Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 35, Tuesday, August 31, 2010




in pursuit of sehri

Would you be willing to take your family to Puran Dhaka for a meal? Not if your life depended on it, you might say. While the old town is the home of our culture's best-known cuisine, traversing the capital's traffic to get there is a nightmare few of us would be willing to face. But what if you could travel through empty streets, and reach your destination from Gulshan or Dhanmondi in a matter of ten to fifteen minutes?

That is the rare and rich opportunity this month of Ramadan provides. While the traffic in the normal business hours is crazier than usual, this month gives us cause to be awake at an hour when the streets are almost unrecognisably quieter, during Sehri.

Sehri has always been the ultimate family meal. Waking up just a couple of hours after falling asleep, being gathered around the table where other bleary-eyed members of your family slowly pick at their food. Now, because of the near impossibility of having a relaxed meal at a restaurant during conventional hours, people have taken up the option of eating out during sehri.

The dining spots may not be as high brow as some of the daytime options, but it is the company that matters, and having a good meal with your nearest and dearest in a relaxed atmosphere as well as the quality of food will probably make the experience as good as any, if not better.

As a lot of people know, Star Hotel and Restaurant's branch at Nababpur is a hotspot for the nocturnal feast. This restaurant is open till Sehri, and walking into it at three in the morning, you might be forgiven for glancing at your watch. The restaurant is chock full of customers, all busily chatting away over their food.

“Most of the diners are locals and regulars for sehri here,” said a waiter, screaming to be heard above the chatter of a hundred voices. “But we do get customers quite regularly from across town, from areas such as Gulshan and Dhanmondi.”

Two such parties could be spotted at the back of the restaurant; a large party of ten laughing away and enjoying themselves, and another of seven happily talking amongst themselves.

Asked how often they have sehri at Star, a young man from the first party announced slightly bashfully, “This is our seventh or eighth time this Ramadan,” while another member, probably his cousin, seemed to be egging him on to say the accurate number, possibly higher than seven or eight.

The atmosphere across both tables was of merriment, no doubt partly induced by the easy passage through the city that they could not have dreamt of in the daytime. “We often say let's go to Puran Dhaka, but are always discouraged because of the terrible traffic that makes commuting across the city impractical,” a lady of the party of seven said. “This is our first time this Ramadan, and we are all enjoying the experience.”

The menu for sehri at Star does not include their most famous item, kachchi. Instead, diners can choose between naan roti, paratas, a variety of mutton, chicken and fish (pabda, rupchanda, chingri) curries and masallam. From the satisfied expressions on the diners' faces, it could be told that the menu was more than enough to meet sehri requirements.

The hardcore Dhaka foodies must already be shaking their heads at this article. Puran Dhaka isn't all about Star Hotel and Restaurants. What about the authentic Puran Dhaka food, where you can get a flavour of the real nocturnal Dhaka, the true essence of Puran Dhaka's vibrancy, even at three in the morning? Yes, we are talking about Nazira Bazaar.

Formally known as Kazi Alauddin Road, this street is a treasure trove for the nighttime foodie. Entering the road, one can see bright lights in the distance, a line of shops with bright lights and crowds of customers and onlookers standing by. Other roads may be as empty as a haunted town, but Nazira Bazaar is, with the possible exception of Kawran Bazaar, the busiest place in Dhaka at that hour.

The variety and quality of food on offer is outstanding, to say the least. This street is open through the night all year round, but the scene during sehri time is truly worth the jaunt from anywhere in town.

“The food during Ramadan here is something truly special,” said a university student happily going to work on his ‘gorur kalo bhuna’ with a pair of crispy paratas. ‘Kalo bhuna’ is a Puran Dhaka delicacy that will just blow your mind. In a dilapidated shack of a restaurant called 'Tayyibat', this item sits proudly on the counter in a large thali. The uninitiated would probably think that it is a kind of halwa, because of the way it is caked together. A taste of kalo bhuna will probably entice you to come back the very next night.

Further down the road are some biriani houses; Mamun Biriani House, Makkah Biriani House, and right next to that, Madina Biriani House. At 3:30 in the morning all you will get of biriani is the chicken variety, but if you come an hour early, you can delight yourself with some great kachchi.

Besides this, all the hotels feature the staples of Bangladeshi cuisine. Walk around along with the hundred or so milling about, and ask at each shop for the menus. Besides the khashi and murgi curries, fish lovers will find a variety of curries, including telapiya, rupchanda, rui, etc. Indeed, this 50-metre stretch of alleyway at Nazira Bazaar is more than capable of providing the complete Bangladeshi dining experience, and then some.

There is also a dudh roti man selling glasses of milk and white bread at Tk20 each, for those wanting to cool their stomachs after a heavy meal. From the crowd around him it could be said that his is a very popular item. Also open on the street are a sweetmeat and the Beauty juice bar.

Besides Puran Dhaka, there are some places worth mentioning like the tehari of Nilkhet, Charulata restaurant at Kawran Bazaar, and Burger Point in Gulshan for fast food lovers. But for pure choice and taste, you cannot look beyond Puran Dhaka, especially since the main obstacle of Dhaka's suffocating traffic is removed. The streets practically beckon you. There are a few days of the holy month left yet; don't miss the opportunity to take your family out on a special excursion without nerves frayed by the insanity of Dhaka's traffic, for an experience that will sooth the heart and delight the tongue.

Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Cover Story

the genie's touch

Harem pants are back, and better than ever. And because Jasmine-inspired gypsy trousers have made a strong comeback to today's fashion scene, Lifestyle brought forward the idea of an Aladdin theme this Eid and designer Aneela Haque combined Chinese calligraphy and style elements with an Arabesque silhouette. End result? We bring to you an eclectic take on some of the hottest trends this season.

The trend that suddenly caught the global catwalks of Spring 2009 is finally making rounds on the Dhaka ramps, bringing a touch of variety in the silhouette almost saturated with leggings and churidars. Baggy, with dropped crotches, tapering off at the ankles, they may be of the Hammer pants style (made popular in the 1980's by MC Hammer), or the flowing gypsy trousers, but collectively, they are known as harem pants, recalling the fashions sported by Princess Jasmine, beloved of the legendary Aladdin.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from leggings, these pants find their Eastern cousins in the baggy pajamas that resurfaced in the limelight after Bollywood's "Bunty Aur Babli" hit the silver screens. The casual, retro-modern look is significantly less body conscious and can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion

Unleashing Aladdin
Baggy white pantaloons worn with a fatua and waistcoat and a broad cummerbund-style belt and nagra shoes instantly recreates that dashing Aladdin look. Aneela added a fun triangular messenger bag in turquoise to add visual interest. Another option for the dropped-crotch pants is the kurti with the asymmetrical Mandarin collar and sash.

This look should really turn heads in the wedding season. The baggy pants may be given an extra layer with a pleated cover-up in the front to recall the dhoti look. With so many fun options for this look, you can dress it up or down to suit the occasion, but do give it a whirl if you're feeling adventurous.

Jazz it up the Jasmine way
The Aladdin theme affords a wide range of styling options for those interested in channelling their inner Arabian Nights princess. A long, flowing kurti that opens up in front at the waist level can be teamed with harem pants, or capris, and killer heels with a dupatta thrown nonchalantly over the shoulder. Or you could go for the sleeveless short kameez and harem pants with a low-slung broad belt, and wear your scarf like a bandanna.

Aneela creates a wonderful layered look with an asymmetrical crop-top, a waist sash, harem pants, and a narrow dupatta. The beading on the crop-top draws the eye. For a look that's party perfect, you can pull on a long achkan-style surcoat with traditional jewellery. A gypsy skirt, a short fatua with a mandarin collar and a broad belt in a contrasting colour can also work together to create the perfect dreamy Princess Jasmine.

Bold shades of red, white and black, with turquoise accents, high collars and dropped crotch silhouettes, and fun, oriental accessories -- now that's a recipe for some serious genie magic!




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