“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.” – William Dalrymple
During the entire month of Ramadan the entry labyrinths surrounding Nakhoda Masjid on Chitpur Road in Kolkata turns into a food paradise. The area bears a festive attire as it sells anything between clothes, shoes to perfumes but the most undeniable attraction is but naturally the food. It starts from an ice-cold glass of rose sherbet to wood apple juice to chilled heart quenching Faloodas.
Fasting during Ramadan is all about cleansing and detoxifying one’s inner-self, mind and soul apart from restrain and sacrifice (Sabr and Siam). Dates, a high nutrient fruit is customary when breaking the fast which starts on the onset of sunrise till the dusk, which helps in restoring energy and sugar level immediately. Fruits form an integral part of the Iftar, be it the juicy watermelons, litchis, glass apple and the seasonal mangoes. Either in wholesome or cocktail of such enriching fruits is sure to make you want more, although the hygiene quotient of such body hydrating fruit chaats is questionable!
Once you explore deeper, you’ll find deep fried snacks, assorted veggie fritters comprising of the simple onion-besan ones to egg chops, eggplants n potato fritters. Paneer and chillies are also not left behind. On exploring more one will come across the understated kala chana and ghugni. On further exploration, one is literally welcomed by the strong aroma of the Middle Eastern delicacy,
Haleem. A delicious stew in the Middle East, Central Asia and Indian Sub – Continent consists of meat chunks or shredded in a soup of assorted lentils and cooked for a long duration over a slow flame. Served with fried onions, mint leaves and a dash of lemon. It comes in many varieties and flavours, like shahi haleem, Hyderabadi, Irani or Afghani. Besides, Afghani haleem, you can also indulge in the gastronomic delight with the afghani machchi or fish. Marinated in unique afghani spice and deep fried. It will surely tease your taste buds. For those who are fond of meat in different concoctions, you are in food haven. 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 Apart from sutli kebab, pyare kebab, reshmi kebab and khiri kebab (it is made out of cow’s mammary gland),all from bihari food corner n shami kebab is also a favourite amongst the foodies. But the queue are long and people are restless. 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.
The Muslim bakeries also comes in with their varieties of breads and cookies. The bread generally comes in many varieties. Breads have a spread including sheermals, bakarkhaani, taftaan, khamiri roti, naan, kulcha etc. The bakarkhaani is a thick and crispy layered bread smeared with poppy seeds, on the other hand sheermal is a soft and sweet bread as the milk and sugar forms an integral part of its dough.
Finally for a dessert, let’s start with a glass of Falooda, a concentrated saffron flavoured milk, topped with chopped pistachio nuts and rose syrup. Desserts include assorted sweets from zafrani jalebi,imriti, halwa poori, sweet samaosa, sheer-khorma and firni. 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.
The best part, however, since all may not want to eat because of hygiene issues, at least it looks exotic to be a part of some amazing food photography.