Thursday 9 August 2012

Ramadan Feasting on Mohammed Ali Road

"This is not a recommended activity for vegetarians or people currently or pre-emptively weak of stomach", stated the email inviting us to go and try out 'Ramzan' on Mohammed Ali Road.  Well I am certainly not a vegetarian but I can definitely be weak of stomach so it was with some trepidation that last night, I decided to join a group of work colleagues intent on eating kebabs, sweets, dried fruit, mutton brain, and bone marrow soup (YUM).

Ramzan or Ramadan as it is more commonly known is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed the world over by  Muslims as a month of fasting. The month lasts 29–30 days based on the "visual sightings of the crescent moon". The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, which means scorching heat or dryness.

Fasting is endured from dawn until sunset and Muslims must refrain from consuming food and drinking liquids (even water!). According to Islam, there are rewards to be had from fasting anyway, but in this month they are believed to be multiplied.  And from what I could tell, this means everyone coming out at night to stuff themselves!

During the month of Ramzan, Mohammed Ali Road (a rather depressing stretch of road in South Mumbai but actually near Chor Bazaar where we buy antiques) becomes a floodlit kilometre long buffet where stalls and shops sell street food well into the early hours.  It is buzzing, extremely crowded (although not too bad at 9pm when we arrived), dirty and I would say, gastromically risky.  I certainly would not go there to try the foods unless you are with someone who seriously knows what they are doing (thankfully I was).  If you want to check it out and don't have a guide, I would recommend only frequenting the establishments on the map downloadable here:

And don't judge a book by its cover...some of these places may look like Hepatitis Central but I had one of the most delicious flatbreads I have ever tasted and some other 'interesting' dishes.  Here are the photos:

When we got out of our taxi we saw a commotion in a side street so went to investigate.  Turns out that an important Muslim religious leader was visiting this mosque and they are waiting for him to come out.  What you can just glimpse in between the crowd of men in the foreground, is a seriously flashy mercedes waiting to take him away!

Here he is...apparently the equivalent of the Pope but I am not sure.  He's the old fella with the beard and pointy hat just to the left of the pole.

A stall selling nuts and dried fruits.  You commonly see this - shop keepers sitting on the table from which they are selling their wares

Parting of the waves in this street brimming with people (interesting Muslim dress in the foreground) and mopeds. You have to hop out of the way of pesky motorbikes and mopeds the whole time on these streets

The first of our culinary adventures at Hotel India on Khara Tank Road.  A chicken roll, a stewed kidney curry, a roti and customary onion garnish.  I was very brave and tried the kidney dish and it was very tasty.  I was a bit scared as the plate looked a little dirty and probably had been washed in unfiltered water.  You've got to show willing though eh?  This whole lot came to about 140 rupees (£1.80)

A close up of the chicken roll.  Note the paper plate which has been recycled from cardboard packaging - I love the ways in which things get re-used in India.
En-route to the main course.  It is hard to describe the sights, sounds, smells (most of which are pretty bad!) and frenetic-ness

This is at Surti 12 Handi on Gujar Street.  My colleauge recommended that we try the mutton stew/soup from this place which is made from 12 other soups and takes all day to make.  This guy's feet are a bit too close to the action but still, he looks like he is cooking up a storm.

These are the breads being made next door to go with the soup.  The guy is sitting on the oven itself.  They are rolling out the breads into rounds and then sticking them on to the wall of the oven to cook.  It was hot in there!

Here is the mutton stew and the bread.  The mutton had unappetising looking bone marrow floating in it so I managed to skirt around the edges with the bread and just ate the gravy.  It did taste very good!  And the bread was amazing! Crispy and salty, it tasted a little like Jacobs Cream Crackers but better.  Highly recomended.  We sat outside on the street on a long table to eat this and paid about 140 rupees for three of us.. 

Hyderabadi Kichida from Chand Harissa by the YMCA basketball court.  This is rice, lentils and other ingredients that have been cooking all day long in the big pot below.  Topped with crispy friend onions.  To be honest, I didn't like this place, it was too close to a dirty gutter and I didn't think the utensils looked very sanitary.  I did have a few mouthfuls of this gruel like concoction and it was OK but not amazing.  110 rupees with a big bottle of water and a soda.

The big pot mentioned above - covered by the silver tray. Right opposite here is a kind of soup kitchen where seriously destitute people go to get food.  My colleaugue (who I thought was buying some more food) paid 100 rupees to buy 10 packets of food which were then handed out accordingly to a waiting line of women, men and children. I did not take a photo.

Approach to a sweet stall.

Close up of the above sweet stall where they are making some sort of deep fried egg dish - a sort of pancake...and a heart-attack on a plate.

Last stop.  We were going to carry on eating but we were too full by this point.  So one of the girls picked up a meshwi chicken kebab for her boyfriend (chicken breast marinated in yoghurt and mild spices).  It looked good despite appearances!

On the way home, I was advised to buy some pro-biotics as a precaution against stomach bugs.  I took two last night and two this morning and whether this helped or not I don't know - but I am pleased to report that so far I have not had any repercussions!

Postscript: Ramadan is expected to end on Sunday 19th August (2012) so Mumbai readers, you've only got just over a week or so to get in on the experience.


  1. Nice post. Even Bangalore has few streets which get alive during the Ramadan month. This is from bangalore

    1. Hey Priyanka thanks for looking! I love your post.....being a westerner, I lose all the food names and terminology, thus some important have great info on your entry!! All I can say is how great everything tastes ( or not!!)

  2. Very interesting report! I like to hear about the Muslims' way of living in India. And you told these moments very well. I don't know if I would have dared to taste all this food but one often says that people are more likely to get a stomachache in an apparently clean restaurant for tourists. I don't know if it's true...



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