Ramzan (Ramadan) Food Street, Zakaria Street, Kolkata
Ramzan (Ramadan) Food Street
Nakhoda Masjid, Zakaria Street, Kolkata
“Islam has always been an urban faith, ill at ease with the wilderness; its civilization has always flourished most successfully in the labyrinths of the ancient bazar towns of the East. Certainly there can be no doubt that Islam looks at its most impressive in a great urban cathedral mosque, especially on an occasion like Id.”
William Dalrymple, City of Djinns
Located on Chitpur Road (Rabindra Sarani) the Nakhoda Masjid, the cathedral mosque of Kolkata (Calcutta) looks spectacular during the occasion of Eid, but during the entire month of Ramadan the entry labyrinths surrounding Nakhoda Masjid turns out into a food bazar!!!!
Muslims fasts from sun rise to sun set during the month of Ramadan but the eateries are active throughout the day and feeds hungry souls, who are not on fast.
The entire area located around the Nakhoda Masjid bears a festive looks selling any thing from clothing to atar (traditional perfume).
But the centre of attractions are the food stalls selling from any ting from breads to kababs.
During the summer months the Ramzan (Ramadan) food odyssey can start with a drink of Rooh Afza Sharbat topped with a chunk of ice and its better not to enquire about the source of ice and water.
The fruit sellers make a brisk business as fruits form an integral part of the Iftar, the fast breaking meal.
Also ready to eat cut fruits are also available but carnivores can always skip it, citing health reasons, but the colourfull platter is always a good subject of photography.
One by one the food options pops up as one makes his way further down the Zakaria Street.
Stalls selling bhajis (deep fried fried snacks), which also forms an integral part of Ifter are also on sale along with gughni, topped with salads.
Again it is an absolutely must miss for hard core carnivores but it is definitely a photographers choice.
Finally its time for the carnivore and no Ramzan (Ramadan) Food Walk can be complete without Haleem.
Hallem a popular stew in the Middle East, Central Asia and Indian Sub – Continent consists of chunks of meat in a soup of assorted lentils and cooked for a long duration over a slow flame.
The eateries in Zakaria Streets and its surrounding lanes and by – lanes comes up with makeshift outlets during Ramzan (Ramadan). They sell halems from large handis and open barbeques roasts an assortment of chicken, mutton and beef kababs.
The most sought after item is the haleem, which comes in a different varieties starting from Afgani, Hyderabadi, Magaj (Brain) and Ispecial (Special).
It is sold from makeshift stalls from outside the eateries with long queues of waiting customers, who are not necessarily patient.
Most of the customers are on fast and pack the halem in containers and take them home, as halem can be heated later and consumed during the iftar.
But for carnivores, not on fast, it is the best option to start the the Ramzan (Ramadan) Food Walk of Nakhoda Masjid area.
The Ramzan (Ramadan) Food Walk is not all about eating on the street, it is also a place to stock up supplies of ingredients to be brought back home for cooking and eating.
Lachha or Vermicelli are sold in large heaps all over the the Nakhod Masjid area and comes in fried and non fried varieties.
It serves as a principle ingredient for making savai kheer and lachha halwa.
For years the lachha sold in Chitpur area, is home made but recently branded versions are also available in this makeshift food stalls of Zakaria Street and its lanes and by – lanes.
The Muslim bakeries also comes in with their varieties of breads and cookies. The bread generally comes in two varieties Bakarkhani and Sheemal.
The bakarkhani bread is a thick and crispy layered bread smeared with poppy seeds, on the other hand sheermal is a soft and sweet as the milk forms an integral part of its dough.
Now its time for stock up your biscoot, home made cookies, and the choices are unlimited with both sweet and salty varieties.
With stock of lachha, bread and biscoot its time for non veg food. The carnivores can head for the Chicken Changreji and Mahi Akbari, which are a must have during the Ramzan (Ramadan) Food Walk.
Chicken Changreji is an indigenous version of the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), where the chicken is deep fried in batter and served absolutely dry. Mahi Akbari on the other hand consists of large chunks of katla fish fried in similar way.
Strangely both the dishes are sold not based on piece but on weight. The pieces are weighed along with the batter and then fried. A 500 grams piece of chicken or fish is enough to serve 4 to 5 hungry soles.
Carnivores can now head for the the kababs, open barbeque ovens roast the most delicious chicken, mutton and beef kababs.
From the familiar reshmi kabab and tengri kabab to the more exotic and elusive sutli kabab and khiri kabab.
The sutli kabab or suta kabab is an exotic kabab, so soft that it needs to be tied around the skewer with threads, and hence the name sutli kabab or suta kabab.
Khiri kabab on the other hand is made out of cow’s mammary gland.
After a mix and match of kababs its time for deserts and carnivore finally has to give up his love for meat.
Start with a glass of Faluda, a concentrated saffron flavoured milk. topped with chopped pistachio nuts and rose syrup.
Next opt for the Sahi Tukda, piece of butter fried bread dipped in a highly concentrated kheer, along with a dash of chopped pistachio, almonds and resins.
Finally its time to call it a day and if you are still hungry for more you can wrap it up with some exotic puddings, custards and jelleys.
Each of these comes in an assortment of flavours and an amazing way to end an Islamic feast with a European touch.
Statuary Warning: People concerned with hygiene, should keep away.