Come Ramzan and the folks of Mumbai head to the Minara Masjid Lane in Mohammed Ali Road to eat.
The mood here is festive during the holy month. The lane is lit up with lights and filled with food stalls which spring up for the occasion. Seekh kababs, tandoori chicken, batak (quail) fry, baida roti (like Martbabaks and Mughlai Parathas), khichdas (meat and wheat gruels) are some of the dishes on offer. You have people from all social strata eating here. Muslims and non-Muslims. I have even known of some intrepid vegetarians who come here to soak in the atmosphere though there is nothing much for them to eat. The most famous dessert here, the malpua at Sulaiman Sweets, is made of eggs too!
For years I used to make an annual food pilgrimage to Mohammad Ali Road during Ramzan with friends. The food frankly was not memorable as it often happens with food sold in festivals and fairs where the crowd is transient and repeat customers aren’t a focus. The quality can be quite iffy to be honest. However, I would go there to lap up the heady atmosphere more than anything else.
Then one year I made some Bengali friends through my blog who suggested that we meet offline for the first time and eat together at Ramzan. I expected that we would go to Mohammad Ali Road.
Turned out that they had other plans. They took us to a place called Sarvi where we had the most delectable and moist shammi kababs which were served in a casserole (!) in the family room where we sat.
My new friends had proved their foodie credentials and we have had many meals together since.
The year after I got to know Parsi caterer and archaeologist, Kurush Dalal, the son of the late Katy Dalal, again through the blog. He said that he would take us for the best Ramzan food experience in Mumbai.
It’s through him that I discovered Bohri Mohalla in Bhendi Bazar and the rest is history. Ramzan after Ramzan I went back to Bohri Mohalla to conduct food walks that covered the tava fries and baida rotis at India Hotel, the khiri and kofta kababs at Bar-B-Q (sic) and wait till 11.30 pm for Valibhai to open for the amazing bara handis that they dished out. The nights would then end gloriously with hand churned sancha ice creams at Taj Ice Creams (established well before the hotel chain!) and the Ramzan special malpuas at Tawakkal Sweets.
The main difference between Bohri Mohalla and the Minara Masjid lane is that the eateries in the former are open through the year and depend on repeat customers from the locality which ensures a focus on quality.
Bohri Mohalla is supposed to go under redevelopment soon and the future of these wondrous eateries is uncertain. Valibhai has already shut down.
So you better plan a trip there soon.
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Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.