Mohammed Ali Road: The Epic Iftari Food Walk with Celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar and Living Foodz Channel
An Iftari Food Walk during the holy month of Ramzan can make any foodie weak in the knees. In Mumbai, there are places like Mohammed Ali Road and Bhendi Bazar’s Bohri Mohalla, which offer myriad varieties of mouth-watering Muslim cuisine. People from all over Mumbai flock together in those crowded, chaotic streets and gullies to enjoy blissful Iftari delicacies. As one approaches Mohammed Ali Road, the loudspeakers, huge crowd and the aroma of hot food will tell you that you have reached the food heaven. As the sun sets, be prepared for a grand feast every evening during this time of the year. The food that you eat here has been cooked with expertise and passion, and some of them have fiercely guarded family recipes, techniques and stories behind them. The food in those big and little stalls in Mohammed Ali Road is almost pleasantly hypnotic and the overall experience of an Iftari Food Walk definitely has a great amount of thrill to it.
I was lucky and thankful enough to receive an invite from Living Foodz to join none other than the Celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar. An excellent chef and one of the co-judges in Masterchef India last year, Ranveer Brar is one of my favourite Indian chefs. I have deep respect for the amount of food knowledge that he has. Among his signature Awadhi dishes, his kebab-making and biryani skills are much talked about. Going with an expert like him on the #LFRamzanTrail in Mohammed Ali Road was an experience second to none! And when you have such a person guiding you in the Ramzan or Iftari food walk in Mumbai, you are assured that the food that you taste is going to be the best in the lot!
We started the Iftari food trail at Mohammed Ali Road at around 8 pm. The Khau Galli in the Suleiman Usman Mithaiwala Lane was the perfect place to start our experience. Luckily, the weather cooperated with us and it hardly drizzled during the entire walk. The Living Foodz team was very friendly and they made sure that I relish each bite of the epic food walk in Mohammed Ali Road, Mumbai.
Our first stop was Janata Ice Cream & Fast Food (162, E.M.M Road), right under the J.J. Flyover and near Minara Masjid. Although it looked like a regular, congested eatery in the beginning, by the crowd and the waft of flavours surrounding this place, we could easily make out that we were in for a unique experience! There were skewers of kebabs of different kinds and colours, hanging at one corner. Outside Janata, there were a good number of people standing on the streets and enjoying the delicacies. The pace at which they worked to serve a crowd, was praiseworthy. As we waited for food, a spicy Kaleji (liver) dish cooking away just next to us drew us to click a picture and smell the ethereal beauty as we gazed at the swift ladle movements of the cook. And all it did was to make us hungry like never before!
The food arrived soon after. There were plates of tender Seekh Kebabs, Hariyali Murgh and Tandoori Bater (quail) on our table. As a matter of habit, we proceeded to click pictures. After five minutes, the owner suggested that we rather eat the food because it would never taste good if it turned cold! We clicked a few pictures in haste and then started the tasting. Oh My! The Seekh Kebabs were out of the world! Moist, succulent and extremely balanced in spices, the kebabs were one of the softest and best kebabs that I have eaten till date. Although the pictures didn’t come out well, the food was definitely soul-satisfying!
Compared to the Seekh Kebabs, the Hariyali Kebabs were okayish, however. But the quail was very flavourful and I loved the sprinkling of that little chaat masala over it. The quail meat was tandoored to perfection and the tandoori masala coating it was no exaggeration either. Overall, I loved it because the spices were wisely controlled so that the subtle flavour of this delicate bird shone through.
Even the complimentary Hari Chutney (green chutney) at Janata tasted so good! I ran my eyes over our table to discover that like me, there were more people who were actually enjoying this humble chutney with paper-thin Roomali Rotis!
The show-stopper at Janata was the Chicken Angara. Beautifully cooked chicken on charcoals in a spicy onion and tomato based gravy could never taste better. Clubbed with their soft Roomali Rotis and a few of those “to-die-for” kebabs, the meal at Janata, Mohammed Ali Road, was spot-on and a meal to remember!
We then moved to the nearby Noorani Milk Centre (157 Ebrahim Road, Minara Masjid). It was quite a sight to see the process of making jumbo-sized Malpuas at Noorani, during these Ramzan days. One of their cooks sat near the huge degchi (vessel) of Malpua batter and another huge one with a tall heap of eggs. He broke a few eggs in a smaller degchi and added ladlefuls of the batter to it. Another cook was continuously frying these huge Malpuas in a giant Kadhai (wok): six to seven Malpuas at a time. As we watched the beautiful yellow Malpuas getting plumped-up in hot oil, we wondered if this cook was a superhuman. He was energetically frying these Malpuas in batches of seven, one batch after the other, hour after hour! Although I scrunch my nose at deep-fried desserts, I had to try this unique Malpua, which looked quite different than the small Bengali Malpuas back home. Comparatively, there was a huge difference in size, texture and colour! I had to try this, and more so, when I saw that they served the dish with generous amounts of Rabdi (thickened and sweetened milk). One plate could easily be shared among four to five hungry souls. Saying that the Malpuas were outstanding, would be an understatement, perhaps. Words cannot describe the flavour of this totally addictive dessert with a perfectly creamy Rabdi. For me, this is one of the best Indian desserts that I have eaten so far in Mumbai.
The Masala Milk at Noorani Milk Centre was a treat to the tastebuds. Milk never tasted that appealing before! You must try the Masala Milk here: it will definitely cheer you up with yum flavours. Although I am not a fan of Phirni, I did grab a spoonful here just to know how it was. It was quite good.
We headed to Suleiman Usman Mithaiwala (Shop No. 41 F/G, Mohammed Ali Road) after that. We ate many different types of sweets there. If you are really sweet-toothed and appreciate sweets, you must try their popular mawa- and semolina-based sweet called Aflatoon. It was delicious! The Malai Barfis were also packed with flavours of mawa and malai and my favourite was the purple blackcurrant one. There were stacks of threadlike Sutar Feni and flaky Khaja, and I would have loved to try them too! The Khaja, especially, looked very appealing.
But Chef Ranveer declared that there was much more to explore! And soon, we walked down to the spacious Noor Mohammedi Hotel on the main road. The Ramadan Feast can never be complete without a trip to Noor Mohammedi. Although they do have beef-based dishes, they have mutton versions of all these dishes too! We tried some of their best-sellers. The Chicken Hakimi was gorgeous. The smoky flavour of tandoori chicken received a royal treatment when topped with lots of butter and yogurt. This dish was very flavourful and unique. I never had a chicken dish topped with so much butter! Normally, I wouldn’t eat such a dish. But, I did eat the dish because it looked very appealing and frankly, I wanted to know that what’s the hype all about, and I am glad that I did. I would definitely come back to have more of this!
The Chicken Sanju Baba is another must-try here, and it is believed that the recipe comes from the famous Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt. What I liked about this dish is the elegance and the beauty of a lone, big-sized chicken drumstick soaking itself in a homely, slightly sweet and uniform gravy. Chicken Sanju Baba was light on spices and butter and tasted great.
The Nalli Nihari was not upto the expectations, though. First, I could not find any Nalli (bone with marrow). Although the meat was “almost” fall-off-the-bone, the gravy did not have enough flavours. The dish looked and tasted very average.
But hey, their Achaari Chicken was an absolute hit to the tastebuds. What a beautiful dish it was! With the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spicy Achaari (Indian pickle) notes, it reminded me of my grandma’s pickle jar and my mother’s Sunday Chicken, all packed in a small bowl with electrifying flavours.
As my cab neared Noor Mohammedi Hotel, I hurriedly grabbed a spoonful of Afghan White Chicken Biryani and bid goodbye to the Chef and the whole team. The Biryani was light and flavourful, but could have been better.
As I headed towards home at 11 pm at night, I was amazed to see that the streets of Mohammed Ali Road was as jam-packed as it was when I reached here in the evening. Amidst the chaos, wet roads, potholes, loudspeakers and the sights and aroma of Iftari cuisine in its myriad avatars, I was there in a state of trance! Thanks to Living Foodz and Chef Ranveer Brar, the #LFRamzanTrail was an epic one!
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