An Iftar trail in Mumbai is not as easy as heading to the old part of the city and exploring the alleyways lined with food carts. To get a real flavour of the variety of Mumbai’s iftar offerings, you’ve to cover the quaint areas of Mohammed Ali, the Behram Baug of Jogeshwari, the masjid area of Mahim and Bandra and the Bohri Mohalla near Mohammed Ali.
This year for Ramzan we set off on a culinary trail into one of the oldest gullies of South Mumbai, Bhendi Bazaar. Accompanied by Mumbai-based food blogger and author Kalyan Karmakar, we set off on what was to be the most epic food journey of our lives. The vendors and shop owners greet him with a friendly wave; his familiarity with the area comes from years of wandering through its lanes. According to him, this is a good time to visit Bhendi Bazaar, as the neighbourhood is currently in a state of flux due to it being under redevelopment and may not look the same a few years from now. Ask him what makes this place a must visit if you’re out exploring the Iftar markets of Mumbai and he's quick to tell you that the restaurants and small shops here are open all year round, unlike other pop-ups that emerge only during Ramzan.
During Ramzan, this otherwise ignored street transforms into a culinary fair. Sizzling malpua and jalebis, kebabs being charred over grills, phirnis in different shades, and pools of people patiently waiting to end their fast and break their roza — pretty much sums up a typical evening at Bhendi Bazaar. Let this, then, be a guide to set you on the path to Mumbai's foodie heaven.
Noor Mohammadi Hotel - 181-183, I R Road
Easy to spot—look for the shop with the largest crowd waiting to break their fast with falooda, dates and fruits—that’s Noor Mohammadi Hotel for you. We knew we’re in for a treat when we were welcomed by the smell and sight of chicken shami kebabs, and other non-traditional offerings that are largely meat-based. What makes Noor Mohammadi a must-visit spot is its rich history. A brand that first opened shop back in 1923, it is today run by the third and fourth generations, what remains unchanged is the quality of service, says Karmakar. Ask Rashid Hakim, the now owner of the hotel, about their best-selling item and he’s quick to tell you about Chicken Shami kebabs. Made with minced chicken, chana dal and spices, the shami kebabs are hand-pounded to a texture so soft that it’s difficult to lift them without having them fall apart. Apart from the kebabs, they also have on offer chicken satay, chicken cheese samosa, butter garlic chicken, thread chicken, chicken lollipops and chana, informs Rashid. According to Karmakar, their speciality is the Chicken Hakimi, essentially tandoori chicken soaked in a thin liquid concoction of buttermilk, chaat masala and loads of butter. Pair that with Nalli Nihaari, a delicious dish of slow-cooked mutton in a gravy infused with its flavours, topped with dollops of ghee. Other must-haves are the White Biryani which is made using curd and cashew paste, and the Chicken Sanju Baba, a dish conceptualised by Sanjay Dutt. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself dining besides other famous actors such as AR Rahman and Shilpa Shetty Kundra who are the other regulars at this place.
Shalimar – Bhendi Bazaar
Shabbir’s Tawakkal Sweets – 24, Khara Tank Road
A Ramzan food trail isn’t complete without desserts to balance out the meat feast. Our first sweet break was at Shabbir’s Tawakkal Sweets, not to be confused with the other Tawakkal shops in the area. Started by Abdulla Mithaiwala in the ’50s, Tawakkal Sweets began as a single shop with only two or three delicacies such as dahi vada, malpuas and jalebis all made by Abdulla himself. Today, the brand has grown from being a tiny shop to a name popular all over Mumbai. This half-a-century-old brand is today run by Moayyad Shabbir Mithaiwala, the third-generation owner, along with other members from his family – all of whom will greet you with big smiles while ushering you towards empty tables and chairs. Their bestsellers are the single egg malpuas, served with a side of malai cream instead of the usual rabdi. They also make eggless malpuas topped with Nutella. Sutarpherni and pak are some of the other very typical Bohra offerings which could be a hit-or-miss for first-time visitors. The salam pak is made with rava, mawa and gond, and has its origins in Gujarat, the sutarpherni, on the other hand, is flaky, thin strands of rice-flour that are roasted in ghee, blended with melted sugar and topped with finely chopped nuts. Tawakkal sweets is also known for their phirni, and another delicious confection called the Aflatoon, a glorious sweet made of a mixture of mawa, eggs, rawa, sugar, dry fruits and drenched in ghee. Besides, on offer are other sweets such as the malai khaja, a decadent, layered pastry made up of a deep-fried shell of flour that conceals a heart of milk cream mixed with nuts. This ghee-soaked pastry scores on texture as its crisp, flaky surface is contrasted by the soft malai, which oozes with every bite.
Noor Sweets – 134/142, Saifee Jubilee StreetThey call themselves the pioneers in the jalebi making business, the first ones to officially introduce the Bohris to these spiral-shaped confections. While they do have an array of sweets on their menu, jalebis tops the list. Boasting of a bewitching crunch and the right balance of sweet, one is bound to binge on their fresh-off-the-kadhai jalebis without the sugar rush kicking in. Run by brothers Huzefa and Hatim, Noor Sweets is an 85-year-old sweet shop that was started by their grandfather, Hassanali Ablibai Mithaiwala, a native to Baroda, Gujarat. They began experimenting with their jalebis which eventually gave rise to their second bestseller, the mawa jalebi. Best described as deep-fried gulab jamuns, the mawa jalebi has fewer spirals than a regular jalebi and is deep brown in colour with a crisp surface and a warm, soft crumb within. On offer are also kesari jalebis with the goodness of saffron, rose jalebis, different halwas, malpuas and much more. However, we’d recommend the oil-soaked thick jalebis that are slathered with silken rabdi. While they are indeed a delicious threat to the arteries, life’s too short to skip dessert.
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