Meat Feast: Ramzan Food Trails In Mohammed Ali Road, Mahim, Kurla and Jogeshwari
As Muslims in Mumbai observe Ramzan, the holy month of fasting and devotion that ends with Eid on Monday, June 26, the street stalls serving iftar food beckon people of all faiths.
If the churn in the nation over cow slaughter hasn’t exactly cast a pall over the proceedings this year, it has certainly made people wary. Several establishments known for their beef delicacies have revised their menus. Chinese n Grill on Mohammed Ali Road has gone so far as to post placards inside proclaiming, ‘We don’t serve beef’. Even when buffalo meat is on offer, stall owners are skittish at the mention of it and hesitant to answer questions.
Nevertheless, don’t let the beef ban and slushy streets daunt you. If you’re feeling adventurous this year, then sample fare in neighbourhoods such as Mahim, Kurla and Jogeshwari in addition to Mohammed Ali Road, the predictable though always satisfactory destination for a Ramzan jaunt. Here’s where to eat in those four neighbourhoods.
MOHAMMED ALI ROAD
The festive Minara Masjid lane and the quieter Bohri Mohalla area are packed with stalls and restaurants displaying variously-coloured skewered meats and sweets. Rather than taking the traditional savoury to sweet route, we found the trick is to use the sweets as palate cleansers in the manner Bohras consume multi-course thaal meals. This way no course is overwhelmingly spicy or cloyingly sweet.
Chinese n Grill
122/132, Barkat Manzil, near Minara Masjid. Tel: 022 2345 6529. Open all year.
Ignore the name and the host of Indian Chinese dishes on the menu here and head straight for arguably the best nalli nihari in the city. Rich, meaty gravy cloaks chunks of succulent mutton that are sure to induce a melt-in-the-mouth high. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s well worth the price. Nalli nihari (Rs400).
Minara Masjid Lane. Open only during Ramzan.
If you want to take a break from all the heavy sweet and meat eating, then head over to the legendary Fatima Bibi’s stall for saandal, a fermented, mildly sweet rice cake that resembles a sanna and is made only during Ramzan. Fatima Bibi has passed on, but her nephew Yusuf preserves her recipe of the malai-topped snack. Saandal (Rs15 per piece).
J. J. Jalebi
4, Pradhan Building, J. J. Junction, M. S. Ali Road, off Mohammed Ali Road. Tel: 98195 56929. Open all year.
The thick, dark brown mawa jalebis sold here are a Ramzan special. They’re good on their own but sinful with a ladleful of rabdi poured over. They also make a sweet dahi wada. Jalebi (Rs240 per kilo), dahi wada (Rs180 per kilo).
Suleman Usman Mithaiwala
167 Ibrahim Merchant Road, outside Minara Masjid. Tel: 022 2346 5059. Open all year.
Suleman Usman makes a light, fragrant phirni that after a week of phirni tasting still stands out for its delicate flavour. The fluffy malpuas slathered with malai are also delectable. The friendly waiter talked us into sampling their more “current” chocolate halwa; it was terrible. You’ll want to stick to the classics here. Phirni (Rs60), single egg malpua (Rs100), double egg malpua (Rs120). Malpua is available only during Ramzan.
76 Raudat Tahera Street, Khara Tank Road, Bohri Mohalla. Tel: 90226 93840. Open all year.
The camaraderie around the fire will make standing by the grill a pleasure at this corner stall. There is much good-natured ribbing among the servers as they fill out your order. They offer a host of chicken starters but the real stars here are the kofta kebabs, spiced buff meatballs that break apart at the touch. They also do a mean buff gurda (kidney), kaleji (liver) and a delectable soft-crunchy khiri (udder) tikka. Kofta kebab (Rs80), gurda (Rs40), kaleji (Rs40), khiri (Rs40).
Surti Bara Handi
64/66 Vahanwati Chawl, Saifee Jubilee Street, Bhendi Bazar. Open all year.
In the lane perpendicular to Haji Tikka is an inconspicuous shop with an array of pots sunk into a platform atop which perches the server, like a charioteer, whipping up dishes such as nihari (shank stew), paya (mutton trotters), pichota (buffalo rump), sukha (slow-cooked buffalo meat) and nalli (bone marrow). The mutton and buff meat are cooked for eight hours with wheat and dal. You can order each dish separately or opt for the ‘bhel’, a mix of all. Use a khameeri roti from the tandoor next door to soak up the mildly spiced, nalli-flecked gravy. Bhel, paya, sukha, nihari, pichota (Rs150 each per plate).
Taj Ice Cream
36 Khara Tank Road, Bohri Mohalla. Tel: 022 2346 1257. Open all year.
Wander across the street from Haji Tikka to a quiet haven with a new board proclaiming “artisanal” ice cream. Amir Icecreamwalla told us that his family uses the 130-year-old sancha method to make their ice creams every morning. The word ‘sancha’ comes from the mould in which the ice creams are hand-churned. The fresh fruit flavours like sitaphal, strawberry and anjeer have an almost chewy, frozen custard-like texture, bringing fans from near and far. The shop is named after their most loyal patron, Taj bhai, a friend of Amir’s great-grandfather, who used to travel to the city all the way from Ahmedabad in the late 1800s just for these frozen delights. Rs60 a scoop.
Of all the neighbourhoods we visited, the street food at Mahim was a tad underwhelming. Pots of khichada seem to have mushroomed along the khau galli bookended by the Makhdum Ali Mahimi dargah and Baba Falooda. We sampled fare from three of these pots and found bland khichadas that tasted mostly of dal without any of the requisite meaty punch. Still, there are a few gems on this stretch worth visiting.
Afzal Sweet Centre
Outside Mahim Dargah. Open all year.
This 64-year-old sweet shop does brisk business in phirni, khasta puri and pure ghee aflatoon, a super-rich fudge bar loaded with mawa, sugar and nuts that’s like a heart attack wrapped in butter paper. Plain phirni (Rs30), kesar phirni (Rs40), khasta puri (Rs200 per kilo), aflatoon (Rs90 for quarter kilo). Phirni and aflatoon are available only during Ramzan.
52, Bell View Building, L. J. Second Cross Road, off L. J. Road. Tel: 022 2447 3813. Open all year.
This popular after-office stop serves a whole range of faloodas, the highlight of which is the Baba special falooda, a thick shake of sabja, milk, caramelised sugar and ice cream topped with a mound of rabdi, chopped kulfi and dry fruit. Their kulfis are also worth a try. Baba special falooda (Rs110), dry kulfi falooda (Rs60).
Jaffer Bhai’s Delhi Darbar
18 L. J. Road, opposite St. Michael’s Church. Tel: 022 2446 5654. Open all year.
If Mahim’s street food holds no allure for you, then head over to Jaffer Bhai’s for a luscious pot of mutton nihari or a delicately spiced dabba gosht paired with their pillowy naans. If you’re there on a Wednesday, then be sure to try their khichada. Jaffer Bhai’s also serves iftar snacks like kheema samosas, baida roti and shami kebabs from 4pm to 7pm during Ramzan. Mutton nihari (Rs345), dabba gosht (Rs395), kheema samosa (Rs20), baida roti (Rs75), shami kebab (Rs55).
Nawab Seekh Paratha
Opposite Baba Falooda, Second Cross Road, off L. J. Road. Open all year.
Skip everything else here and stick to the crunchy chicken baida roti. They don’t have the over-stuffed decadence of the ones at Bade Miya, which can be both a good or bad thing. Baida roti (Rs40).
Opposite Casa Blanca building, in the lane opposite Mahim dargah. Open only during Ramzan.
This stall serves chicken vada pao, a delicious take on the traditional snack that we’re surprised no one has thought of taking mainstream. The shredded chicken added flavor and texture to the potato patty making us wish we had room for more. Chicken vada pao (Rs20).
During the month of Ramzan, the lane opposite Bostan restaurant near Jogeshwari railway station on the west side is lined with stalls from which waft the most delicious smells. Also stop over at Behram Baug, a short rickshaw-ride away.
Opposite Bostan restaurant, off S. V. Road. Open only during Ramzan.
The buff meat cutlet and naan from this stall will make for a tasty starter as you make your way through the khau galli. Cutlet naan (Rs40).
Hyderabadi Badami Haleem and Dum Biriyani
Opposite Bostan restaurant, S. V. Road. Open only during Ramzan.
A few stalls down from A1, you can get a mouth-watering mutton haleem that’s been slow-cooked to a silky mush with wheat and whole spices.
Hyderabadi Badami Haleem (Rs80 per half kilo).
Opposite Bostan restaurant, S. V. Road. Open only during Ramzan.
Turn a blind eye to the amount of food colouring you’re about to swallow because the taste of the ghee-rich, Elmo-coloured halwa sold here is worth the trade-off. The heaping plate of halwa is topped with coconut and dry fruit and accompanied with enormous puris. Halwa puri (Rs40 per quarter kilo).
Farid Seekh Kabab Centre
Behram Baug. Tel: 98198 83313. Open all year.
The only things you get here are seekh kebabs and fried parathas. The juicy buffalo meat kebabs are served with the flakiest parathas and a bowl of iced onion and mint chutney on the side. Seekh kebab (Rs20 per piece), paratha (Rs32).
J. J. Jalebi
Shop No.14, Kismat Compound, next to Farid Seekh Kabab Centre, Behram Baug. Tel: 98199 66948. Open all year.
An outpost of the Mohammed Ali Road sweet shop, the halwai here seems to have a better turn of the wrist. The mawa jalebis are divine and they also turn out a decent malpua and some tooth-achingly sweet rabdi gulab jamuns. Mawa jalebis (Rs200 per kilo), rabdi malpua (Rs150 per piece), rabdi gulab jamun (Rs40 per piece).
Restaurant fronts are where all the action is in Kurla. The office crowd from BKC rubs shoulders with local families as they surround sizzling tawas and bright pots of phirni.
Next to Lucknow Zaika, LBS Marg. Open all year.
This is a busy falooda shop whose lurid drinks you should eschew in favour of its respectable rabdi kulfi. Rabdi kulfi (Rs100).
Ahmed Bhai’s Bry & Dry
Next to Sahara Hotel, LBS Marg. Open only during Ramzan.
This curiously-named stall, run by a restaurant in Mumbra, serves a fiery haleem chockfull of mutton, and a thick khichada. Haleem (Rs150 for half a kilo), khichada (Rs100 a box).
Next To Kamran Kalpana Theatre, LBS Marg. Tel: 80808 09145. Open all year.
The chicken reshmi seekh kebab and the cream tawa chicken are well-cooked crowd pleasers here but the real winner is the nalli nihari. It’s not as good as the one at Chinese n Grill on Mohammed Ali Road, but the yielding chunks of mutton in the full-bodied gravy won’t displease. They also sell iftar boxes with 12 snacks like samosas, baida roti and kebabs, between 4 and 7pm every day during Ramzan. Chicken reshmi seekh kebab (Rs200 per plate), cream tawa chiken (Rs230 per quarter plate), nalli nihari (Rs240), iftar box (Rs400).
Near Kamran Kalpana Theatre, LBS Marg. Tel 022 2504 1973. Open all year.
We were pleasantly surprised by the tandoori bater (quail) at Sahara. For a bird that is notoriously easy to overcook, the quail here was juicy perfection. We followed it up with some gurda (kidney) and bheja (brain) tawa. They also do a mix of both called katakat. Although we enjoyed it, the offal was fairly gamey and not for the faint-hearted. Don’t leave without ordering a satisfying portion of their dal gosht. Tandoori bater (Rs155), gurda tawa (Rs185), bheja tawa (Rs185), dal gosht (Rs80).