Check out the boutique places going all out this Ramzaan, says Kunal Vijayakar
Here’s a mind-boggling figure: As we speak, of the approximately 7.7 billion people in the world, about 1.6 billion are fasting from sunrise to sundown, every day, for the whole month. It’s the Muslim holy month of Ramzaan, and all over the world, the faithful are starting their day with the suhoor or pre-dawn meal, and spending the rest of their daylight hours in reflection, contemplation and on fast, waiting for the sun to set and the evening prayer. Not a bite of food, not a drop of water.
Once the Maghrib prayers are over, it’s time for the large daily feast known as iftaar. It is an honour and privilege to be invited to an iftaar party. Like all fasting Muslims eagerly await the sighting of the moon, at most iftaar parties, north Mumbai guests eagerly await the sighting of either Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan, but I, with many others, eagerly await the sighting of the buffet.
My dear friend Faisal Zakaullah Siddiqui’s invitation to his iftaar party on the rolling lawns of Marine Drive’s Islam Gymkhana never fails to come. And I never fail to attend.
Catered by the Mansuris, on the menu will always be their seminal Mutton Biryani. And there is no other place and no other time in the year when a Mutton Biryani tastes as good as this. Long-grained, fragrant rice, splashed with saffron, full of tender meat cooked in spices. Maybe it is the bulk-cooking on coal or just the collective prayers of the devout that make this biryani breathtaking.
Then of course there will be some sort of qorma, khichda, nihari, kababs and their legendary white chicken, along with a tava full of Gurda Kaleji Kheema accompanied by soft, freshly baked Khameeri Roti, Naan and other breads, the meal concluding on a high note of Rabdi, Ghevar, Malpua, Mava Roll, Gajar Halwa, Kulfi and Falooda.
But what if you don’t have an invite to an iftaar party? Worry not, as they say, ’cause here are a few places that do some pretty spectacular iftaar menus. For the last five years, Munir Kachwaha of King’s Kitchen has been organising a Ramzaan Feast at Mazagaon. This time their menu features a variety of kababs with Nihari, Nalli Nihari and a special Mughlai Paya, the highlight being their most-popular Seekh Biryani. No iftaar meal can be complete without the quintessential Tava. So there’s Beja, Bhuna, Gurda and Kheema on a tava with roti and parathas, or tumbled together with biryani rice as a Tava Pulao.
If you’re in a hurry or want to take your iftaar meal home, Delhi Zaika at Grant Road does The Iftaar Box. Neatly packed, it contains 12 items for approximately Rs 400 — Mince Roll, Shammi Kebabs, Chicken Sticks (deep fried with sewaiyan), Samosas, a couple of tava preparations, Mughlai Paratha and sweets. If you have the time then you can go sit at Delhi Zaika, which offers a jaw-dropping menu. I have watched this place grow from a small kabab stall at Pakmodia Street to a multiple-branch Old Delhi-style restaurant chain, and I swear the taste hasn’t changed; if anything, it’s got richer and better.
Speaking of richer, if you want a great five-star iftaar meal then you can head to Kebabs and Kurries at the ITC Grand Central in Lower Parel. The special Ramzaan menu starts with a rich Lamb Shorba simmered with hand-pounded spices, Silbattey Ki Shammi (tender lamb minced in a traditional mortar and pestle and delicately spiced) and Kalmi Kababs (tandoor-roasted chicken legs marinated in cream, cheese and pepper) followed by Haleem, Dum ka Murgh and Sarai ki Biryani (long-grained basmati rice and lamb simmered with potli masala; scented with mace and cooked on dum), the meal culminating in a Gulaab ki Kheer and Shaahi Tukda.
But I had an invite this week from The Bohri Kitchen to partake of a Ramzaan feast. Munaf Kapadia, who so kindly has been trying to get me to his house to participate in his Mum’s home-made Thaal, finally pinned my stomach down. In his own words, “The Bohri Kitchen is going all out this Ramzaan”.
To start with, TBK’s special iftaar menu at Flea Bazaar Café includes Bohri Khichda (mutton slow-cooked to disintegration, with broken wheat, daals and spices) served with fried Khammi Roti and Nalli Nihari with Sweet Sheermal. Now, some of these dishes also reappeared in Mama Kapadia’s Thaal at home, but the honour of sitting with the family and deviously devouring seven or eight Smoked Mutton Kheema Samosas, a few, soft Chicken Kheema Pattices, and a couple of egg- and crumb-coated Mutton Cutlets, some thin and crisp Kheema-Stuffed Baida Roti, to be happily interrupted by Malai Khaja (layers of puff pastry stuffed with cream), and homemade Firni before continuing onto Red Masala Raan and Nalli Nihari (slow-cooked mutton gravy with shank and bone marrow cooked in a medley of masalas) served with Masoor Khichdi, the host giving us wonderful insight into the food and flavours, made my iftaar into a special evening. The grand finale was a Royal Falooda.
As the Bohri’s so definitively exclaim, ‘Ramadan mein Falooda nahi piya, toh kya piya?’