Kolkata celebrates every festival and enjoys the food associated with every festival with great gusto. While Durga Puja is when every corner is bedecked in brilliant colours, lights and food, during Ramzan you will find the entire city heading towards Central and North Kolkata. It is here that you will find the most amazing flavours that not only celebrate the holy month of Ramzan but also the Mughal history of the city.
Here’s a list of must-visit places during Ramzan in Kolkata to make sure you get your fill of biryani, haleem, kebabs and Roohafza.
1. Arsalan, Park Circus
A name that cannot be skipped when talking of Ramzan food, Arsalan took the city by storm in 2002 and has been synonymous with Mughlai food ever since. The Park Circus branch was the first to open and remains a favourite of every food lover in the city.
Today Arsalan has branches across Kolkata. But no matter where you live if you want Biryani and Haleem for Ramzan, head straight to Park Circus. The queue is long and tiring but the wait is worth every bit of it. You can get the food packed. But we suggest that you hang around for a table because the bustling waiters are as much a part of the experience as the food.
2. Aminia, Chitpur Road
You can order the Awadhi-style biryani from the Aminia around the corner from your house. But the original taste still lies with their first outlet in Chitpur Road, near Zakaria Street opposite the Nakhoda Masjid. Established in 1929 to bring the original Awadhi flavours of Lucknow to the food connoisseurs of Kolkata, you will not find a single person in the city who doesn’t swear by their Arbi Haleem and Biryani.
Although potato was first introduced to the Biryani by Wajid Ali Shah to compensate for the lack of meat for his retinue, it was Aminia, who first made it public and made potato a household obsession in Bengal. So if you are in the mood for the original Calcutta (it just doesn’t sound the same with Kolkata) Biryani with aloo then there is no other place but Aminia.
3. Ramzan street food carnival near Nakhoda Masjid
A food lover’s journey during Ramzan is incomplete without visiting the area surrounding Nakhoda Masjid. Nakhoda Masjid, the largest mosque in the east of India that was built by the mariner Memon Jamaat, soon became the biggest centre for gatherings and celebrations during Ramzan and Eid. From ice-cold glasses of Roohafza to haleem and kebabs, the street food here will challenge your taste buds and make you rethink everything you know about Ramzan food.
It is also the best place to take home home-ground spices and home-made lachha (vermicelli). Although the shops are open throughout the day, the actual carnival comes to life around the afternoon and goes on till the early hours of the morning till Sehri (the last meal before fasting begins for the day). Don’t miss any alley or corner for you never know what waits to surprise you.
4. Royal Indian Hotel, Bara Bazar
Nothing divides (rather unites) the people of Kolkata like politics and football—everyone has an opinion to voice. But there may just be one more thing—biryani and whether it should have potato or not. If Aminia stands firmly on the side of potato, then Royal Indian Hotel will proudly turn its nose on your choice.
The oldest biryani restaurant in the city, it was started by Ahmed Hussain, a migrant from Lucknow, in 1905 and brought the original Awadhi Biryani recipe to the city that does not include potato. The year 1905 was a dark year for Bengal when Lord Curzon divided West Bengal and East Bengal. But it was Hussain’s Biryani that gave many a sad soul some solace.
The original hotel still stands at 147, Rabindra Sarani and is currently being managed by the fourth generation of the family. The menu today does include a Biryani variation with potato but be ready to be judged if that is what you order.
5. Haji Allaudin Sweet Shop, Chuna Gali
Chuna Gali is dotted with sweetshops. But none compare to Haji Allaudin and their khajla (a fried and hollow bread that is crumbled and eaten with hot milk like cereal for Sehri) and battisa (a halwa made from 32 ingredients that give it its name). They also serve a special Sehri meal that is a must-try if you’re in the area.
The aromatic smell of ghee is evident even as you turn the corner to enter the street. And for those who don’t have a sweet tooth, they offer chicken and mutton samosa, only during Iftar. Founded in 1915, this more than 100-year old shop continues to maintain its quality with an ever-increasing fan-following.
6. A local vendor right outside Haji Allaudin, Chuna Gali
Little is known about this man except he sells that best beef samosa in the city. Yes, you read that right. The vendor stands right outside Haji Allaudin Sweet Shop and has garnered his own set of loyal patrons over the years.
He is mostly seen here during Ramzan and no shop can match his taste. Even when the beef ban controversy was raging, his business saw little change as customers lined up for the piping hot samosas.
7. Maulana Shaukat Ali Road
Adjacent to Zakaria Steet, this is where you go for your fill of bread, biscuits and cookies. Whether you like them sweet or salted, shops here will satisfy all your cravings. And if you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the sheermal and bakarkhani.
Why can’t we name a shop? Because we just can’t! All the shops here are equally good and adept at their craft. Some have now started stocking packed products. But nothing beats the taste of their fresh home-made varieties.
8. Adam's Kebab, Chuna Gali
Just order sutli kebab. Period. These are literally, melt-in-your-mouth kebabs that can’t be found anywhere else in the city. The kebab gets its name from the cooking method where the beef is tied with strings (sutli) to the skewer before it is put on fire to cook.
The kebab mix is marinated with secret ingredients that rests only with the maker at Adam’s, Salauddin. And they make sure that you not only taste their food but also get their name right (Aa-dum and not A-dam).
9. UP-Bihar, New Market
Don’t be fooled by the name, UP-Bihar is the only place for delectable khiri kebabs and kathi rolls. At times overshadowed by its more popular neighbour, Nizam’s, U. P. Bihar has its own following who swear by the taste. Started in 1937, today the shop is run by the fourth generation of the founders.
10. New Aliah Hotel, Bow Barracks
Started in 1929 as a small tea and snack shop, New Aliah Hotel (yes, that is the actual name) is amongst the oldest restaurants in the city and is famous for its biryani. They pride themselves on their taste and rightly so. If you have ever had the pleasure of attending a Muslim wedding and loved the flavours served, then head to Aliah to relive the tastes. You can’t miss their stews and phirni.