Aurangabad is small as far as cities go, but its medley of cultural influences is richer than the haleem that spurred my visit there. There was, I heard, a street stall in Aurangabad, near the Institute of Hotel Management, that served haleem so sublime, it was worth a seven-hour train journey from Mumbai. The dish – made from broken wheat, hunks of boneless beef, and a blend of whole spices – is slow-cooked for 12 hours over amber coals and then beaten with a heavy wooden paddle, until it acquires the texture of a creamy gelato (this is actually harees, but everyone calls it haleem here).
Munnabhai, the cook behind the legend, sets up his stall only during Ramzan. For the rest of the year, we learned after scarfing down three bowls of the glorious stuff, he is a wedding caterer known for his haunting mutton biryani, teetar (quail) curry, and murgh musallam. A week after my trip to Aurangabad, Munnabhai’s culinary dexterity still lingered in my mind. Aurangabad’s culinary offerings are a carnivore’s delight. The fare is similar to the cuisine of Hyderabad, although less extravagant. For a crash course in Aurangabad’s favourite food, you can visit Buddi Lane, where the streets are filled with stalls selling seekh kebabs, beef biryani, haleem, and naan qaliya, a rich, meat curry served with rotis.
–Neha Sumitran, Editor, Web
If you’ve had to manage on a few hundred rupees a month through college, you’ll know how exciting Ramzan can be. About 10 years ago, you could eat like a king, firni and all, for ₹20.
You could start with Ustad Moinuddin’s Kebabs, Lal Kuan, about a five-minute walk from the Chawri Bazar metro station. He’s legendary and a hop, skip and jump away from Mirza Ghalib’s house. It is just amazing to watch the Ustad’s practiced hands as he serves you the softest kebabs.
But for the more adventurous, look no further than the labyrinth that is Matia Mahal. On the road outside Gate 1, Jama Masjid, there are about a hundred makeshift kebab stalls that pop up around Ramzan. Try the tikkas, the sheekhs, the shammis, and if you are lucky, some galauti that you might chance upon.
Turn left directly opposite Gate 1, and ignore the temptation to walk in to Karim’s or Al-Jawahar. Both will serve the same food through the year. Walk about 100 metres in and you will find massive handis full of biryani – stop at any, and try and avoid chicken. If you’re looking for real flavour, pick a red meat.
I cannot be specific about shop names, because most of them aren’t permanent, but do try the desserts on this stretch. I’ll personally recommend the shahi tukda over the seviyan, but that really is up to personal taste. And you cannot miss the firni (rice pudding) matkas. Also, try the falooda, the rooh afza milkshakes and end it all with a milky tea, with copious amounts of malai dunked in.
There are other spots in Delhi that people will argue are better, Nizammuddin and Zakir Nagar come to mind. But the Matia Mahal area remains close to my heart. For a permanently broke student, year after year, I spent many nights walking alone in the area, trying each “Ramzan Special” item, and most importantly, making friends with kebab makers – possibly the most important friends I have ever made, they served my kebabs plumper than usual.
–Neel Paul, Creative Director, Amar Chitra Katha Media
Hyderabad is famous for haleem, served only during Ramzan. Hyderabad isn’t much into street food, it’s about tehzeeb (refined culture) so people like to sit and dine. It’s served at almost every restaurant, and is famous at Pista House in the Old City near Charminar, and at Shah Ghouse Cafe & Restaurant – there’s always a competition between the two!
However, I find that both restaurants attract a lot of tourists and so are a bit over-the-top and miss some of the real authenticity. My favourite is Cafe Bahar on Hyderguda Road. If you’re in Hyderabad, also try the other signature delicacies like biryani, and desserts like double ka meetha, qurbani ka meetha and kheer. If you’re hankering for haleem but don’t live in Hyderabad, Pista House delivers its haleem to doorsteps in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Gurgaon, Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore and Vishakhapatnam.
–Syed Ali Arif, Artist, Co-Owner of lifestyle brand Item Number
Kolkata’s street food is the stuff of legends. We all know of the chops, cutlets, rolls and Chinese food that most Durga Puja stories are made of. But Kolkata also lights up for Ramzan.
The usual suspects, Aminia, Arsalan, Royal Indian, U.P. Bihar and their like all serve special Ramzan items. I highly recommend braving the rains and heading out to Aminia a little early for the special haleem. The service starts at around 2p.m., and well before iftar, within a couple of hours in fact, the haleem runs out. If you like offal – udders to be specific – grab the khiri kebabs at U.P. Bihar. And of course, these places never run out of biryani, chaap and rezala.
Nakhoda Masjid and its surroundings, especially Zakaria Street is inundated with small stalls at this time. The sheer range of kebabs available is astounding. My pick would be a really soft one, sutli (literally, string) kebab, tied together with string so it doesn’t fall apart. It isn’t for everyone, and the ones I’ve tried were extremely spicy. But you could also take your pick from seekh, boti, kaleji (kidney), gurda (liver), fish, prawns, and even Kolkata’s versions of kakori and galauti.
There is also a vast array of sweets like aflatoon (an almost-baked sweet), chhana-kheer and firni.
I remember walking around the by-lanes of Park Circus with my dad during Ramzan and sampling various haleems. Always the same garnish, fresh coriander, lemon juice and chilies, never quite the same taste. Sadly, I cannot name these stalls, not least because they were usually just a guy standing with a huge handi. But if you are so inclined, I do recommend a nice long walk in the area.
–Neel Paul, Creative Director, Amar Chitra Katha Media
In Kozhikode (Calicut), Kuttichira is the place to be during Ramzan. There is a food street here that serves up special Ramzan items; new shops and dishes crop up for the season. Various pathiris (pancake) like ari (rice) pathiri, chatti pathiri (layered like lasagna), erachipathiri (with meat), chemeen pathiri (with fish) are specialities.
You must try a dish called kilikoodu, which translates as “bird‘s nest” – a preparation made with egg that has been beaten into a batter containing potato, vermicelli and onions, and fried. Kulukki sarbath (shaken lemonade) and kada mutta fry (egg roast) are other well-known delicacies of Kozhikode.
If you’d like a sit-down meal, head to Zain’s on Convent Cross Road, famous for its beef fry, Kozhikode mutton biryani and erachi patthiri. For more Malabar Muslim restaurant treats, also stop by Paragon, M-Grill and Topform.
–Athul Prasad, Web Intern
The roads of Chowk are a foodie’s paradise during Ramzan. As you enter Chowk ki Gali, between the Gol Darwaza and Akbari Gate, you see hungry crowds accumulated at road-side stalls, devouring their food after a full day of fasting. At Rahim’s, ask for the nihari kulcha – the mutton is so soft that it dissolves in your mouth entirely. The meat here is cooked all day long in its shorba (gravy), yielding its melt-in-the-mouth texture and richness. The meat is eaten with kulchas that are freshly cooked in an open-fire oven. A little further away from Rahim’s, you will come across the well-known Tundey Kebab, which serves the more popular gilawati kebabs.
During Ramzan, food is sold all night in-between the timings of Iftar and Sehri (the post-sunset and pre-dawn meals). After a delicious meaty meal, one can enjoy kulfi, firni and kesari milk and round it off with Kashmiri chai – these are great at any stall. Visiting Lucknow is a must during the month of Ramzan for all food enthusiasts. One does not leave Chowk on an empty stomach!
–Armaan Kuckreja, Magazine Intern
Hit the streets of Bohri Mohalla for some serious feasting. Saifee Ambulance Lane is redolent with the smells of sizzling mutton cutlets and baida roti from street stalls. Crown your meal with the creamy firni at Tawakkal Sweets and the fantastic malpua (pancake) at Badri Sweet Meat Mart on Nagdevi Street. Of course, no gastronomic adventure in Bohri Mohalla is complete without a halt at Taj Ice Cream for its fresh, hand-churned flavours – say yes to the strawberry and sitafal.
The Minara Masjid lane also has some real gems. The deceptively named Chinese ‘N’ Grill on Ibrahim Merchant Road serves up heartwarming nalli nihari (stew made with mutton shanks) as well as the usual treats like gurda fry and chicken bhuna. Stop by Garib Nawaz Hotel for steaming bowls of mutton soup and tongue soup. Wrap it all up with the legendary firni at Suleiman Usman Mithaiwala, and the mawa jalebi at Burhanpur Jalebi Centre nearby.
If you’d like a guided tour, check out Reality Tours & Travels’ Ramadan street food tour here.
–Zeenat Khureshi, Photographer