India's finest F&B professionals and chefs talk about the one thing they wait for Ramadan to Indulge in – and where they go
By Madhulika Dash
Fact: Ramadan is about exploring food – and food lanes. And this is true across all spectrum. Yes, even for chefs who are adept at making their own treat – and seasoned hoteliers who have access to such gourmet bounty.
Confession: true, the story comes within a week of Eid. But as an experienced chef had once revealed “ the best time to scour the food lanes looking for interesting grub is either before the rush or towards the end. It is a time when the tempo slows down, the cooks breath and the food ‘infinitely’ improves.” In the years that I have followed the example walking the lanes of Mohammad Ali Road in Mumbai, Nakhuda Manzil in Kolkata, the various chowks of Lucknow, Purani Haveli area of Hyderabad, and Old Bhopal Masjid area, it is the one advice that has ringed true. But what do these culinary heads go searching for? Here’s some of them reveal their pet indulgence during the time – and where they go to eat the best.
CHEF SHARAD DEWAN, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, THE PARK KOLKATA
I CRAVE: BHEJA FRY HALEEM & FALOODA
MY PLACE: ZAKARAIA STREET & NAKHUDA MANZIL
"I would confess, these days I hardly get to go out for my ritualistic Ramadan eat out – not so frequently at least. But I do make a point to at least catch on my craving during the end of the month by visiting the Nakhuda Manzil area. It was here that I first tasted the velvety Bheja Fry Haleem and Falooda. And since then it has been one of my favourite haunts to arrive just after midnight when they make their fresh bunch, finished with a tall glass of a sinful saffron, dry fruit, rose syrup falooda loaded with tukmalanga. It is heavenly."
CHEF SHANTANU, EXECUTIVE CHEF, INDIAN ACCENT
I CRAVE: MUTTON TIKKAS
MY PLACE: SABKI KHATIR, LODHI ROAD
"Ramadan for me is always a good time to explore mutton and its various indulgence, thanks to the number of friends I have had back in Bihar, then in Muradabad and now in Delhi. Which leaves me hardly any time to go explore the eat street in the capital. But I have one place where I go every year once to have their mutton tikkas in Delhi, Sabki Khatir. An old school place that still believes in serving food generous style and keep it consistent, it is where I bring out the foodie in me to indulge in a simple fare of tikkas, fresh crunchy onions and of course that to-die-for chutney."
CHEF ANIRBAN DASGUPTA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, HYATT REGENCY PUNE
I CRAVE: KESARIA PHIRNI, PAYA AND RAAN BIRYANI
MY PLACE: BYLANES PARK CIRCUS (CALCUTTA) & IMDADI HOTEL (PUNE)
"I began going out on my Ramadan night crawls as a teenager – it began first as an indulgence and then to learn the finer tricks of cooking a popular, almost addictive dish. Today, almost two decades later, it has become a source of indulgence. Every Ramadan, I get out to explore the city’s finest. In Pune, I have discovered Imdadi Hotel, which is great to have a paya or a kesaria phirni; and in Kolkata I hover around the bylanes of Park Circus to get my fill of Raan Biryani, which is best had with your close friends."
CHEF PAWAN UPPAL, EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE ALL AMERICAN DINER
I CRAVE: MUTTON BIRYANI,
MY PLACE: MATKA PEER, PRAGATI MAIDAN
"Believe it or not, but Ramdan turns me into a Biryani-vore. It is the time when all I crave for is Biryani! The passion is further fueled by the fact that I love Biryani, and to satiate my tastebuds the one place I head toward is Matka Peer. This once hole in the wall serves some of the delicious traditional biryani for years now. During Ramzan time, the place is buzzing with guest however is a more peaceful haven to those who want to spend some idyllic moments with the songstress of rice.”
ZAMIR KHAN, HOSPITALITY BRAND MARKETING MAVERN
I CRAVE: BOTI & KIRI KEBAB
MY PLACE: BOHRI MOHALLA
"I am less of the Ramadan walker considering that I have grown up with the same food at home that most go looking for during the month. But there are a few things I have found, in my years staying in Mumbai, which interesting – and even I would prefer to take the walk to try it out. Like the mix of tandoor grilled kebabs like boti khiri, the barah haandi, the nalli-nihari and the hand-churned mix-fruit ice cream at Taj Ice-cream. While there, I also make a trip to Noor Sweets for Malpua and to Imam Sherbetwala for Sherbet. But after visiting the quieter Bohri Mohalla, which has everything a few more Bohri dishes, I make a direct beeline to this place for all my treats/"
SAKET GUPTA, VP SALES MARKETING, WATERSTONES HOTE.L
I CRAVE: EGG MALPUA
MY PLACE: MOHAMMAD ALI ROAD (MUMBAI)
"Many find it funny at the greater lengths I go to plan my trip to the busiest Ramadan walk lane in Mumbai to have just a few small bowls of the syrupily delicious Malpua. And there is this one place on that busy lane of Mohammad Ali Road that makes some delicious varieties of malpua, including one that showcases egg like no one else. It is instantly addictive and one of the best treats to finish off those meat load feast that the smells nudge you to indulge in. Don’t take my word, try and you will be making a trip too. The best time is towards the end of the month when the footfall falls, so you can stand and eat to your satiation."
PAWAN HORA, OWNER, WISHBOX STUDIO
I CRAVE: HALEEM & KALU KI NIHARI
MY PLACE: PISTA HOUSE (HYDERABAD) &KALLU NIHARI (DELHI)
"I have always liked the idea of having Haleem during Ramadan. So it was like music to my ears a few years ago when Pista House, Hyderabad, had a special tie up with GATI, the logistics company, to deliver it at your doorstep on a day’s notice. There are quite a few eateries in Delhi that make a good Haleem but what stands out for me for Pista House’s Haleem is the fine amalgam of the finely pounded meat, dry fruits, a concoction of dals and that liberal dose of ghee. The other dish I love is Kallu Nihari. It is a great warm up on a cool evening and a bunch of friends."
CHEF AMEY MARATHE, CONSULTANT CHEF
I CRAVE: HAREES
MY PLACE: GRILL 9, BAWARCHI, KARKHANA (HYDERABAD)
"Before I relocated to Hyderabad, Ramadan for me meant the usual run of kebabs, biryani, nihari and of course the Haleem. Don’t get me wrong, it still is very much on my list. But during my stint in Hyderabad, which is now my home, and working on Sahib’s, which is my tribute to the food legacy here, I discovered Harees, an Iranian dish that inspired the Haleem. And since then I have been a fan of this flavour packed but milder elder cousin of the robust Haleem here. And every Ramadan, I wait to visit these places to have my fill."
CHEF DHIRAJ DARGAN, EXECUTIVE CHEF, COMORIN
I CRAVE: MUTTON SEEKH KABAB
MY PLACE: QURESHI, JAMA MASJID
"Mutton Seekh Kabab tossed in butter is served with roomali roti is my all-time favourite dish. During Ramadan, the charm of Jama Masjid adds up the flavours to the already amazing dish. In fact, that iconic place has been my workbook that has helped me create quite a few dishes in Comorin, including the muse behind the mutton seekh kebab I serve at the restaurant, albeit it is my interpretation of learning and growing up with this amazing treat. What, however, keeps me glued to the kebab there is that delectable butter in which the seekh kabab is tossed after the it is cooked, it is sinful!"
CHEF RAVI TOKAS, EXECUTIVE CHEF, PRANKSTER
I CRAVE: TAWA GOSHT
MY PLACE: BHATIAR GALI, TEEN DARWAZA, AHEMDABAD
"As an avid biker, one of my favourite things to do is to discover these little hole-in-the-wall places that serve some scrumptious fare round the year. It was during one of these rides that I discovered the legendary Bhatiyar Gali, located within the Old City, near Teen Darwaza, Ahmedabad. This place pays tribute to the 600-year old tradition of mouth-watering non-vegetarian delicacies. It’s a lane that has traditionally housed bhatiyars or cooks who prepare meals for large events. Little wonder, that the meat dishes here are considered the best. I especially make a ritualistic trip to the Akbari Hotel here for their tawa fried meat dishes."
CHEF VAIBHAV BHARGAVA, CORPORATE CHEF, DRUNKEN BOTANIST
I CRAVE: SEVIYAN
MY PLACE: OLD DELHI LANE
"Ramdan is a very exciting month for me. I wait for it through the year as I get a chance to dig into some of the most delicious fare – cooked generously and served lovingly. In fact, many of my meals are at my friends place who has this fascinating repertoire of dishes – I invariably have to wait for two Ramdans for a dish to be repeated. But when it isn’t a family affair, I try visiting Purani Dilli to get my fill of the seviyan, especially the lacchedaar variety."
CHEF KARAN BANSAL, CHOR BIZARRE, BIKANER HOUSE
I CRAVE: FRIED CHICKEN
MY PLACE: BAZAR MATIA MAHAL, JAMA MASJID
"Fried chicken is one of my most relished dishes to indulge during Ramzan. But don’t think it as the ordinary fried chicken. Served on a sheet of melt-in-your-mouth roomali roti, these brilliantly seasoned and marinated fried chicken is served alongside some crunchy onions and a mint-kachi kairi chutney that is simply worth the trudge to this place. Best time to have it is towards the end of the Ramadan month when they experiment more with the chutney."