Bangalore Food Diaries – Ramadan
The holy month of Ramadan is observed by Muslims across the world as a month of fasting to honour the first revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This period of fasting lasts about 29-30 days from dawn until sunset and during this time, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids and a couple of other habits/behaviour which may negate the reward of fasting. The evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast is called Iftar. Traditionally, three dates are eaten to break the fast which is to- sort of emulate the same manner by which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) broke his fast. Iftar is considered as the time to restore energy levels and so effort is made to consume food from all major food groups- fruits and vegetables, rice and alternatives, as well as meat and alternatives (including dairy). Nearly two decades in Abu Dhabi- the idea of the holy month of Ramadan was different from what I observed in India- or should I say moulded differently. Certain rules (in fact, the only) that were a little less pleasing for a food lover was that- eating in public places during the time of fasting for anyone (even a non-Muslim) was banned due to which almost all restaurants during the time of fasting was closed. There was also a ban on playing music (other than religious) in public areas due to which most bars and nightclubs remained closed throughout the month of Ramadan. Not the most promising of times for a non-Muslim to be in the Emirates but that’s how the cookie crumbled in a country governed by Sharia law.
But an entirely different experience awaited me in India- specifically in Kerala. During the month of Ramadan, I used to fast (as much as I could) alongwith my friends only to eventually get invited to their homes for Iftar. So much so that almost every day I was invited to another friend’s home for Iftar. Samosas packed with minced-mutton, erachi pathiri (fried rotis stuffed with chicken masala), chatti pathiri (layered crêpe and chicken). mutta mala (a Malabar dessert made entirely of eggs) are a few of the many dishes I thoroughly enjoyed. Fast forward to my time in Hyderabad- the food experience was only getting crazier. Do read about my food-walks organised at Tolichowki and Old City– Hyderabad.
While at Hyderabad, I’ve heard a lot about the street food experience in Bangalore- especially, during the month of Ramadan. While some of the areas enliven during the month of Ramadan, the other areas- due to the presence of prominent restaurants in the vicinity are open 365 days a year- almost 24/7. Here are the name of the localities (vaguely) that you shouldn’t (rather cannot) miss if you decide to visit Bangalore.
After checking with a couple of the local residents, I was able to confirm that this was the first time they had setup food stalls in this locality. This could have been mostly attributed to the inauguration of the beautiful and one of the more larger mosques of Bangalore- Masjid-E-Eidgah Bilal Mosque, in 2015. Within walking distance of the mosque is a large vacant area and that is where I experienced an epitome of a Ramadan Mela. There is more-than-enough parking space and the only downside is the area is mostly not developed and because of that can turn into a muddy-sludge if it rains. In fact this year the holy month of Ramadan coincided with the pre-monsoon showers and so I had to think twice about when to visit this locality or any other locality for that matter. The stalls here have everything- Pattar Ka Ghosht, Kashmiri Kebab, Hyderabadi Kebab, Mutton Seekh Kebab, Samosas, Chicken Cutlets, Haleem (both chicken and mutton) and not to forget the stalls serving Green Apple and Black Current flavoured soda. Moreover, this is a place where you can visit your family (especially ladies), as there are some localities that I would not recommend taking your families to.
Koramangala is a well known residential locality where the roads are lined with trees and mix of luxury apartments, commercial structures, and posh bungalows. It has gradually developed into a commercial hub. There are about 300+ restaurants in this locality which draws an insane amount of crowd on any given day- let alone on weekends. But, our attention moves to a specific area in Koramangala- 5th Block, just outside Empire Restaurant. Empire restaurant is typically open till 1 AM and the food stalls are lined up along the Mosque road – mind you, this happens only during the month of Ramadan. We tried some Shawarma, Chicken Seekh, Mutton Seekh, Phal Beef, Chicken Sticks and a first time for some of us- Pattar ka Gosht, made of Camel meat. This locality is always swarming with youngsters and students from nearby educational institutions- not to mention, people of all ages. This is another locality where I would encourage/recommend talking your families to.
Shivajinagar is among the two names that would spring up the moment you mention the phrase, Midnight Food- the other being Fraser Town. This area is thronged with locals and the traffic is nothing short of psychotic. Nonetheless, we did have a decent food trip but, I would never recommend visiting this place with your family members for reasons most of you know by now (prefer not to be brutally honest). Some of the dishes we tried- Seekh Kebab, Chicken Cutlets, Veal Kebab, Sukka Phall, Hara Phall, Beef Chilly served with Semiya. We also parcelled Beef Pepper Fry and Beef Biriyani from Royal Restaurant- which was good. While your there try visiting Hilal Restiarant for their Bhaji Gurda (a stir-fry of spinach and Goat kidney), Maghaz or Bheja fry, which is a dish generally consisting of fried brain in spicy sauce. To top it all, slurp on the Sulaimani Chai at Savera Cafe & Restaurant which acts as an amazing palate cleanser.
4. Fraser Town
Until this year, Fraser Town was the most legendary locality in Bangalore for street food; some may say it still is. It’s been brewing for some time now that the local residents complained- roads that lead to the mosque in the locality (which is were the food stalls were lined up) were not maintained properly and domestic waste from the stalls were littered on the road. Due to which this year there are hardly, in fact no food stalls on the road. There were folks who posted on Facebook groups that stalls were indeed open but, these stalls were nothing but an extension to the restaurants that were already present- like a Ramadan special counter. I must admit being a little unhappy after hearing soo much about this locality and the street food culture spawned by Ramadan. Nonetheless, I indulged in a short restaurant-hop which included trying the Shawarma at Shawarma King and Al Faham chicken at Savoury Restaurant.
That pretty much sums up my account of the Ramadan street food experience in Bangalore. Even if you do go through my blog-post in the next few hours, you will not be able to enjoy the Ramadan street food experience this year. This is because tomorrow has already been declared as Eid Al-Fitr (in Bangalore at-least) and most of the stalls would remain closed today. If you ask me, the best street-food experience I had was at Bannerghatta and Koramangala- consequently those are the only places I would truly recommend. It’s arguable that Fraser Town need not necessarily be included in this list of localities that serve amazing street food but we may never know what happens next year. These are localities which have been serving street food for years but like Fraser Town- forced to not do so this year. In Bangalore- roads, vacant areas have either disappeared or have been narrowed down- in the midst of urbanization. I sure hope, the other localities do not face the same issue that prevented Fraser Town from flaunting its legendary ‘street-food’ experience which once or still is at the summit of any street-food lover’s bucket-list.