Iftars from around the World: India

As Muslims around the world break their fast, the Iftar feast differs from country to country. Punjab Grill’s Executive Chef, Sandeep Ail told Al Arabiya English what the typical dishes are served in India.

“Depending on their hometown, the cuisine and dishes differ across India, but most homes always break their fast with dates and water, Ail says. This is followed by a large platter of cut seasonal fruits, fried vegetable pakodas and rose-flavored milk.

“The iftar menu is elaborate with fried or baked meat kebabs followed by dum biryani and a meat curry. For dessert, there will be Sheer Qorma, Malpua, Anday ka Halwa or Phirni.

“In India, Iftar is savored by citizens of all religions and ethnicity. Post prayers, for dinner in my hometown of Mumbai, Ramadan would mean walking with friends through “Khau-gallis” or food-lanes that pop up and crowd the already crowded streets of Mohammad Ali Road in South Bombay or LBS Road, Kurla or Carter Road, Bandra.

“The streets are lined with vendors selling popular dishes like nalli nihari, biryani, tandoori chicken, grilled quail, mutton boti, Haleem as well as *(Not Safe For Showing Vegetarian Wife) dishes like Tawa fried goat liver, kidney, goat brain, udders, etc. which are thronged by patrons calling out their orders to the busy vendors. Quickly made thin, handkerchief-like rumali rotis, fiery mint chutney and a salad of sliced onions with chaat masala are the only accompaniments provided.

“The streets are full of groups who insist on dragging you to a guy who does the best kebab or tawa fry and will happily debate you otherwise. No iftar would be complete without savoring giant Malpuas – deep-fried pancakes dunked in saffron sugar syrup and served with condensed sweetened milk or Seer Qorma – fried vermicelli and milk pudding. The hissing of the meat made from the barbeque, the crowd shouting out for their kebabs and the delectable sweets take you on a food journey that cannot be missed.”

“This is my go-to recipe for biryani and will easily serve 4 with leftovers. Although it may seem tedious, the biryani is perfect to be served to family and friends for the holy month of Ramadan. Isko banaye itminaan se…(prepare this with patience…)”

Hyderabadi Murgh Kachhi Biryani

1 kg chicken cut into large pieces
½ kg Basmati
2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 tbsp red chili powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt as per taste
1 cup coriander leaves chopped
1 cup mint leaves
6 – 8 green chillies, slit
15 – 20 saffron strands soaked in ¼ cup warm milk
2 tsp shah zeera
6 – 8 green cardamoms
6 – 7 cloves
4 nos 1-inch-long cinnamon
½ tsp black pepper corn
2 cups fried onions
2 cups thick curd (whey half strained)
3 tbsp ghee
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp lemon juice


Wash the chicken well and let the water drain out for about 10 – 15 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of lemon juice, the ginger garlic paste & salt to the chicken and allow it to rest for a further 10 minutes.

Add red chili powder, turmeric powder, garam masala powders and mix well. Add about ¾ quantities of the whole garam masala to the chicken and about ½ the quantities of the slit chili, chopped coriander & mint.

Crush & add the fried onions and the thick curd to the marinade, put in 2 tbsp of the oil and mix well.

Check the taste of salt and adjust accordingly as required. Rest the marinated chicken inside the refrigerator for 1½ hour.

After 1 hour of making the chicken marinade, wash the Basmati very well and soak it for about 25 minutes.

*Now take the chicken out of the fridge & let it stand at room temp.*

Take a large cooking pot, add about 4-5 liters of water & add salt as per taste (slightly saltier than comfortable because the excess salted water gets strained).

Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the balance reserved whole spices, the balance slit chilli. Strain and add the soaked rice to it and cook for about 6 – 7 minutes until it’s slightly more than half done (you’ll be able to see lines across the length of the rice grain). Add the balance lemon juice halfway through the cooking. Strain completely and set aside.

In a heavy bottom pan add the balance tbsp of oil and spread it all over the bottom. Add the chicken marinade into it and spread it evenly.

Sprinkle the half of remaining of the fried onion, and the chopped mint & coriander on top of the chicken. Now add the rice over it & spread evenly.

Season the rice by topping with the remaining coriander leaves, mint leaves and fried onions. Add saffron soaked milk & top with ghee.

Make a simple wheat dough and seal the lid. Now
put the pot onto the flame with a heavy weight on the lid. Dum the biryani on sim flame for about 45 minutes. *After the first 10 minutes, place a tawa under the pot.*

Allow the biryani to mature for about 30 minutes after stopping the flame. Unseal the lid, mix the top rice with the middle layer & set aside. Mix the chicken & the “masala” rice, portion & serve topped with a heap of the top rice. Crisp fried onions & shredded mint for garnish.

*Hyderabadi Dahi ki Chutney* – to go with that biryani!
1 ltr curd
¼ cup coriander leaves
¼ cup mint leaves
3-4 chilies (slightly pungent)
⅓ tsp chopped ginger
⅓ tsp coarsely cut garlic
2 tbsp oil.

• Strain the curd for about 15-20 minutes.
• In the meanwhile, heat oil & when hot saute the ginger & garlic & quickly add the coriander, mint & chilli. Sauté on high heat for about ½ a minute.
• Cool & blend with a few tbsp of curd & ½ tsp of salt & juice of 2 – 3 lime wedges.
• Once done mix with the rest of the strained curd and adjust seasoning.
• Can add a touch of toasted jeera powder & a pinch of chaat masala for added flavor.

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