Any Delhi-ite who knows and loves his food, knows where and what Jama Masjid is all about. And since I moved from Delhi to Ahmedabad, I had been missing the regular food walks we used to do every now and then to Jama Masjid. I’ve had the best of kababs and niharis and haleems and payas and brain curries and biryanis and the varieties of chicken here, and I haven’t found a match anywhere else.
I was in Surat on an official visit, and I happened to speak to fellow foodie Jenifer Petigra Mistry, who hails from the city. Though I visit Surat almost every month, I haven’t been able to find a lot of good food in this city, except for 2-3 odd restaurants. Jenifer mentioned Zampa Bazaar, which is predominantly a Muslim area, and talked about the food available there. And who makes better mutton and beef than them? Googling about the area didn’t get me much information, except for the location; I decided to find out about it myself.
Zampa bazaar is like any other small-town marketplace, bustling with people, vehicles and cattle. I did not know the exact location to where the eateries were, so I asked my auto-wallah to guide me. And he took me straight to the centre of the bazaar, where a plethora of roadside eateries were lined up, selling almost all imaginable varieties of grilled and curried chicken. The place where the auto left me is called Salia Market, and in the middle of it is the spot where all these shops are located. Next to this place is a lane called Bhatiyarvad Gali, where the supposedly authentic kababs and curries of Muslim cuisine are available. I saw three stalls in a line selling buff tikkas, seekh kababs and various other parts of the buff, most of them grilled. I selected Gullubhai, the one with most customers, and did not regret the choice.
Gullubhai has a stall on the street, with sitting area right behind, in a narrow shop. I had Chaamp Keema (Rs 35), Haleem (Rs 10 per cup), Seekh Kabab (Rs 10 each), Seekh Liver (Rs 10 each), Buff Meat Seekh (Rs 10 each). And these are 2014 prices! The Chaamp Keema came stuffed in a bun, and was the best dish out of the list. Beautifully cooked meat with smoky flavours, it was to die for. So were the liver on seekh and the buff meat. The haleem could have been a bit spicier, but that’s me. I chatted up with two guys sitting on a table across mine, and they told me about Junaid Bhai Barah Handi Wala, which was located right across Gullubhai. Even Gullubhai recommended that for Nihari so I paid the bill and walked over.
This was a dhaba-like place with some 10-12 embedded “handis” containing different cuts of buff in curries. This place isn’t for you if you’re hygiene-conscious. The sight wasn’t visually appealing, with the curries spilled all over the place and no attempt being made to clean up the mess. Junaid Bhai stood by his “handis”, and upon counting, I found them to be 9 in total, with 3 “pateelas” lying on top, making them 12. Junaid bhai recited the list of what was in the handis, and I selected the Nihari (Rs 60), NalliShorba (Rs 50), Buff Curry (Rs 50), Paya (Rs 50), Barah Handi (Rs 50) and Roti (Rs 5 each). Apart from these, there was buff’s tongue, liver, kidneys and the head, all curried. The standout dish was Nihari, with the meatiest gravy I’ve tasted since Jama Masjid. Junaidbhai revealed that nihari is cooked for more than 12 hours, beginning in the early morning and goes on till it is sold in the evenings. Accompanied by the roti, it was something I’ll go again and again for.
Satiated, I walked out of the lane, but could not resist the sights of the chicken stalls. So I stopped at Famous Chicken, run by Abdul bhai, and had one piece of the meat for tasting (one leg piece- Rs 60). There was ample amount of colouring used to make the chicken look red, but it tasted great, with the nice smoky flavour of the coal. I got some grilled chicken packed to take to the hotel for snacking at night.
This was one of the good things that happened to me after moving to Gujarat. Though the hygiene levels are questionable, but once you ignore that there is a treat in store for you. After I left, I was told by the locals that there were a few other places to explore around Salia Market for more of such delicacies. It is on my list for the next time!