11th July, 2014
IFTAR FOOD WALK
By Akshita Singh
It felt like just the whole world was out there, on the streets of Chawri Bazaar, cutting through cycles, rickshaws and enthusiastic people. We were no exception. All of us exuberant foodies who had congregated at Gate 3 of the Chawri Bazaar Metro Station were in for loads of culinary surprises in Delhi’s very own Walled City.
When there were stacks of chicken legs, laid beautifully in layers of concentric semicircles on one side, and the scrummy, sizzling Pakodas on the other, then being pushed through the jammed narrow lanes and struggling to move centimeters at a time through the throng of Matia Mahal, was a delight in itself. Soon enough, the magnificent Jama Masjid, with its overpowering domes came into sight. All alleys converged at the grounds of the sublime mosque and there from, the walk turned so much more exhilarating.
Our first stop was Kallan Sweets, where we tried some Paneer ki Jalebis that did appear different from the usual kind we eat, because of a darkish alloy orange outer layer and a thicker line of spiral. Adding Paneer into a dessert, and that too a very familiar one, was sure a refreshing novelty for most of us. As our walk resumed, we came across a plethora of carts stacking feni, a must-have during Sehri. Carts of dry fruits, none without mountains of dates, were put right under “Jeweller’s” and “ Currency Exchange” boards – a conspicuous portrayal of the power food amasses over everything else, during Ramzaan evenings.
Our next stop was the Haji Mohd. Hussain shop that had massive cauldrons of Chicken and Mutton Biryani being cooked away into unsurpassable delectability. Even from a distance, the whiff of the Pandanus flowers (kewra), the dominating flavor in Biriyanis, reached us. Pakwaan, possessing the bread mastery skills, had delicacies like sheermal, bakarkhani, milk roti and rawamaida all set to decorate the counters. The flies orbiting the cut pineapples and barfis could be a minor deterrence to the otherwise unabating enthusiasm, but at all the places we ate, hygiene was a surety.
Breaking from the tradition, this Iftar Party was celebrated right inside Jama Masjid, amidst innumerable other Muslim families. With that, the Iftar turned so much more authentic. Mats were laid, food baskets were pulled out and lined and we all clustered around the food. Till the time clock didn’t strike 7:25, we had each other and 2 mischievous striped cats for company. All we had to wait for now was the “boom”. Oh, yes, that’s what signals the beginning of Iftar.
Right after the boom, plates found hands, and chicken wings, jalebis, dates, and sheermal found plates. We reversed the usual order of eating and started with the Paneer Jalebis. Even sans any independent taste of paneer, these Paneer ki Jalebis had their distinctly sweet, fascinating flavor. Keema Samosas, amusingly moulded like the half-moon Gujjia, were crunchy and spicy with just the right thickness of the outside, and the stuffing.
Chicken thighs,inside a besan paste, were moderately crisp and tasted great when taken with Rumali rotis. Rotis were equally scrumptious when taken with Chicken Changhezi or Nahari. The pandanus fragrance re-emerged once the Chicken Biriyani baskets were opened. You’d crave to keep each bite in your mouth and savor it forever but within minutes of their being opened, not one grain of rice or a chicken crumb could be found in any of the baskets.
Sheermal was the most singular bread one could ever eat. The succulent, soft, milky and rarely-found bread is one of the few that complemented any sort of dish and yet, needed no dish at all to accompany it. The rows of tiny holes all over the sheermal are in fact perforations that are layered with oil to let it seep further into the sheermal.
After the dinner was over and when most people around us left for their namaaz, we resumed our walk and stopped for some extremely invigorating watermelon and apple milk shakes. They won us over, both for their lusciousness and for their uniqueness, for, how often do we get to drink watermelon milk shakes?
The hot and syrupy Shahitukda with bread soaked in milk and the cold, creamy phirni both served in little earthen pots, were the ideal desserts after the appetizing meal and energizing drinks. So did that conclude the walk? No, not before one last, most essential gesture: Delhi Food Walks served chicken and naans to poor, hungry and homeless people lined outside kiosks, to bring a perfect closure to a wonderful walk on the auspicious occasion of Iftar.
The next walk is scheduled for the 13th July, 2014 at 6.00pm from Chawri Bazaar metro station, Old Delhi. If you want to get a guided culinary tour, you could always book a space for yourselves, contact Anubhav from Delhi Food Walks at #9891121333.