Food Orgy: A Voyage through Mumbai’s famous Ramzan Night-Market

My Dad’s family, particularly his brother and sister are fond of, if not fanatical about, all things non-vegetarian. Even though a vast majority of Indians do indeed eat meat, a veggie-based diet is common during most of the week, and meatDSCN0280 consumption is still seen as a luxury in many parts of the country. Therefore, longings transform into cravings of a magnitude as great as the ones we Americans (myself included) have for juicy burgers or succulent barbecue.

Upon completing my internship in Hyderabad over the summer, I flew to Mumbai to spend a week with relatives before heading back to the States. While on the taxi ride home, my uncle announced that he would be taking my brother and I on a “food orgy” of sorts to commemorate our “experience” abroad. Now, I know my uncle well, and while I know that he was trying to peak at my obsessions with food, he was also trying to satisfy his desires to feast upon the endless platters of meat that were bound to be available.

DSCN0269Our destination for the night was tucked within one of the Muslim quarters of the city, in the heart of Old Mumbai. The vast swabs of humanity that greeted us once we stepped out of the cab on Muhammad Ali Road were DSCN0296unimaginable. Located near a large mosque the small, narrow alleyway we were about to venture into was bursting to the seams for several reasons: it was during the holy month of Ramadan, it was past sunset, and there was the promise of food, lots of it.

This lane of food, an endless stretch of food stalls, is interestingly enough frequented not as much by Muslims anymore as it is by Hindus, Catholics, tourists, and everyone else trying to get their dose of unique foods that are only available during this time of the year and at this time of day (Ramadan permits worshipers to only consume food and water after sunset) as the food stalls along with the crowds that accompany them, disappear once Eid (the final day of Ramadan) has passed.

Navigating through the alleyway is not for the faint of heart. It’s beyond crowded (imagine the congestion on your local DSCN0271metro/bus times a thousand), very filthy (we narrowly missed stepping on a decaying rat carcass lying on the street), and blisteringly hot (enough to coat your clothes in a thick layer of sweat). However, if you can persist through these conditions, by all means please try, you shall be rewarded with some of the greatest street food I have ever had in this city.

Chicken and Mutton RollsWe started off with some fabulous chicken and mutton (goat) rolls. Think DSCN0276delicately spiced, reminiscent of tandoori, chunks of juicy meat wrapped in puff pastry and griddled to perfection. The kind of snack you crave with your evening glass of pilsner. Soon afterward, we moved, or better yet shall I say we were pushed, into the next stall serving up Chicken Soupspicy bowls of a chicken soup and juicy legs of tandoori chicken. While the soup bowls certainly warranted questions regarding their cleanliness, the chicken legs were totally worth it, every bite down to the bone.Tandoori Chicken

After these snacks we decided to sit down, in a cooler location thankfully, for some biryani and nalli nihari. If there is any dish to be Dinner Spreadmost seasonal on this street it’s definitely a nihari. A curry made with chunks of goat or beef marrow, this must have been the delicacy that my uncle made us venture here for. The fat will coatNalli Nihari your throat and you have to constantly stir the curry to keep it from separating, but let me tell you, you’ll awkwardly be craving some more. It’s a dish that taps into the evolutionary human need for fat. No matter how hard you Chicken Biryanitry not to, you will end up eating it. The biryani appeared hard to eat at first, not because it was bad or anything, but I had just returned from Hyderabad where I had eaten the best. The thought of any others comparing seemed slim. Fortunately, it wasn’t half bad. While this chicken biryani did lack its trusty salan (gravy) companion, the heavy-handed use of saffron in the rice was interesting and worth appreciating.

Now with only a fraction of space left in our stomachs, we elected to finish Phirnithe night with phirni, a cracked-rice pudding traditionally set in earthenware bowls. Several flavors including cardamom, saffron, and chickoo (a local, syrupy tasting fruit) were on offer and quite decent to boot. They would have just been a touch better if they were chilled to help combat the intense heat.

MalpuaFinally, there’s always that one item in markets or restaurants that looks insanely good, but you never manage to try it. That day it was the malpua, a deep-fried, pancake-like item that my uncle insisted I take pictures of, but strangely did not let us try it. Staring at the speedy craft-work of the cooks as they dipped the malpuas into the sizzling Malpua Fryingoil was mesmerizing. If I ever make it back to this market, I definitely want a taste.

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2 thoughts on “Food Orgy: A Voyage through Mumbai’s famous Ramzan Night-Market

  1. Oh my goodness! Thanks, you’ve brought back some amazing food memories from my native Mumbai…We used to visit ‘khao galli’ (eating lane) as it was called, past midnight after work! My favorite was malpua:)

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