Kolkata is celebrating the holy month of Ramzan or Ramadan. And the Ramzan fast breaks after the sunset with Iftar. Like all other festivals, Kolkata celebrates the month of piousness with equal passion. And exploring the area around Nakhoda Mosque during this time is an experience of a lifetime. So we got ready for a Ramzan Food Trail. What we experienced there was not only an experience of our palates but also a feast of our senses and reaffirmation of our faith!
During the Ramzan month, the area around the Nakhoda Mosque in Chitpur adorns itself in a festive mood. Makeshift stalls are made at the Zakaria Street. These stalls sell some of the best cuisines as well as lachchhas, ittar (scent), clothing items, stone jewellery and much more. The food stalls remain active almost throughout the day from the afternoon till around 3.30 AM, the time of Sehri (the last meal before fasting); feeding all those who are fasting and also those who are not on fast.
The Chitpur area is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Kolkata. Chitpur was the heart of the “Black Town” while the European part of Calcutta (the White Town) grew towards the South.
To get to know about the area and the food, we accompanied our fellow blogger Sumit for a food walk at Zakaria Street. We entered from the Coolotolla Street and our first stop was the Adam’s Kebab Stall. We tasted the famed Sutli Kebab from here. The Sutli kebab is so soft that it has to be held together by a thread (sutli).
The Kebab delicacies do not end here. There are varieties like Dahi (boti) Kabab, Malai (sheekh) Kebab, Kheeri Kebab (made from cow’s udder) and Gurda (kidney) Kebab. The stall of Dilshad Ahmed is one of the best for kebabs. The stall remains open round the year. There are other stalls also selling kebabs all along the road.
The most sought after item during the Ramzan is the Haleem. Haleem is a stew made from wheat, barley, various lentils and meat all taken together and then cooked for hours along with the best spices till everything dissolves and becomes a mash. Haleem has its origin in the Arab. In fact, its ancestor ‘Hareesah’, a dish containing meat, wheat, cinnamon and ghee is still popular in Yemen! This savoury dish with a bit of coriander and lemon juice on top is a must have. The haleem can also be packed and taken home. There are varieties of Haleem apart from the normal, beef, mutton and chicken like the Arbi Haleem, Koftas, Magaz (brain) and Zuban (tongue). One of the best places to have haleem is Sufia Restaurant at Zakaria Street near the Rabindra Sarani end. In fact, the firni here is also one of the best.
Zakaria Street also has a lot to offer for all those who do not want to have beef. The place also is a haven for chicken and fish lovers. There are stalls selling fried chicken and fish. Large chunks of chicken and fishes are marinated and kept. They are sold not by pieces but by weight of the food item. Once bought, the marinated chicken or fish will be deep fried and served. And they too have fancy names – Mahi Akbari for the fried fishes and Chicken Changrezi! Taskeens and Muradabadi Laziz Kebab Stall are two places selling these items.
For the Biriyani lovers, there is Aminia for the Ramzan special Awadhi Biriyani. There is also the famous Royal Indian hotel serving one of the best biriyanis in the city. It is one of the few restaurants that have carried forward the legacy of delightful cooking that had please the insatiable Nawabs!
In between, we quenched our thirst by having Faluda at a street side shop. The shops here also sell cold Rooh-Afza, Lassi and Faluda.
The food walk does not end here. In the midst of the kebabs and biriyanis, there are stalls selling fresh fruits, dahi vadas, various fritters and dry fruits. I personally do not recommend having any of these apart from the dry fruits.
There are also a lot of exotic bakery products sold. Between the Aminia and Taskeens stall, there are a few stalls selling bread and biscuits. These special varieties of bread are called bakarkhani and sheermals. The Bakarkhani is a crispy-layered bread made with khowa, milk or coconut. Sheermals, on the other hand, is a sweet variety of the Naans. Different types of biscuits are also sold here.
Then came the desserts! Firni had always been one of my favourite dishes and I kept looking for it. The Shahi Tukra, another dessert made from bread and milk – a dessert for the royals!
And to satiate your sweet tooth, there is Haji Alauddin shop that sells Gajar ka halwa, Gond ka halwa and Karachi halwa.
The foodie in me enjoyed all the kebabs and Haleems and faludas. But this place is not only for food. The place was an assault on our senses. The smell of the fried kebabs and fresh bread was pleasing; and so was the colourful merchandise sold at the stalls. Starting from the kurtas and bright clothing materials and the colourful dupattas, everything was in a festive mood. There were people selling and buying stone jewellery, bangle seller selling bangles to pretty girls. These baubles looked bright and attractive and as if showing the happiness of the celebrations that was going on.
This was not just a food walk, but also a walk of faith and a walk of celebrations. It is a festival where everyone celebrates together without any discrimination of religion. And to me, that is the true spirit of Kolkata – a city that loves all and unites all!
So how did you like our Ramzan Food Trail at Zakaria Street? Please let us know and share your thoughts.
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