Maruti Suzuki Wagon R goes to Mohammed Ali Road
Sunset is when the happy hour for Muslims kicks in, especially during Ramzan. As the cloudless blue sky turns into a canvas of yellows, oranges and reds, it brings joy to the stomachs, not hearts, mind you, of Muslims like me who maintain a fast during Ramzan. Iftaar or Iftaari is the ritual of breaking fast as the sun sets on the horizon, and what better place to break one´s fast than Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai?
We already brought to you a comprehensive guide to eating out in Mumbai with the Tata Bolt a few years back. So this time around, we went on a Ramzan eating spree. And to easily navigate our car amidst the crowds of hunger-ridden Mumbaikars who flock to the famous Mohammed Ali Road each year, we chose our long-termer Maruti Suzuki Wagon R 1.2 AMT. So we grabbed its keys and headed out early on a Friday evening with a stomach that was empty of food, but heavy with anticipation.
Ramzan food trail
We reached the iconic Shalimar Restaurant a little in advance of the Iftaar time in order to secure a booth in the soon-to-be-crowded restaurant. After breaking our fast with the customary dates, fruits and the much-required glasses of water, we hunkered down to the serious business of completely filling the black hole now forming in our stomachs. And so we began our food journey, at Minara Masjid’s famous Khao Galli.
The first place on our itinerary was the Mashallah hotel right at the beginning of the Khao Galli. Here we sampled an assortment of tikkas and kebabs that took the edge off our hunger, but it also fired up our taste buds. The spicy marination on the tender meats was the sort that created mini explosions in our brains. The pahadi kebab had succulent pieces of mutton dunked in a buttery gravy. We rounded off this mini-meal with the softest malai tikkas that I have ever eaten. Wiping our plates clean, we decided to enter the belly of the beast.
Lined with stalls selling various kinds of street food on both sides, the Khao Galli is like Disneyland for food lovers. The air is thick and greasy and rent with smells of barbecuing, frying and a dominant smell of spices. It´s a chaotic harmony in the khao galli as hawker calls and the sizzling sounds of meat frying compete with sounds of traffic and the persistent honking from those reckless individuals who actually dared to enter this street on a two-wheeler. Pots and pans scraping together provide the background chorus for this harmony. Conversation reduced to a bare minimum in the face of all this. But who really needs conversation when we have kebabs eh?
Up the street, more tikkas and kebabs such as Russian kebabs, kandi kebabs, mutton seekh and more such delicacies found their way into our stomachs as we strolled through the crowded lane taking in every aroma, dutifully following our noses wherever they chose to lead us.
Next up on our list was shawarma. The big, juicy slabs of meat rotating on a rotisserie right above the tandoor caught our eyes from a distance. The meat is well marinated and then slow cooked on the rotisserie until it gets so tender, that it simply starts to fall apart. Rolled into pita bread along with pungent sauces and pickled vegetables, the shawarma is one of the must-have dishes here at Mohammed Ali Road, and there are many stalls to choose from.
Speaking of must-haves, Hyderabadi Haleem is another dish which is worthy of its inclusion in the must-have list of any person arriving here with the sole intention of eating. Haleem is basically meat cooked with wheat, barley and lentils. Though it may sound simple, it is quite difficult to find authentic flavours of Hyderabad incorporated in a Haleem, but Mohammed Ali Road does not disappoint. Needless to say, the Hyderabadi Haleem stalls right outside at Hindustan Hotel silently teleported us to the quaint lanes of old Hyderabad.
Despite all the food we had been shovelling in, we were still somehow hungry and were absolutely keen on paying a visit to the Chinese N Grill restaurant. Don’t misjudge the book by its cover, or in this case – a restaurant by its name – this place not only serves epic Chinese and Mughlai dishes, but they also have special arrangements for the month of Ramzan. The nihari served here is a crowd puller during the festive season. However, there was a long wait here and our growling stomachs were getting impatient.
So we moved away from the heat and the jostling crowd to chill out at the Keshodwala Apple Juice stall. For the delightful price of just Rs 15 a glass (half glass at 10), this small stall in the corner of the street has been serving cold, sweet milk-apple juice for years now. Incidentally, Keshodwala’s Apple Milk is available all year round. So head over whenever it hits your fancy
After the spice and the grease of the kebabs and shawarmas, the apple milk proved to be a palate cleanser and something of a starter for our desserts. You are probably wondering by now how we managed to make room for dessert after all that food. Firstly, it is a criminal offence not to eat dessert/s after a meal (they should have included that in the constitution). Secondly, our team has awesome powers of consumption when it comes to desserts.
Our first dessert stop was the small kiosk called Burhanpur Jalebi. Although the stall does not look impressive, the sweets they serve are to die for. Known as one of the best mawa jalebi makers in the city, Burhanpur Jalebi also has diabetes-inflicting mawa gulab jamun and thick rabdi served in an earthen pot. But be prepared to wait for quite some time and be pushed around by the moving crowd before you get your hands on those crunchy, syrupy jalebis!
We then went on to eat an assortment of rabdis, phirnis and fruit custards as the night progressed. The Noorani Sweets and Milk Centre near Minara Masjid should be on your list when you visit the area. Try their Masala Milk, it's their speciality! Unlike the usual bottled masala milk, this saffron flavoured milk, also served in takeaway glass bottles, comes loaded with dry fruits as well.
The crowds in the Khao Galli had, by then, swelled to bursting point. So we bid adieu to its sweaty confines and drove to Zam Zam Sweets and Confectionery at Nagpada in Mumbai Central. Made with pure ghee and rich dry fruits, the malpua served here comes highly-recommended and is well worth waiting all day for. And if you still have the sweet tooth (just like us) the barfis, kalakand, phirnis, malai sandwich, cham-cham served here, among others, are enough to satisfy even the most ravenous of beasts!
By this time, we had entered into a food coma, of sorts. Or maybe it was the inevitable crash that comes from eating too much sugar. Our legs felt like lead, sweat poured off our backs and home looked dismayingly far away. Luckily, we had our trusted Wagon R parked nearby. It truly withstood the tests of four overfed journalists who were thin on patience and thick in the bellies. They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and it´s likely that the way through Mumbai's crowded streets is in a Wagon R. The ease of AMT and good visibility of the tall-boy hatchback took away all the driving stress even while navigating the narrow and overcrowded streets of Mohammed Ali Road. As we drove back, I looked at the moon now ahead of us, keeping pace with our Wagon R, and I couldn't help but wonder, “doesn't the moon look like a big, round Malpua?"
Pictures By - Kapil Angane