Ramzan Food Walk @ Delhi 6
RAMZAN FOOD WALK
The cacophony of sounds and a myriad collection of colours is what surround you when you enter the walled city. Come the holy month of Ramzan and the streets seem drunk with religious fervour.
Pretty eyes looking behind veils, there is a certain mysticism and charm that this place holds on to me. Whether it is the old havelis or the narrow lanes or the enormous number of shops selling food, there is something here for everyone.
Any visit to Ballimaran is incomplete without a visit to the haveli of Urdu poet Mirza ghalib, arguably one of the finest poets to have ever roamed the streets of Delhi. The old haveli has been renovated housing some of the replicas of Ustad’s old belongings as well as a few verses from his shayaris reminding me of a simpler yet bygone era which still feels as if alive in the small rooms.
Stepping out of the haveli and the maddening crowd and the incessant honking of the two wheelers whizzes me back to reality. Walking on in Ballimaran we reach Sapna restaurant, plonking on the seats was a huge relief from the humid weather. We ordered some fried chicken, crispy sesame crusted chicken pieces with green chutney tingled the taste buds. We helped ourselves to some hot taftaan from the shop opposite to Sapna, hot, fluffy, sweet and doused with ghee these were the perfect accompaniment.
On we went to Kabul Zaiqa restaurant, walking down the long narrow passageway, I stop in front of a small room with a wood fired oven and trays of hot bread, upon asking I’m told these are paape, accompaniment to teas. Just out of the oven these are golden brown, fluffy, mildly sweet a perfect teatime essential, which can be the Delhi’s equivalent of Mumbai’s bun. At Kabul Zaiqa there is a sit-down meal in a traditional manner and the menu as to what is prepared for the day. The chicken curry and mutton curry are ordinary at best but what they pride over is the Afghani pulao, flavoursome, not at all spicy and the swollen raisins popping in the mouth with a delicious sweetness. But, the tender meat from the lamb shanks were just melt in the mouth, soft and juicy and truly was a highlight to the meal.
Now was the long walk to Lal kuan for a visit to the famous Ustad moinuddin, famous in the foodie circles and the ustad title given as a mark of reverence to the kebabchi. But en route we stopped to have besan pakode dipped in tamarind chilli chutney titillating the senses. With pakode the older members of the groups longed for their evening cup of chai. And everyone munched on bakery biscuits with their frothy cuppas.
Ustad moinuddin, sells buff kebab opposite to the Hamdard dawakhana. Even after buying a shop he prefers to sit by the sidewalk and sell his kebabs. Succulent, spicy kebabs with the grizzled fat are topped with sliced onions and ginger slivers with a fiery chutney, jumpstarts the palate. Come 7:30 pm, Ustad moinuddin is a must visit for a taste of the old world.
One of the disappointments of the evening was to find Bade miyan kheer shop closed. So twisting and turning our way through the maddening crowd and stopping along to keep count of the people with us and mppve along as a group, we made our way to Aslam’s in matia mahal. With half of the eatery being under renovation, there was a maddening rush at the counter, with orders being shouted by the hungry horde at the top of their voice. We managed to get our order but with lack of seating decided to eat in front of the shop, with grilled chicken in a yoghurt and masala, topped with a generous helping of golden melted butter. The buttery, tangy, spicy goodness just hits the spot. This butter chicken is bound to put a smile across anyone’s face.
Travelling back towards Jama masjid, we stopped for shahi tukda and kheer. The sweet burnt caramel crusty tukda delicious in its entirety, made me go on for more bites giving me asbestos tongue for the remaining evening. The kheer mildly sweet and cold was a saviour for the warrior tongue.
Walking towards chawri bazar crossing and squeezing between cars and trucks. We stopped for kuliya ki chaat, assorted fruits and vegetables hollowed out and filled with spices, boiled chickpea and pomegranate. One bite and what hits you is the sour salty lime and the sweetness coming through later. Having tried earlier the novelty of eating kulle has died down for me and I don’t find them extra ordinary but, for the uninitiated it is a welcome surprise.
On we went to kucha pati ram, and finding the Kuremal shop closed, anubhav called on one of the numbers on the billboard hanging over the shop, and the store owner opened up the shop for us, to smaple all that he had to offer. We tried akmost all they had to offer aam panna, mango, jamun, imli, litchi, chickoo , pachranga. With the kulfis brimming with the freshness of the fruits, Kuremal is an institution when it comes to savour some cold desserts in Delhi, holding on to their own against the onslaught of frozen mass produced ice cream brands. My personal favourite was the Paan with betel leaves and refreshing paan flavour. It was the proverbial end of a meal stretching across the breadth of chandni chowk.
All in all going during ramzan to chandni chowk is an altogether different experience than any other day. Whether it be the call of the muezzin or the Gareeb Niwaz restaurant serving the poor and the needy or a tired lonely figure trying to sort out a bottleneck jam, or the humongous mounds of sevaiya. A walk in the chandni chowk is always a unique experience. So after 6 hours, with a walk started with strangers we part as friends.
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