The mile-long stretch near Minara Masjid is home to eateries serving delectable fare during Ramzan.
The sweltering month of May brings with it Ramzam, a time of fasting and prayer for Muslims around the world to commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Mohammad. But in Mumbai, it also becomes a time of feasting for people belonging to all faiths, as the chaotic Mohammed Ali Road transforms into a veritable food souk by dusk. The entire lane alongside the centuries old Minara Masjid gets populated by hungry mouths eager to sample flavourful culinary offerings, both savoury and sweet, available at various eateries that dot the mile-long lane.
If you’ve never been part of this sea of gourmands, you’re in for a treat, or must we say treats, as Mohammed Ali Road is the perfect place to chomp down on signature Iftar dishes, like haleem, an array of kebabs and biryanis, khichda, paya and gosht gravies and of course, sugary-sweet desserts such as phirni, malpua, jalebis, aflatoon, among others. The lane, which is about a kilometre away from both Masjid and Marine Lines stations, isn’t hard to find because, all you have to do is follow the vast multitudes making their way to the aroma-filled lane. Your food pilgrimage will be interrupted by blaring horns, unruly traffic, and jostling crowds, but the acrobatics of dodging vehicles and pedestrians does wonders to your appetite.
Once you reach the famed lane, the plethora of eateries selling similar dishes could leave you confused as to where to begin. The trick is to calm your mind and let your senses take over, as they will lead you to the most redolent offerings available, like the kind found at a hole-in-the-wall food stall called Bismillah Corner, adjacent to Minara Masjid. Though the stall lacks a seating area, the variety of juicy kebabs available, more than makes up for this lack of space. The piping hot, glistening delights are prepared in front of your eyes before being piled up onto paper plates. Stop for a while to gorge on delicacies like khiri, kaleji, seekh kebabs and other tandoori preparations.
The lane that runs opposite Bismillah Corner is also interesting to walk through. One gets the feeling that the choc-o-block food shops lining the street are almost pushing the walls of the narrow lane apart, long enough for tables and chairs to be laid out in a budgeted effort at al fresco dining. Here, temperatures run high, as do sounds of metal utensils clanging against their counterparts. At any of the shops, you can enjoy generous proportions of bheja masala, baida rotis, naan sandwiches, and an assortment of rolls. Certain dishes might feel a little over-priced, but the thrill of sitting next to complete strangers and watching them devour plate after plate of food is indescribable. But, everything moves at break-neck pace here, so you have to order fast and eat even faster.
If you enjoy sit-down meals, Chinese-n-Grill is the restaurant to head to. Don’t let the name of this over two-decade-old restaurant fool you, because a generous portion of their menu is dedicated to Mughlai cuisine. Two dishes of this restaurant have propelled it to fame, and those are the Nalli Nihari, a silky-smooth flavourful mutton or beef curry served with soft naans, and the fried chicken, which is indulgently wrapped with fried noodles and served with a uniquely-flavored schezwan sauce. Sarwar Khan, the assistant manager at the restaurant, tells us why the Nalli Nihari is so tasty. “The preparation takes hours to make. From about eight in the morning to about five in the evening, the meat simmers on low heat in a closed vessel. This makes the meat so soft that it slides off the bone,” reveals Sarwar. Apart from these two items, you can enjoy Ajmeri Mughlai dishes, Lakhnavi kebabs, biryanis, pulavs and lots more. Alternatively, you could also sample a range of delectable meat dishes at the ninety plus year-old Hotel Noor Mohammadi, which also serves Chicken Sanju Baba, made according to a recipe shared by the man himself.
Meals seldom feel complete without dessert, and Mohammed Ali Road is home to several iconic sweetmeat shops. For the best mawa jalebis and gulab jamuns, head to Burhanpur. If you’re not sure which one to go to, (because there are a few) look for a board that says ‘old shop’. Founded in 2004, by Mohammad Abrar and his four brothers, Burhanpur serves up jalebis made from hand-made khoya, a variety unique to Madhya Pradesh. “The demand for these mawa jalebis is so much that we sell four to five quintals a day during Ramzan. Our shop stays open till four in the morning,” shares Mohammad. If your sweet tooth hasn’t been satiated, you could head to Suleman Usman Mithaiwala, a shop founded in 1936 and famous for its rich, melt-in-the-mouth varieties of aflatoon and warm, syrup-dripping malpuas. The shop was even awarded a gold medal for its high-quality aflatoon by Rajiv Gandhi, or so Chand Mohammad, manager of the shop tells us. You can also enjoy a wide assortment of barfis and nankhatais here.
If the heat and a full stomach has left you feeling parched, head to Noorani Milk Centre for their famous masala milk – creamy milk mixed with an abundant amount of dry fruits. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a pot of phirni and rabri too. Alternatively, you could relish a few scoops of ice cream from the 120 plus year-old Taj Ice Cream, a venerable landmark famous for its handmade, fruity ice creams.