Ramadan, known to us as Ramzan in India, is the holiest month in the entire year according to traditional Islam. It's a month of fasting, as well a month of Iftar, or the traditional feast, with which the fast is broken, after sunset. This feast is made up of various delicacies. Typically, the fast is broken with dried fruits and dates. These are available widely in the Middle East (closer to Mecca). Just by dint of them being available in plenty, dates and dried fruits have become an Iftar tradition. A tradition which has crossed several oceans and has become synonymous with the Iftar feast in India. The month of Ramadan represents austerity but the feast has become a grand event across Bangalore's neighbourhoods and restaurants. We speak to five of Bangalore chefs to find out- What Ramzan Means To Me- and their favourite Iftar dishes.
Culinary Director Lounge Hospitality, Sanchez and Singkong
It was during Ramadan, a few years ago, that I was invited to a friend’s place for their traditional Iftar feast. My friend’s wife had painstakingly created a lavish feast – made from an entire goat - with mutton biryani, mutton chops, korma, and other delicious delicacies. What stood out was the mutton chops. This dish had been marinated for hours with freshly ground spices and then cooked to perfection in its own gravy for hours, unlike the regular grilled chops. Over the years, I have been to several Iftar feasts in different parts of the world and while all of them had something delicious to offer, but haven't tasted anything like those chops. Succulent and tasty, with a slightly charred exterior covering juicy meat underneath, the mutton chops were sheer perfection.
Executive Chef, The Gateway Hotel, Residency Road
Along with fasting, this festival also brings you the delicious assortment of food in the evenings. My favourite pick among the Ramzan specialties are Haleem made with lamb mince and grains and the popular Patti Samosa with spicy onion masala filling. My earliest memory of eating Haleem was in Hyderabad decades ago where my brother introduced me to it. It’s a complete nutritious meal and from a chef’s perspective, a well-cooked, wholesome dish with fried onions on top. As far as the Patti Samosa is concerned, I’m a great fan of Fanoos Patti Samosas. Mosque Road in Bangalore is a must-visit during Ramzan for the sheer variety they offer and let’s not forget about the Albert Bakery for the Mutton Samosas.
Executive Chef, Sly Granny
Growing up in Delhi in the New Friends Colony area which is close to Jamia, the Iftar food had a big influence on me. I used to go with my friends for Iftar meals whenever I could. The memories of the dishes that have stayed with me have been the Nihari (a slow-cooked meat, along with the bone marrow) and the kebabs. The Nihari was completely out of this world. The first time I ever had it to be honest I was a little grossed out as the texture of the meat was not what I was used to. But once I was educated about the making of Nihari it slowly started to grow on me and soon became a staple food during that time. I would often ask this elderly person, a Mr. Rehman, who was the one who educated me on Nihari, to get me some from time to time other than during the time of Iftar. He had one particular shop in the Jamia area, who made it for him. It was a happy day when he would bring me a little tiffin of that.
Corporate Chef, Corporate Executive Chef, Southindies, Bon South and Up South
My favourite Iftar food item has to be Haleem. Hyderabadi Haleem is essentially a stew, cooked with meat, lentils and pounded wheat. This is cooked on slow heat for long hours turning it into a porridge-like consistency. It's served with ghee, browned onions, little lime juice and garnished with coriander leaves. It's high in calories and very nutritious and the perfect dish to break the fast with. My personal love for this delicacy started during my college days in Hyderabad when I first tasted it. Since then I have tasted near about 100 types of Haleem from various parts of the country and abroad. But none seems to match the taste of the Hyderabadi Haleem.
City Chef, Smoke House Deli
My favourite Iftaar snack would be the fried chicken kebabs found in makeshift food stalls in the by-lanes of Shivajinagar (opposite Russel market). The reason being , this type of kebab is very unique to Bangalore. Many small shops in the streets sell this kebab, but each one has its own recipe and own masala. Some are batter fried and some are masala coated and fried. My favourite one are the masala coated ones, which are crispy yet juicy and huge on flavours. This is a quick snack to grab during the holi festival; it doesn't take much time to cook and freshness is always guaranteed, because it's fried hot right in front of me.