Streets in Mumbai are empty and Mohammed Ali Road, Mumbai’s usually busy Ramadan festive street food market is shut during the lockdown
Ramadan (Ramzan) this year was a very different experience for the millions worldwide observing the almost month-long fast and so will Eid. And for all the fans of the festive street food of Mohammed Ali Road, this year has been a major disappointment. For the first time in the history of its existence, this bustling street lies silent and bare during Ramadan.
Mumbai’s Mohammed Ali Road, with its burgeoning street food market that is at its best during the holy month of Ramadan, is well-known for its brilliant food and desserts. Myriad food stalls serving hundreds of mouth-watering meat dishes, biryanis and a mind-boggling variety of desserts operate out of this small street every year.
This market which originated decades ago with just a handful of stalls dotting the periphery of Minara Masjid is now a popular tourist attraction. During Ramadan, it attracts a huge crowd, all eager to feast on the delicacies. Irrespective of religion, caste, or creed, this massive vibrant market embraces everyone with its offerings. Though I do not belong to the Muslim community, I have been a regular visitor at this market for the past many years and have always celebrated Eid with some of my close friends. My college buddy M and his pal A, never miss a chance to eat the special festive food during Ramadan at Mohammad Ali Road and it was with them that I went on a very enjoyable guided tour of sorts, a few years ago. The experience had me become a tourist in my own city, camera phone in hand, takes notes, reliving old memories.
Scores of people from neighbouring cities and eager tourists throng this street, queuing up to enjoy the food. For some tourists this is also a time for doing some celeb-spotting as many of Mumbai’s famous Bollywood stars are a huge fan of the food too.
The famous Bade Miya also has a pop-up stall at Mohammed Ali Road during Ramadan.
Khansamas especially travel from places across India, especially Lucknow and Madhya Pradesh to Mumbai – Muhammad Ali Road for this month to create their magical dishes for the hungry crowds.
MUST-HAVE IFTAAR DISHES AT MOHAMMED ALI ROAD, MUMBAI
Biryani, Tandoori meat and tandoor naans, kebabs, soft rumali rotis, shawarmas, mutton and chicken curries are just some of the tempting delicacies that are on offer to satisfy any and every craving. Slow-cooked nalli nihari with a soft roomali roti is an unbeatable combination. For many of my friends, Haleem is the ultimate comfort-food meets meaty delight dish and what better way to enjoy this than at the end of a long day of fasting?
And though it might seem surprising to some, there are some fantastic offal dishes on offer. I for one would highly recommend Zaban soup, Zaban fry, kaleji Tawa fry, and the piece de resistance – Bheja Fry. Other melt-in-your-mouth offal dishes include the ‘mutton Khiri kebab’ and the ‘mutton kaleji. The sooty aroma of meat skewered on hot charcoal and Rotis slapped onto massive tandoors lingers heavy in the air, tempting your senses to keep indulging.
When I moved to the U.K, I was quite surprised by how unpopular offal was amongst the common people. Over the years, though I have seen it rise in popularity, especially as celebrity chefs flaunt their fancy creations on television cookery shows and social media. When I started writing my food and travel blog back in 2012 (I began blogging in 2006 with a lifestyle blog) I had no idea I would be embarking on such an exciting journey. Through the course of my blogging and then freelance content creation, I embarked on a journey as a freelance Marketing, PR and social media professional. I have been blessed with some amazing friendships that have truly blossomed over the years. I have cooked alongside Michelin star chefs. Celebrity chefs, in five-star kitchens and been on the set of the Saturday Kitchen Live. I have sampled some brilliant food and been to some fabulous cookery demonstrations. Even while travelling I have been invited to sample great food and wine, enjoyed some beautifully curated food walks in exotic locales and met some deeply knowledgeable and talented chefs and travel writers. But I digress so now back to reminiscing about Mohammed Ali Road and the fabulous food enjoyed during Ramadan.
There are some incredibly special delicacies that are only sold during this period which you will not see on restaurant or street food stall menus otherwise. Breaking the evening fast by eating the food here is a great way to enjoy iftar.
Dessert choices include the famous malpua – deep-fried golden goodness to devour after a meat fiesta. But one must not miss out on the dark and delightful Burhanpur ki mawa jalebi. This dark jalebi-like dessert is made from deep-fried khoya and then dunked into a sugary syrup.
If you are after something milder then pick from one of the many tempting flavours of phirni set in small earthen pots, topped with dry fruits. The iconic Suleman Usman Mithaiwala is just below the Minara Masjid and is a hugely popular sweet shop, frequented by people all year round. Personally, I always start the dessert feasting with the sandal, the appearance of steamed idli, and the taste of a milky coconut sweet and then head onto a thick coconut cream milkshake loaded with a thick layer of dry fruits.
As a young adult, growing up in Mumbai, I was always surrounded by friends and family who are equally passionate about food. During any Indian festival, waves of nostalgia transport me back to Mumbai, when many an evening was spent listening to them share memories and experiences about the rich traditions surrounding food.
Friends regaled us with takes about the grand celebrations during Eid and the holy month of Ramadan. Such epic tales of food and celebrations, from their families, of generations past, are inter-woven into the tapestry of my soul for life.
I am writing this today after browsing through old photo albums on my laptop dating back several years. This has brought back so many memories, of enjoying the most brilliant food with my friends for epic Iftar parties, of foodie gifts shared by neighbours and friends with us over the years and of my many trips to Mohammed Ali Road to relish amazing food during Ramadan.
The flavours and aromas wafting through the area are something that I can never forget. I just close my eyes and pretend am back there with my friends, feasting and just being a part of this beautiful tradition.
To all my Muslim friends, and everyone celebrating, I wish you a safe and happy Eid. It cannot be the same this year due to the pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. But this does not dampen the spirit of celebration and the auspicious traditions of Eid.
Our entire Human race together shall get through this. We will emerge on the other side of this lockdown.
We will again someday soon greet each other with warm hugs.
We shall share our favourite food cooked with love and joy.
Together – we will defeat this invisible enemy.
Eid Mubarak to one and all.
Markets, Bazaars, Khau-Gallis, street food – Vibrant and bustling and full of colour and local flavours. I have always been fascinated by them and make sure that whenever I travel back to India, I go and refresh my memories. I also make it a point to visit local markets whenever I travel.
Take a virtual tour of some of my favourite markets:
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