Soaking in the Ramzan spirit at Coimbatore’s Kottaimedu

Home to one of the oldest mosques in the city, the place comes alive at dusk, as hundreds walk in to buy iftar delicacies such as mincemeat vadas and nungu milk

Home to one of the oldest mosques in the city, the place comes alive at dusk, when hundreds walk in to buy iftar delicacies such as minced meat vadas and nungu milk

It is almost 6 pm and there are still 40 minutes to go for iftar, the evening meal to break the fast during Ramzan. Ramees Raja is roasting kaima (minced meat) vadas at a fiery pace over a gigantic iron wok. He works at Kaima Kanji Shop on Eswaran Koil Street, Kottaimedu, and now it is his busiest hour. A glass counter has been set up outside for iftar snacks such as masala vadas, onion samosas, egg bondas and meatballs. A huge crowd has formed in the store.

This road leading to the mosque is home to over 50 cold drink outlets and shops and comes alive at dusk. Many of them have set up outside counters for easy access and have lowered prices for the holidays. Varna Café, for example, sells burgers filled with masala-infused boiled eggs for 10. “This is a hit with kids,” says 24-year-old Salman Tariq, who owns the property.

Rose, pista and badam milk, nannari sorbet and the seasonal specialty, nungu milk

rose, pista and badam milk, nanny sorbet, and the specialty of the season, nungu milk | Photo credit: PERIASAMY M

A few blocks away, K Ramila is frying chili-soy chunks in hot oil in her handcart. She has introduced the dish this season and is a little nervous about the reactions. “I sell onions bondasuundhu and chicken vadas year-round, but now is the peak of sales,” she says, scooping golden-brown chilli soy into a waiting steel colander.

As dusk approaches, there is hardly any room to walk along the narrow avenue. Attracted by the sweet smell of rose milk, we stop at the overflowing NS Cooldrinks. After waiting almost 10 minutes we walk away unsuccessfully in securing a drink: the shop is popular for rose, pista and badam milks, nanny sorbet, and the specialty of the season, nungu milk. Sultan Kebabs Corner, which is a few meters away, is relatively less crowded and we can try this creamy drink punctuated by small pieces of palm fruit.

Kebab on the grill at Kottaimedu

Kebab on the grill at Kottaimedu | Photo credit: PERIASAMY M

Thoufeek Raja, who hands out orders to customers outside of Kaima Kanji Shop, has no time for conversation. “People come from all over the city to buy snacks from us for iftar,” he says. The shop sells three pieces for ₹10 which is a steal considering how fresh and crunchy they are. Mohammed Gani lives near the train station and is here to buy kaima vadas for his family of four. “For 200,” he tells Thoufeek. “This one vadas are excellent,” he explains. “You can keep chewing on it.”

Last year, however, the mood was different due to the pandemic lockdowns. “We made everything at home for iftar,” says Habib Rahman, a customer. “But there’s something about coming here to buy snacks. It feels nice to walk with the festive crowd, stop by for a chat with familiar faces,” he laughs.

Kaima vadas, masala vadas, egg bondas and more sell like hot cakes in the evenings

kaima vadasmasala vadas, egg bondas and more sell like hot cakes in the evening | Photo credit: PERIASAMY M

It is almost 6:30 pm and we follow our noses to a wedding hall behind the Kottai Hidayathul Islam Safia Jamath mosque. PA Badarudeen, the vice president of the mosque’s jamath, waits at the entrance and invites people to enter for iftar, which the mosque offers for free. “Today there is uthappamsambar, green chutney and mango juice, apart from the nombu kanji,” he says.

We try the kanji: it’s mild and creamy, the rice and moong dal are cooked until you can’t tell them apart anymore; the spices are not overpowering and the dish warms our insides.

“It is packed with herbs that are good for the fasting tummy. This includes jeera, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and garlic,” explains Badarudeen, adding that during Ramzan they make 700 liters of kanji every day for 36 days. “People of all religions are welcome to walk in for the nombu kanji,” he adds.

Customers crowd the Kaima Kanji Shop

Customers are thronging the Kaima Kanji Shop | Photo credit: PERIASAMY M

The mosque’s iftar meals are prepared by M Fathima and team, who have been doing this for 20 years. “We start with the preparatory work at 7 o’clock,” said Fathima, 51,. To cook the kanji, the team uses giant copper cauldrons. “Each of these can hold 150 liters,” she explains.

Kottaimedu is a very different creature after 6:40 pm when the fast is broken. Eswaran Koil Street is almost empty. There is silence: it is time for prayer.


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