It is the holy month of Ramzan and just like any Muslim neighbourhood, the narrow and busy lanes of the Jaffrabad Market in Seelampur, Delhi gets filled up with street vendors with their carts or stalls, selling Iftari food items and the common public, enthusiastically thronging the streets to break their Roza or the day long fast along with their acquaintances. So all these set up gets laid an hour or so before the Maghreb or the evening prayer. The prevalent sensory experiences in terms of the sights, sounds and aromas undergoes a visible shift as the place gears up for the Iftar or the feast that marks the breaking of the fast. As the evening moves into night, the sea of humanity swells and the surge of the locals engulfs the marketplace. One thing that revolves in the minds of all is food, the fuel that drives the human body. This place in northeast Delhi has a sizeable Muslim population. It is also the home to thousands of families that migrated to the capital from the nearby states of UP, Bihar and MP.
During Ramzan, the locality and its neighbourhood markets transforms into all night bazaar that is full of food stuffs and other things as well. Like its Old Delhi counterpart, this place is cheaper and full of local crowd as compared to the touristy crowd of the former. It is primarily because this place has no tourist attractions like the Jama Masjid, Red Fort etc.
A closer look to the human activity would reveal tired yet smiling visages of the locals who are out to bask in the collective glory of festivity and celebration especially through food. From evening time till dawn, food take predominance. Some of the common food sights are the fruits mostly dates, watermelon and bananas, pakodas, rose drink, a pleasing assortment of breads like sheermal or paratha, smoking hot kebabs grilled on skewers and huge cauldrons filled with either Nahari or Biryani.
We are at Jaffrabad to experience the food culture here during the festival of Ramzan; to discover and learn about the most popular and delicious local food, the distinct flavours triggers hysteria and the relentless hands behind the culinary celebration.
In solidarity to the spirit of celebration, unlike our other food journey we commenced this food tour with an Iftar, for which we joined our friends at a local shop. First task was to buy the food items for the Iftar. It is a customary gesture if you are going for an Iftar. Everybody pitches in with some of the basic eatables that makes up an abundant supply which is then shared by all, simultaneously.
We bought some Keema golis and mixed pakodas and went on to meet our friends for Iftari. The spread comprised of fruit chaat, medley of pakodas and rose flavoured drink. After this light initial spread came the main dishes comprising of Nahari and Khameeri roti. That the Nahari was brilliant can be assessed from the satisfying expressions of the fellow eaters.
With the Iftar done right, it was time to embark on the Ramzan food tour across the market. Our first stop was the Haji Ikbal Sheermal Wale. We were here for some fresh and hot Nan Khatais or Indian shortbread cookies. We were lucky to witness the making of a fresh batch of golden brown beauties. They were soft, crumbly and irresistible.
Next stop was a popular kebab shop thronged by the locals. Nawab bhai kebab wale is an interesting place that we recommend for the tastiest kebabs in the locality. We tried their famous sheekh kebabs right off the skewers and believe us they were amazing. Very interestingly the kitchen in this eatery sits above the shop and the hot kebabs are lowered to the ground floor shop area by a pulley set up. The owners too were extremely gentle and humble. This place won our heart.
Next stop was the Afaq Zaika Chicken. We tried their special butter chicken tikka. It comprised of perfectly grilled chicken pieces tossed in a creamy and buttery sauce made with curd, butter and minimal spices. With all its rich and robust components, this dish can’t go wrong. Its was delectable and addictive although the insane amount of butter can surely give you jitters. The dish was a representation of the iconic Aslam Butter chicken from Old Delhi. In due course of the conversation we came to know that they are kins.
While ambling down the lanes we came to a place frying Khajlas, a Ramzan time snacks that is eaten mostly during Shehri. Next we halted at a bread shop. Traditional breads are the inevitable part of the meal during Ramzan. They had an eclectic variety of breads of which we loved the Coconut one the most. After this was the turn of some mixed fruit shake from a street side cart. It was refreshing and had a custard like taste.
Then was the turn of a shop selling matar pulav, tehri and biryani. The taste of these vegetarian rice delicacies were so wonderful that we had to label it as a culinary discovery in the area. Imagine what a humble yet spectacular stuff it must be so as to win the heart of a hardcore biryani aficionado like me.
Right after it we also gorged on a delicious plate of Haleem biryani again from a street side stall that was swarmed with a super enthusiastic crowd. We literally jostled our way through them to collect our order. This place was a star.
From there we reached Islam Milk store, a place that everybody had recommended. With great curiosity we spoke to the owner and the customers to understand the amazing popularity of this milk joint. And with one sip of their rose flavoured milk we got all our answers. They have mastered the perfect ratio in which the three ingredients should be mixed so as to get the ambrosial byproduct. We left convinced that a glassful of milk can actually make adults smile.
Our penultimate stop was Cool point where we tasted one of the most decadent Shahi Tukda. The fact that they double fry the thing before serving makes it different from the ilk. Along with a scoop of their in house mango ice cream, this dessert attained great height in taste.
After so much gluttony that we didn’t at all regret, we ended the food tour with a paan. Jaffrabad emerged as a foodie haven with some gems that cant be missed.