The holy month of Ramzan (or Ramadan) as most of us are aware is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is widely observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting. This act is also recognised as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The fast begins at dawn and ends at dusk. The last meal before beginning the fast is known as Suhur and the one that breaks the fast is known as Iftar.
The Iftar meals are generally quite social affairs and are consumed in groups which usually comprise of family and friends. Although the Muslim community here in Kolkata is spread out all over the city certain pockets and neighbourhoods have a higher density of Muslim population than others. One such locality is Colootolla, located in central Kolkata. An offshoot of Central Avenue, a narrow alleyway called Zakaria Street is where all the action takes place during Iftar. Food lovers frequent this narrow street during the month of Ramzan to explore the innumerable joints located in and around the area. While some of them are permanent establishments, there are also many traders selling desserts, fruits, dried fruits and breads who set up permanent stalls only during this time of the year.
Whenever I’m at Zakaria Street I make it a point to start my evening at Taskeen. One of the permanent outlets Taskeen is renowned for their marinaded double fried chicken dish called Chicken Changezi. They claim that the recipe of the marinade originated way back in Gengis Khan’s time. I am admittedly no one to question or refute their claim but like many others I am definitely a fan of their signature dish. If you happen to be there this is a must try. You buy your chicken by the weight specifying the cut, pay for it, show them the receipt and the chicken goes in to a huge wok of hot oil. After a while the large piece of chicken is brought out, hacked up into smaller pieces and then fried for the second time in another wok. Once done its served with a sprinkling of their own mix of chat masala
Also available in Taskeen and other temporary stalls are immense pieces of marinaded freshwater carp. These too go through the double frying cooking technique. Although I quite enjoy eating fish I find the prospect of having to work too hard to pick out fish bones while eating in a crowded place quite off putting. As a result of this I haven’t tried the fish yet but if you’re up for it who am I to dissuade you.
If you’re thirsty after you’ve had your fill of Chicken Changezi you can grab a lassi from Taskeen or if you’re feeling adventurous enough head over to a sherbet wala, a trader who sells a rose flavoured drink which is essentially nothing but ice, water and some rose flavoured syrup. Be warned however, that the sources of the water maybe highly questionable. Having said that though, I have had it several time and have had no trouble at all.
Now would be a good time to move on to some delectable kebabs. If you’re a chicken lover then you may give Delhi 6 (a permanent outlet) a go for their chicken kebabs. If you’re a beef lover like me then two hole in the wall joints should be on your list. The first of them is Dilshad’s Kebabs. This can be difficult to find but if you ask around for the CESC building and look around a bit you can find Dilshad’s shop. Obscure as the place may appear the kebabs Dilshad Bhai grills are unbelievably delectable. He serves dahi kebab (beef marinaded with yogurt and spices), malai kebab (beef marinaded with spices and the yellowish fatty outcome that results from heating whole milk), kheeri kebab (cow’s udder), the gurda kebab (kidneys) and the suta kebab (kebab held together by a string). My favourites are the malai kebab and the kheeri kebab followed by the gurda kebab. The latter two may not be available always but the other kebabs are quite easily available. My suggestion would be to skip the suta kebabs here and try the remaining kebabs with Dilshad’s generous sprinkling of desi ghee atop.
For suta kebabs you simply must visit Adam’s. Located in Phear’s Lane, it may also be difficult to find but any local would be able to point out the place fairly easily such is the popularity of the place. Minced beef is marinaded with a secret blend of spices, ginger, onion, garlic and raw papaya paste and then grilled on a sheekh or skewer. The most interesting part of the kebabs is that no binding agent is used to hold it together. It is all held loosely together by a string. The perfectly grilled kebab is served on a paper plate with chopped onion and chillis and simply melts in the mouth. The propreitor Salahuddin cites raw papaya as the reason for this. Fortunately, this is also a permanent shop and Adam’s suta kebabs can be devoured all year round. you will have to pull the string out before eating the kebabs but it is completely worth the effort. Delicious is probably too less an adjective to describe the suta kebab. Another must have.
Now for the Ramzan special delicacies. But to know more about them you’ll have wait for my next post. Till then Eat Sip Repeat.