Kebabs, soups, momos and more: Welcome to the bustling street food scene of Mohammadpur
Each street popular for its food has a story to tell. From the narrow lanes of Old Dhaka, the bustling Taltola or Banani 11, to Uttara — they all have their flavour for us to relish. Each experience is richer than the next one but hands down, it's time to re-discover Mohammadpur's street food this winter, for its warmth and vivacity.
It was a different world, Mohammadpur. Quaint little independent houses of the '60s surrounded by green trees and shrubberies that still hold ground amid urbanisation. Beautiful mosques and churches add a sense of calmness to the place while old-school buildings bring energy to the streets.
The roads are lined with giant trees shading the way. Big playgrounds are seen where you find children squealing as they race their bicycles or kick a winning goal in a football match. You see swanky teens taking a selfie posing with their cricket bats. Pet lovers walking their pets on the streets; Mohammadpur is somewhat picturesque if you compare it to the other residential areas of the city.
Although the traffic is insane in the lanes and by lanes — cars honking, rickshaw-bells clanking, and pedestrians walking haywire — roads like Salimullah, Taj Mahal, Town Hall are jam-packed after sunset, but there is a lip-smacking twist because every footpath in Mohammadpur unfolds an epicurean drama.
Whiffs of kebab on the grill, a strong smell of tea being brewed, momos being steamed; the air is a heady mix of spicy aromas, and the tailback is because everyone is either dining in or ordering a takeaway.
The street food is diverse here, it does not end with jhalmuri and fuchka only (even though the ordinary fuchka here comes with an array of flavoured tamarind sauces). Soups, kebabs, kulfi, dosa, chaats, and raj kachoris — the menu is varied. On weekdays or weekends, the streets of Salimullah, Tajmahal, and Town Hall are all abuzz. Egg paratha rolls, shahi Mughlai, haleems with an extra dash of garam masala, you name it, and you will find it there on the sidewalks.
You see women parking their scooties and chugging a hot cup of tea or a refreshing bowl of soup and chatting merrily about anything under the sky. Friends taking takeaways home to enjoy the food in front of the telly, young officegoers, older couples, and families all relish the street food Mohammadpur has to offer.
A bowl of steaming corn soup peppered with chunks of soft bone-in chicken pieces floating perfectly with vegetables like papaya, carrots, and beans; an unusual combination in corn soup, but one spoon and you are flying; add a dash of the served chilli-vinegar condiment and you are in heaven. This soup is that awesome and strangely, it is found in a street food in a tiny shop that sits on the crammed footpath of Salimullah Road in Mohammadpur.
Of course, you associate Mohammadpur with kebabs and chaaps, and needless to say, their succulent soft sheek of beef is the best Dhaka city has to offer. A bite into the soft puffed-up balls of hot luchi with their brain kebab or beef chaap is all you need to forget the woes of your tiring day.
Order a small terracotta cup of sweetened 'Khandani tea' (a special brew mixed with nuts and topped with powdered milk) and dip the luchi — what more do you need for dessert? A kulfi in chocolate-filled malai; the tiny icicles cools off your palate after all that food adventure. A tall glass of salted orange juice in ice is another option to cleanse your taste buds too.
The tea stalls offer all kinds of gourmet tea, from chocolate tandoori to pistachio, and the red-hot terracotta cups kept on fire tandoors lend that extra gusto to the roadside stalls. The cool paanwala with his multi-coloured condiments rustles up a fire paan that adds a shriek of excitement to the already buzzing streets.
The best part of the street food there is that you can enjoy your grub sitting on the walkway, under big shady trees, as the city zooms past you. The streets let you find a spot to sit or park and enjoy, unlike other places where you have to sit inside the restaurants. The al fresco style tin sheds and wooden benches add that raw excitement to your food adventure, and without a care in the world, you gulp your haleem or momo and stare at the next stall planning for the next feast.