Monday, 28 July 2014

Travel Guide: Jama Masjid and an Iftar Food Walk

This post is a Eid special. And while I write it most of the countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia Europe, America and Canada celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr today marking the end of a month long period of fasting, Ramadan (Ramzan). In India, it's tomorrow.

In celebration of Ramadan, Eid and in a way Chand Raat* my family, friends and I visited the famous streets around the Jama Masjid (Masjid-i Jahān-Numā)  in Delhi. 

View of Jama Masjid while there was still light.
The streets were wonderfully busy as people on their roza (fast) went about purchasing food and getting ready for their prayers. Around 7:45, the as the sunset, two loud firecrackers announced the end of the roza. I couldn't help but watch curiously as everybody nibbled on a small food item and drank some water. It was a strangely calming sight. You would imagine these people would be starving after an entire day of no water and food. If they were, they showed no signs. Shopkeepers, vendors and restaurant servers alike ate nothing more than maybe one khajoor (dates) or some fruit. It was so cute to see that vendors gave away small snacks for open to open their fasts.
A very blurry picture of a Khajoor vendor.
View of Jama Masjid at dusk (above) from Meena Bazaar (below)

Once the sun sets, special lighting all around the Masjid are switched on making for a spectacular view. Our food walk began in street just opposite the Jama Masjid. About 100m away from it's beginning is a nondescript eatery where an old man is cutting up meat. A large bain-marie is boiling away with hot oil. This shop goes by the name of Haji Mohammed Hussain. 

They sell the most amazing fish and chicken fry. I kid you not. The food is marinated in a mix of spices that have remained a secret. The food is plated up straight from the pan. Served with chutney, a sprinkle of masala and round onions, the taste is orgasmic. The chicken is succulent and delicious, breaking apart as you bite into. One of the finest fried chicken ever served.

We couldn't get enough of this chicken but moved, quite unwillingly, back down the lane to the Masjid, entering the street perpendicular to it for some mouth-watering kebabs. Perhaps, some may have a problem with the hygiene at this particular taste but perhaps for some the taste would be worth the risk. The kebabs are soft and melt in the mouth. 
Popular indoor restaurant Al Jawahar
As impossible as it seems, we weren't done yet. ate at the popular Al Jawahar. It's touted as the undiscovered Karim's and since I've been too Karim's, I felt that it was the right time to compare the two. 
Al Jawar is a nice restaurant. I wanted to write little but it's not. It has extended into three floors of a medium-sized seating arrangement that is comfortable and provides full A.C. There was a waiting to get a table but because the service is so coordinated and fast, we didn't have to wait long - even though we were nine people!

We ordered a Sheer Mal, Romali Roti, Tandoori chicken, Afghan chicken, and biryani. I wanted Nihari but it was only available in the morning hours - huge bummer for me because I'd been waiting for that the entire evening. I know it's hard to imagine.

Unfortunate as it was, I didn't enjoy the food at Al Jawahar as much as people had said I would. Sheer Mal which is sweet bread was definitely fantastic - better than Karim's. But the biryani and the chicken were nothing special. It was a pity because they were made so well but I suggest Karim's Nihari. To top off the meal, we ate phirni - a traditional rice pudding delicacy which was alright as I have eaten better but it was perfect end to the night.
Phirni, a traditional dessert (rice pudding) at Al Jawahar

Meena Bazaar on the foot of Jama Masjid, Gate 

Before the sunset

After the breaking of the Roza, the lights came to life.
Here's a video of when the azaan started. Just wanted to sit and listen forever. 

How to get there: Take the metro to Chawri Bazaar and then a rickshaw to the Jama Masjid.

So here's the Food Guide to Jama Masjid. To everyone, Eid Mubarak, especially to our friends in Gaza. May Allah guide you and bless you with peace, happiness and prosperity. 

*eve of the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr