Ramadan Feast in Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

Ramadan Feast in Jama Masjid, Old Delhi

After having feasted in the streets of Mumbai (Read: Fasting and Feasting at Bohril Mohalla, Mumbai) and in Bangalore (Read: Ramadan Feast in Bangalore), this year, we finally got an opportunity to hit the streets of Old Delhi for our annual round of Iftar dinner…Here’s an account of it so that you too muster the courage to navigate the many lanes of ‘Purani Dilli’ for its Ramadan offerings….

You can smell it before you can see it! Almost the minute you step out of the new Jama Masjid metro station! The kebabs and kebabs and more kebabs….

How to reach Jama Masjid? We took Delhi Metro’s new Heritage Line and got out of gate number 2 which has a narrow, very dirty by-lane to the masjid. During Ramadan, the street also hosts a flea market and is hence, very crowded! On our way back, we took a rickshaw

Guide to the Kebab Stalls:
We found that the lane that lining the Jama Masjid teems with stalls selling kebabs, fish fries, tandooris and the works. Our ‘food walk’ started from here —

  • The inauguration happened with two of the favorites here – Qureshi and Lalu Kebabi. Both the tikka and sheekhs we had there was ‘Bada’ or made of Beef. The sheekhs smelt heavenly and it was a good 10-mins wait before we could lay our hands on them. The tikkas were average but the sheekhs were just amazing, melt in the mouth variety. Served with chutney and onions, in a disposable aluminum container – they were the most sought after.
  • First round done, we headed for the Matia Mahal lane right opp Gate # 2 of Jama Masjid.  Skipping the most popular restaurants, Karims & Al Jawahar, we headed straight inside, looking for the elusive Dori Kabab of Babu Bhai. A 5-min walk to the end of the lane and then left turn towards the Sayed Mosque got us to Babubhai Kebabwala — right under the walls of the mosque! Babubhai seemed to have a soft corner for patrons who clicked his photos and posted on social media. Because he saw me do that, he filled us with tales of his Kebabs as he cleaned up and set the stove with hordes of diners queuing, placing orders and coming back for pickup. We sat through his preparation stage and saw how the whole he unpacked and put a huge chunk of minced beef over ice and then separated  them with leaves. Two small lots of chicken and mutton mince followed and we blocked the latter fully for us. He set up one skewer each of the beef tikka, mutton, chicken and beef sheekh (earlier called Dori or thread which was used to hold / cut the same) kebabs for us to taste and yes, it was worth the wait. The crowd must have smelt that food was ready and the place got swarmed with people within seconds. Bloggers, local school kids, ladies after prayers … the list was endless. The mutton and beef ones were brilliant, succulent and just the perfect taste, served with a yogurt dip. The beef tikka was also very good though a little tough. We are not fond of chicken but had it on his recommendation and it was excellent as well. So as not to lose the rest, we ordered 10 skewers of mutton sheekhs to be packed before it got over. The damage after everything was a princely Rs. 550!
  • Happy and half full, we walked back to try the famous Keema Goli at Haji Mohd. Hussain Fried Chicken but, sadly, they had run out of stock by 7pm!! Note — the keema golis are available only during Iftar time around 7pm.
  • Disappointed, we headed for the famous Al Jawahar restaurant whose claim to fame is that Pandit Nehru used to frequent the eatery. A rather hyped place — food was very average. We had only the Mutton Qorma with their special roti, and downed it all with Coke. By now, we need it you see…
  • For the finale, desserts, we went to Cold Point right opposite. The fact remains that while there are decent food joints here, there are no ‘great’ or ‘iconic’ sweet shops where you get amazing sweets. We ordered all 3 items in the menu – Phirni, Rabdi and Shahi Tukda. The Shahi Tukda wasn’t worth it one bit. We loved the Phirnis and packed a few for home.
  • How could we leave that iconic street without visiting the Karims courtyard? Got some Mutton Biryani and Chicken Tandoori packed for hime…
  • On our way out, we stopped for a glass of Lassi from the corner shop

With that, we headed back to the metro station, this time in a rickshaw. Compared to our forays in Mumbai and Bangalore, the food here in Old Delhi is not ‘out of this world’! The ‘must haves’ seemed to be only the sheikh kebabs.

Important tips for the Old Delhi lanes:

  1. Terrible crowd… making it not the safest place for women. Women visitors, please go fully covered. The way those men look at you can really spoil your evening.
  2. The rickshaws and bikes plying in the narrow lanes make it worse, the least the police can do is to make it pedestrian friendly.
  3. Finally, not a place for kids and the elderly definitely

Lastly, missed a couple of places – Nihari from Bilal and Beef Biryani by Taufik which were recommended. Might be back next year …