Celebrating with Food

Iftaar 2015 - Masjid e Eidgah Bilal

Wednesday, July 15, 2015Me! In words

5 years ago was the first time we were introduced to Iftaar on Mosque Road by a dear friend. So much did we love the whole bonhomie that went with it, that we visited the area close to 6 times in the first year. We did that diligently for the next 2 years. In 2013, we decided to give things on Mosque Road a miss - for a few reasons (none of them related to the great food) - the commercialization, the repetitive stalls, the insane jams - human and traffic, seemed too much for us. And so we headed to Tilaknagar and Shivajinagar instead - smaller in proportion but still retaining that feel of connecting with strangers over food. 

And then this year, we watched the majestic Masjid e Eidgah Bilal at the crossroads of JP Nagar and Bannerghatta Road slowly rise up. The mosque itself is a beauty from multiple angles and our cup of joy was overflowing when we saw the neatly sectioned tin sheet partitions coming up. There was now going to be a new place for Iftaar in town. We visited three times, once every week and brought in umpteen parcels of haleem, besides weekend treats of every hue, shape, size and aroma. Here is a look at what you can try on these last few days of the Holy month of Ramzan at Masjid e Eidgah Bilal or what is increasingly coming to be know simply as Bilal. 

The Mosque from across the Road

A little closer up. 

On the first week that we visited the place, it seemed relatively peaceful. But of course, since the masses had not yet discovered it. With each passing week, the crowds swelled in size, and with good reason. The food here is really great and all the gentlemen manning the stalls truly know to graciously sell their wares and ensure they have a happy customer. Besides the many food stalls that were popping, there was one that decided to multi-task - Madeena Dates and Kurta Pyjamas, offers you a place to stock up on dried fruits and buy a kurta or two if you so please!

One of the first stalls we started at was the G Sami, which we first found at Tilaknagar. We were told that this was the first time that the family was setting up stalls for Iftaar and they decided to do it with aplomb - at 7 places across Bangalore. All of the food is cooked by family members and is only finished off on the tawa at the stall, plated for immediate consumption or parceled for you to take home. While we waited for the Russian Cutlets that you see below, I couldn't resist a Kaadi Chicken. Three succulent pieces of chicken, light, egg batter coated and fried and skewered onto a stick. Piping hot, it tastes so good that the heat will not stop you from taking that next bite soon. 

The Russian Cutlet is something we wanted to have at Tilaknagar but unfortunately the stall ran out that day. We were lucky to head out to Bilal on the same evening and catch a fresh batch. Delicate chicken mince, mixed with soft mashed potato, egg coated, dipped in sev and fried - can you imagine a tastier combination, straight out of the kadai and onto your plate? This dish found its way home every time we visited Bilal. 

The Madeena Beef Kebab Center comes up soon enough. All things beef may be found here - from phal in red or green masalas, to kebabs to cutlets to more "contemporary" versions where it is stirred up as a Chilli Fry. Uniformly the meat was succulent, irrespective of the dish. We sampled the Beef Phal in red masala and a very interesting Beef lemon chilli - the only thing wrong they did with this last dish was to cook the beef with some lemon rind which still had some of the white pith - it turned the meat slightly bitter. The next time round though, it was exactly what it was supposed to be. 

The one thing about Iftaar stalls is that you have really dig through menus to find something that is not run of the mill. We found something like this at Royal Treat. While they had a host of kebabs, fries and the works that are typical of a full-fledged restaurant, what really stood out was Chocolate Chicken - Yes, you heard me right, Chocolate Chicken. Placed on display for all to see, this, we were told was quite simply a chicken lollipop with chocolate melted onto it. How did it taste you ask? Well, like biting into meat that has been dipped in chocolate. Acquired taste is definitely an under-statement and as far as I go, am still working on it. 

Next up was Marwa - taste of BBQ - A note clearly tells you that beef is not available here. But what you can dig into are a range of samosas - kheema, onion and chicken. Tandoori chicken in red, green and even a yogurt based yellow masala is fast selling here. They also have a chicken biryani, which friends tried and did not like much. I tend to find chicken biryani a blasphemous concept. The samosas are great if you have them fresh out of the kadai and so are the tandoori offerings. 

By this time, thirst was catching up to. Previous years at Iftaars has taught me to carry enough of drinking water and wet wipes, but invariably there is a need for something cold and refreshing. At this point, practically midway through the stalls is the strategically located A1 Kashmiri Juice Centre - steel tables are haphazardly lined with plastic glasses filled with falooda milk in pista, mango, vanilla and strawberry flavours. As quickly as the glasses are lined and filled up, than they are swooped up and demolished. I dare you to stop at one! Each of the glasses is topped chopped apples or pomegranate seeds adding to the crunch and melding playfully with the swollen sabja seeds. 

Here you see only the pista and strawberry flavours. Mango came in the second week that we visited

Be sure to try and catch this lone ranger - who doesn't really have a stall of his own, but is set up quite literally on no man's land between two stalls. He has the most creamy of hand churned Lassis that he pours out for you. It is heavy and takes a while to down, but is worth every thick drop. 

Hyderabad Tandoor House had pretty much all that you expect of a place with such a name. The place is quite literally sizzling with the number of meats that are simultaneously cooking. One really great thing to try here is the Al-Faham - which is basically a "butterflied" chicken marinated in the classic red or green masala and placed in a square metal griddle to finish off. 

The Al-Faham in the background. 

These are some of what you can expect to see at this stall as well. 

I may have missed it, but all these years at Iftaars, I did not spot a stall that dedicated itself entirely to fish - Well almost entirely! The Indian Seafoods Junction has every conceivable popular fish from pomfrets to sardines, seer and prawns deep fried, shallow fried, stir fried and more. And just to play it safe, this is one of I think just two stalls on the stretch that also sells teetar (quail).

The spread at Indian Seafoods Junction

And right next door is the by now famous granite slab, sizzling and cooking away (famous for pattar ka ghosht) except that it belongs to Camel Kebab Center. Cooking away on the slab are small dices of camel meat. Conversation with the red t-shirt man tossing the meat with a practiced hand while waiting for our parcel, enlightened us about the fact that a single camel yields around 400kgs of meat. While talking he picks up two pieces of meat and hands it to us, coaxing us enthusiastically to try out the hump of the camel. Overall the meat is chewy and must be had hot for it to be palatable. Its also quite possible that the meat is over done and hence the slight rubbery feel. But right of the pattar, it was a good pick. 

Pattar ka Oont (camel)

And finally, no Iftaar is complete without some Haleem. Dakhani Degh in Tilaknagar was the one and only place for haleem and its scored over all the Pista Houses and what have you, for me. But, sadly the place closed down two years ago. HMV Haleem, with its promise of "Pure Goat Haleem" is cooked on the wood fire you see here below. A long table is set up where you can get your haleem to go in two box sizes. In goes ladlefuls of the haleem, it is topped off with a heavy broth, caramelized onions are quickly placed on top and the box closed and packaged with some lemon slices. Not once have I been able to take a picture of the haleem - such is the dedication to eating it before all else.

The wood fire brick oven that the HMV Haleem is made in

Desserts are aplenty across the row of stalls and though I don't know the names of any stalls in particular, the colourful boxes are easy to spot. 

The multi-coloured China Grass desserts and the White Milk Sweet boxes 

Shahi Tukde and Matka Phirni. Do also keep an eye out for the Trifle pudding with layers of custard, fruit and dry fruits completing the fancy plastic glass props. 

Make sure to also get yourself some 'Karamel' or Pudding as it is also known. It is thick, creamy and quite sinfully delicious. You may think that you will stop in a few bites, but this is one of those deceptive desserts - before you know it you will be scraping an empty plate and looking up for more. 

And do look for this pudding as well, which is a bread based one if I am not wrong. It is also quite addictive. The stall also offers the whole pudding in pretty plastic containers that you can actually return for a refund of Rs 30! Now how's that for encouraging return customers!

I am so glad we took to discovering Bilal this year. Considering that is quite the resounding success I am sure the coming years will have lots more. A noteworthy fact is that every stall has a dustbin placed at an arm's distance and most stall owners encourage you to use it. A complete indulgence for two should not cross the Rs 600 mark.

Find your way to Masjid e Eidgah Bilal with this

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