This month marks the beginning of the holy month of Ramzan. For the Muslim world, it means following the strict guidelines of Roza (fasting) and breaking it after the sun goes down. In Delhi, the month of Ramadan is a lot of fun. During this month different corners of the city become active and vibrant, inviting everyone to relish upon lip smacking food. During Ramzan, the bylanes of Matia Mahal near Jama Masjid and Batla House are ideal places for a soul satisfying Ramadan food walk.
Experience the Historical Ramzan Special Food in Old Delhi
The Ramzan or Ramadan traditions in Old Delhi dates back to the Mughal Era. Some of the restaurants here are more than 100 years old. The tradition of preparing Ramzan special food is very organised and disciplined. The old Delhi food walk should start in the premises of Jama Masjid itself. Every day thousands of people gather here, in groups, with their families and friends, they sit in the premises of the mosque waiting for Iftar’s announcement. They bring their food with them. Tiffins filled with yummy pakodas, biryani and fried chicken is just kept right next to them as they patiently wait to break their fast.
Two loud bangs announce Iftar and everyone praises Allah for bestowing the bounty upon them. It is the time when we set to explore the delicious Ramzan cuisine at Matia Mahal, the lane right opposite to the Jama Masjid’s entrance.
As you enter Matia Mahal, you find yourself next to a small shop with an elderly gentleman selling kabab on a makeshift barbeque stand. This place specializes in soft and delicious seek kebabs making it the perfect starting point for the food trail.
As you walk further, you’ll come across a number of small hotels selling fried chicken and rumali roti. A plate of fried chicken costs between INR 80 and 100 and most of these shops give rumali rotis for free. A plate of this fried chicken, served with green chutney and salad can put KFC to shame.
Right next to one of these shops, you’ll find a gentleman on his cycle selling roohafza. It is called Pyar Mohabbat Mazza or simply Mohabbat ka sharbat. This is a special preparation with milk and chunks of watermelon that cool you down on a hot day. A glass of this sharbat costs only 20 bucks.
It is time to feast upon Aslam’s butter chicken and fried fish. Aslam has gained a name in the recent time for its fine preparation of Tandoori Chicken Tikka. The pieces of chicken literally float in the dollops of butter. The popularity is so high that despite a four storied seating area, the place is never empty.
As you walk further from Aslam, you come across a landmark from where the road goes in all four directions. Take a left and you’ll find yourself next to a huge sweet shop. Kallan sweets specializes in Keema Samosa, Khoya Samosa and paneer jalebis. After satisfying your sweet tooth you can walk back to the main road and find yourself near a small shop selling shwarma.
Right next to Kallan Sweets, you’ll find a small shop that sells Biryani. The aroma of the Biryani itself is so enticing that it is impossible to resist trying the food here. Pieces of meat is cooked for hours and finally added into saffron flavoured rice.
Diamond Bakery is a few minute walk from here. This bakery has been an important part of my life in Delhi for last 6 years. This place has been an inseparable part of my stay and visits to this city. The visit to Jama Masjid is incomplete without tasting some cake rusks from this bakery.
As you walk back towards Jama Masjid. You’ll find a roadside shop selling Gud ka sharbat. A glass of this sharbat is only 5 bucks and is an amazing stimulant that takes away all the tiredness that you have gained while exploring that crowded street.
The final stop of the food trail is Cool Point. Anyone who knows this area by heart recommends Cool Point for Shahi Tukda and Mango Ice Cream.
Iftar Walk at Batla House
Batla House, Jamia Nagar is one of the lesser known Ramzan destinations. The Batla House market is the home to delicious pakodas, jalebis, kebabs and fried chicken.
The nearest metro for Batla House is either Okhla or Govindpuri. From here you can take an auto rikshaw that will drop you outside Jamia Nagar market. Start walking straight and you’ll come across a small shop preparing pakodas and jalebis.
Walk further towards the market. You’ll come across a small street side shop selling kebabs and chicken rolls. As a strict policy, the gentleman here doesn’t start preparing the food until the announcement of Iftar is done. He prefers serving the food fresh and hot.
Cross an intersection and you’ll emerge in an area where you’ll find many small restaurants. Just like Matia Mahal, these restaurants serve amazing non-vegetarian food. You can try kebabs prepared with buff and chicken, fried chicken, quorma and nihari.
I stumbled across a small hotel where the owners were just breaking their fast. They were very amused to watch me click photos of the food. They even offered me the iftar food that they were having. I left as a happy person with a beautiful memory added to what otherwise could have been a routine food walk.
Ramzan has just started. It is the time that you visit these places and gain a personal experience of the beauty of this pious month.