It’s the holy month of Ramazan and I could not have been further from pious. My days were filled with longing for the many delicacies that dotted the stretch from Mosque Road to MM Road in Frazer town. The original planning party placed a covenant for meeting on Saturday, with a rider ‘depends on the weather’. But I was determined come rain or shine, that I will be there at 5:30 pm at the elusive Albert Bakery to start my journey to food heaven. I say elusive because even though Alberts is a very popular landmark in Frazer Town, we missed it last year during our Iftaar (breaking of the fast) walk. It’s quite a nondescript little hoarding, placed slightly inside the actual line of shops on Mosque road and it closes as soon as it’s goodies are sold out. But this time, since we were planning to meet early (Iftaar generally starts at sun down), I was hoping we would be lucky to taste their famous Khova Naan – a ramazan speciality!
I give my best friend R and sister S, the credit for spotting Albert’s. (The crowds would have given it away in any case :P) It’s diagonally opposite the Shamiyana set up to serve Pista House Haleem on Mosque Road. We wrestled with the crowds and asked for the most popular items on the menu – Mutton Samosas, Khova Naan and the Bheja Puff. We packed all this and headed straight to MM Road. After all that is where all the action is and Iftaar food is always more fun when you share it J We met up with a couple of other friends that we planned to meet and a couple more that we just ran into by chance. At the end of the day we were a group of 15 people moving from one counter to another, shoving our faces…and it didn’t rain! The Gods must surely love us!
The Mutton Samosas from Albert’s reminded me of the ones I got in my school canteen – a flat samosa with lots of onion. We bought some Kheema samosas in the first shamiyana on MM road, and those had more meat than Albert’s. (one fail). The Bheja Puff was brilliant however, with a yummy dill and pepper flavor. (one pass). The Khova Naan was the highlight. A flaky pie filled with a mixture of sweet condensed milk and semolina. They sell one whole naan, which is cut into six pieces. Let me warn you – this is very rich and just one piece should suffice to end all hunger pangs.
This year we had a pleasant surprise waiting for us. All the stalls were housed in rain proof Shamiyanas! (Last year, I braved a downpour and still managed to eat through the stalls, but it’s nice not to worry about the camera getting wet!). The advantage of being in a large group is that you get to try a lot of different things! So I can honestly say there is something for everyone here. Stalls selling Kashmiri dates, stalls specializing in fish, stalls that sold only Haleem (ah… the one thing that defines Ramzan for the food worshippers), stalls that sold Teetar (Quails) and even Camel meat! This year, I noticed that one stall even put a board saying “We don’t serve Beef” – clearly a sign that they were trying to welcome a percentage of the population that shies away from eating beef.
I was happy to see the coals glowing red hot and the big block of granite on top hissing and sizzling, when the marinated meat touched it. It meant that the Patthar ka Gosht was ready for our greedy bellies. Patthar ka Gosht, essentially means meat cooked on a rock. (In this case the meat is Veal, or should I be more appropriate and call it ‘Wheel’ kebab). They place a big block of granite over some red hot coals and slowly heat it up. (It apparently takes a good 3-4 hours). Then they cook the meat on the stone. This is supposed to sear the meat well and impart an earthy flavor. How much of this is true I can never tell, but this dish always draws huge crowds during Ramazan. This year there were many stalls that jumped onto the sizzling granite bandwagon, but the original one and the one that I like the most, is the guy next to the Kebabish stall. He always wears a red topi, so it’s easy to recognize him.
The Beef Seekh at Kebabish is always to die for. And the owner knows it! When I was clicking pictures of his stall – he smiled and told me to check the newspaper that day. Apparently he was featured in it! So without further ado we waited for him to grace us and hand over a plate of the best tasting seekh in Bangalore. Maybe the secret is the table fan that he uses to fan the coals – A nifty trick! My husband will be mighty pleased that his idea is being implemented on a larger scale (He uses a blow dryer to air the coals when we have barbeque parties!).
For those who don’t eat Beef there is a wide variety of Chicken and mutton delicacies you can feast on. I zeroed in on a stall called Abad Chicken in the second shamiyana. Really good Irani Chicken (spicy marinade), Malai Chicken (the marinade was a tad milder) and Mutton Chops. Try the spicy Mutton chops gravy with the incredibly light and lacy Idiyappam (rice vermicelli).
If rolls are more your scene, you are obviously in the right place. Try the Chicken Shawarma with Hummus in a version of Pita bread or the Chicken Tikka Roll with a spattering on onions and chillies. The Chicken Tikka roll comes wrapped in the most greasy, oily paratha – but that’s what makes it irresistible. The Baida Roti is also a big draw at ramzan and is essentially a big paratha stuffed with meat, folded over to form a nice square pie sautéed in oil again. It is then cut into little squares and served with a hot chutney for your eating pleasure. You can have your pick from beef, chicken, or mutton mince. There are also the Seekh Rolls that we Bangaloerans so love. Wrapped in Roomali roti’s, they are a tad healthier than their greasy paratha counterparts.
Coming now to the highlight of the food orgy – The Haleem. Haleem is a sublime dish used to break the fast, because at once it is both delicious and nutritious. A mixture of wheat and meat, pounded together with subtle spices and garnished with fried onions, ginger and coriander leaves. There is also a generous topping of spiced fat (ghee?), which brings the whole mixture to dizzying heights of awesomeness. I am no expert on how haleem should taste but using my own palate as a guide, I liked the one at Dakhni Degh the best. The mixture tasted meaty (goat’s meat) and was spiced just right. It was also not an indistinguishable pasty mess. The much famed Pista House Haleem (which I heard they are planning to export to the US), had less meat and more wheat and even had little pieces of bone in it. Not a pleasant experience to expect something smooth and then bite into something hard! The last shamiyana this year even experimented with a Chicken Haleem. But considering chicken has no real flavor by itself, the haleem had to rely more on the spices and ghee to make it come alive.
If you still have space for dessert (and I always do) you must try the traditional Semiya, Phirni and Khubani Ka Meetha (Stewed Apricots). Apart from this there is also a huge list of other desserts on offer – Kulfi’s, Caramel Custard, Chocolate Mousse, Date Cakes, Gulab Jamuns, Malpua, Pista Kheer, Rava cakes and more. There is a counter serving Gola (Shaved Ice) in different flavours and a MiniMelts station where you can grab a cup of little balls of ice cream. If you want some flavoured Kulfi’s and Falooda head to the Bombay Chowpatty Kulfi shop on the opposite side of the road. If you want to be non-adventurous just go eat some Baskin Robbins ice cream. Basically – end your meal with something sweet, there’s no better way to float to heaven!
As I was clicking pictures of the food, a group of little munchkins who were having their own party, decided I should be their official photographer. And they wouldn’t let me stop at one picture. Finally after clicking ‘single photos’ of each of them, where they looked at it and laughed and then posed again in a different avatar and then looked at that and laughed and then did a group pose and looked at that and laughed (well you get the drift) they concluded they had their entertainment for the evening and ran away. With all this food swimming in my stomach I was feeling a certain oneness with the universe, a sense of all pervading bliss. And I guess this is why food is such a central component of all religious festivals in India – be it Ramzan or Diwali or Christmas. I for one, am definitely a fan of the Food Gods!
For a lovely Iftaar feast try MM Road in Frazer town, Johnson Market off Residency Road, Russel Market Road in Shivajinagar and the main road in Tilaknagar. Ramazan ends on August 8th/ 9th, so you still have a week to be a part of something amazing.
Cost: Less than Rs.300/- per person for a group of 4 people who are non-squeamish about street food and have healthy appetites.
Parking: Ahemm….. if you are really lucky you can grab a spot on Mosque Road.
You crack me up! *cross-section of the world's animals* ha ha ha
With a good cross-section of the world's animals inside my stomach, I too might “feel a certain oneness with the universe” 😉 I'm envious of you! wish i could have hit town sooner, it was good vicarious fun going through your gastro-romp.
You're very welcome Rohini! When something is mass produced for consumption – it generally misses the magic ingredient – a personal touch. That's Pista houses greatest shortfall.
Thank you Paul…It's good to hear that the post lived up to the expectations of someone who goes there regularly 🙂
Thanks for this! Great photos and detailed info. I too have heard that pista house is not as good as hyped. Planning a visit, so this was exactly what i was looking for.
I am very happy you captured pretty much everything, including parking and the red cap guy. We friends sometimes meet as a group at a common central place say MG road and they crave for me to bring them snacks from Albert Bakery…. Yesterday I took some 12 people all relatives to MM Rd …. we had a ball. I agree when you say the Quails we KILLER. One stall served oil fry and another served charcoal fry …. different taste, different experience. all my relatives wanted to drink coke/ pepsi but strongly refused and told them to try Badam milk and Sulemani, they loved it….
Once again enjoyed reading your blog!!!!