says Kalim Sayeed,the owner of Taj Darbar,adding that it is their third year in the business. Halwa paratha,which is an addition to their extensive menu,is made of rava kesari,pure ghee and dry fruits and served hot to the customers.

Sayeed claims that more than 500 customers come to him every day. “The business is doing good,and the profit generated is higher compared to the previous years,” he adds. Mustaq Sattar Sheikh,vice-chairman of Imdadi Trust,shares that a large part of the crowds that throng banquet destinations are from other communities.

“The food knows no religion,caste or creed,” says Sheikh,adding that celebrations such as these go a long way to melt differences between people and bring them close.