The iftar market at Baily Road, though not as ancient as its counterpart at Chawk Bazaar, has been important in Dhaka's iftar scenario for quite a while. While Chawk specialises in traditional iftar items, Baily Road offers a tad more modern delicacies. It's common knowledge among the city dwellers that Baily Road and the Chawk are the most grandiose iftar bazaars in Dhaka. So we decided to pit the two against each other. However, it's for you to decide who comes out the winner.
Mutton leg roast: Just to remind you why you love the iftar offerings of Baily Road, Capital Confectionary – a Baily iftar market veteran – displays succulent mutton leg roasts with an appropriate proportion of gravy. One look at it and you salivate and are compelled to buy the Tk 350 apiece roast. And one quick, mouth-filling bite later, you know you've made the correct decision. The meat is cooked well. The only complaint is that the roast is not as fulfilling to a fasting stomach as that of Star Kabab; but then again, nothing beats SK!
Doi Bora: Baily iftar sellers somehow never realise that their doi boras are really not up to the mark, and this is not the first year of that disappointment. The doi is either too sour, or tastes like a badly prepared borhani, while the bora is nothing special. Yet, this is one of the most popular among Baily's consumers. But if you're ready to make a 5-minute rickshaw ride to White House Hotel near Rajarbagh, you'll be able to buy luscious doi bora that melts in your mouth. As for the ones available at Baily, I'd rather you not have it.
Faluda: Not as aesthetically pleasing as it used to be in the pre-mobile-court era, the lack of colors is made up for by the sweet delight of Baily Road's finest faluda. Fruits and milk for your health, noodle-like objects – the name and purpose of which I don't quite know, and a lot of sugar to energise you after the fast, Faluda from Baily is worth every last bit of the 300 taka for a litre. With crispy, fresh fruits and the sugary, dense milk, this is the sort of dessert that's worthy of a Master Chef title. If you're hesitant about all this sweetness' effect on your waist measurement, remember that your sweet-tooth deserves this faluda – any further argument is invalid!
Halim: Being a huge fan of halim – which, by the way, is one of Baily's specialties – I rushed to the crowded Baily Road on the very first day of Ramadan, as my father believes that the halim is fresh on the first day only. I dutifully bought a large size halim bowl for 300 bucks. And as soon as I put a spoonful in my mouth – disappointment! The 'fresh' halim was runny, lacked flavours in great amounts, and most importantly, lacked meat; the few pieces of bones scantily containing meat don't count. But that's just the beginning of your misfortune, as you are soon to get an upset stomach or worse. Baily's halim is a no-no to all concerned.
Chicken Lollipop: This is the latest craze among buyers at Baily. Available almost at every shop, the lollipops are fresh, well-prepared, and worth the buy for Tk 50 a pop. But Skylark's ones are still the best.
Grilled Chicken: While some may argue that we have grilled chicken all throughout the year and hence it's not a legit iftar item, Zarin's Fresh Food and Baily Bar B Q disagrees. That grilled quarter-chicken they sell is to die for! The plump pieces look very well marinated, and I kid you not, the meat is not inadequate, unlike the scanty ones we see all through the year at different road-side restaurants. Since they are kept warm and come with a delicious, saucy gravy, the flavours of the chicken pieces are well preserved, and they boom inside your mouth on the very first bite during iftar, like a plethora of beautiful fireworks. This dish is as gluttony-inducing as it gets.
Jilapi: The look of this monstrous jilapi will make you suspicious; big, fat hypnotic circles glued together to create jilapis the size of serving dishes. Each one of these can weigh up to a kilogram and cost around Tk 100. But take one bite of it, all your misgivings will crumble away. The size does not take away any of the crispiness, so lovers of thin jilapis will not be disappointed. Instead of the throat-burning sweetness that many badly made jilapis have, you will find a mild sugary taste that defines the jilapi batter.
Boro Baaper Pola-e Khay: Every ounce of curiosity you have about this funny sounding food will disappear at the sight of it. It looks like a yellow mass, with lots of unidentified particles poking out of a sea of lentil. On closer inspection, the unidentified particles will reveal themselves to be offal. Liver, brains, heart, cheeks, all cooked to a mushy consistency, leaving only the strong flavour of turmeric behind. It also needs lots of extra salt. Not as aristocratic as it sounds, really. At Tk 240/kg, the Boro Baaper Pola-e Khay is not a bargain.
Shutli Kebab: This famed Puran Dhaka dish looks more like a cake than a kebab, bound into rectangular chunks by threads. The meat is soft; they put mashed papaya in with the meat to make it tender. This can make the kebab taste weird if not done perfectly. Shutli kebab can be bland, so mix it well with the fried onions they serve to give it flavour. Though Chawk Bazaar chefs call it the original kebab, veteran foodies claim that the original recipe has been tampered with and the kebab has lost its charm. This also costs Tk 240/kg.
Roasted Quail: One has to stop at the sight of hundreds of roasted quails and pigeons, piled in a heap on top of each other. Each bite sized roast costs about 80 bucks, and tastes a bit like the chicken roasts served at weddings. After tasting all the food, it seems like Chawk Bazaar chefs have an issue with the turmeric and salt proportions. Everything is too yellow or lacking salt. Not recommended.
Halim: The great highlight of the Chawk Bazaar meal should certainly be the halim. Thick, filling and appropriately spiced, the halim is cooked to perfection. Instead of having to bite through chewy throwaway cuts of meat, you are presented with the best quality beef which almost melts into the halim. The meat is fine and tender, so never again do you have to worry about fibres stuck between teeth. The halim comes in three sizes, priced at Tk 150, 250 and 400. Servings are not stingy either.