Fakruddin serves various mouth-watering iftar dishes this Ramadan
Haleem, a signature iftar item
An array of sumptuous traditional iftar items at Chawkbazar
Dhaka : Ramadan is only a few days away. As elsewhere in the world, Muslims in Bangladesh will keep fast taking sehri before the Azan (call) for Fajr prayers in the morning and break their fast with iftar after the Azan for Maghrib prayers.
In the villages, it is more of a family affair. People have sehri at home, waking up with the call from "Kafela" - groups of yoteens with hurricane lanterns urging people to get up from sleep and have sehri before the Fazr Azan. They also break their fast at home or at the local mosque.
Among the emerging middle class, both sehri and iftar have become richer, item wise, than in villages.
The popular items usually taken during iftar are : dates, beguni (fried eggplant fritters), piaju (onion lentil fritter), alur chop (potato chop), kabab, mutton and chicken cutlet, kima roll, kima parata, lassi, matha and different sweet items.
Now-a-days both sehri and iftar have assumed the proportion of festivity. Multinationals make it a must to arrange iftar parties at star hotels and posh restaurants in the capital city.
Corporate parties are elaborate affairs. After breaking fast listening to Maghrib Azan on television screens, they would share food items originating from different Muslim countries. Often it is followed by dinner.
Corporate sehris are also in fashion. The corporate houses hold the sehri gatherings at star hotels and posh restaurants, which announce their items of offers with much fanfare.
This corporate sehri and iftar culture has spread to Chattogram and other metropolitan cities also.
But Puran Dhaka (old Dhaka) remains the same over the centuries. Mention iftar and the name of Chawkbazar comes to one's mind. It is the place where devotees fasting during the holy month of Ramadan will head to before Maghrib prayers, to purchase the most delicious traditional iftar items, which culinary experts say have their origins in the Mughal days.
Chawkbazar in Puran Dhaka becomes a sea of people during the time people break their daylong fast. It is also for the fact that Boro Baper Polay Khay, nehari, shahi jilapi, shahi paratha, Hilsha eggs, lassi, borhani, matha became famous here.
Boro Baper Polay Khay is a delicious item made with chickpeas (chola), minced meat, potatoes, brains, chira, egg, chicken, spices and ghee. Many claim to have 'invented' the item first, but it is hard to tell. It seems most of the skills have been handed down from fathers to sons since the Mughal period.
Other delectable items include different preparations of beef, chicken, mutton as well as pigeon and quail roasts; varied types of kebabs, including shami kebabs, sutli kebabs, jaali kebabs, Irani kebabs and tikka, keema roll; keema paratha; borhani; doi bora - they all have it here, besides the usual puffed rice, cooked chola, piaju or beguni.
Some 250 makeshift shops sell these mouth-watering items. These items have spread to the new part of the city. Most of the middle and lower-category restaurants set up stalls putting tables on the pavement in front and sell the usual iftar delicacies.