A look at what the tea shops in the area have to offer for Ramzan

During the month of Ramadan, Mohammed Yusuf keeps his tea shop closed in the mornings. “People will be fasting, I don’t want to tempt them,” he smiles. Afreen Juice Shop, located at the entrance of Wallajah Big Mosque in Triplicane, bustles with activity as men walk in and out of the mosque on Wednesday evening. It’s near dusk that Yusuf does brisk business — for that’s when the roza is broken. For the occasion of Ramzan, Yusuf fills his glass case with various sweets and savouries and proudly displays it at his shop.

His specialties on offer are chicken puffs, padhir peni, padhir samosa, gajra, and kajur. While some of them are part of the regular fare, Yusuf says that he introduces new varieties for Ramzan. Sold at Rs. 10 apiece, they disappear as we speak. “It’s been 11 years since I set up shop here,” he says.

He has a kitchen nearby from where his chef Babu churns out the delicacies. Surrounded by ladles, bowls, tins of oil, and sacks of flour, the soft-spoken Babu kneads maida dough for a batch of chicken samosas, Afreen’s chief attraction for Ramzan. He spreads the dough thin with a rolling pin, sprinkles dry flour on one side, drizzles oil on the other and folds it in half. After a series of folding and spreading, he sets it aside to be stuffed with chicken masala in the centre, after he has achieved 18 paper-thin layers.

“The trick lies in blending the dough. It has to be like a piece of cloth when spread,” explains Babu. He learned the art from a hotel in Ambur many years ago. Maida is the basic ingredient for most of the sweets and savouries he makes. While the padhir peni is a sweet that consists of deep fried maida set in various layers, the kajur is a crunchy cake-like dish made of sugar and maida kneaded together.

As the evening nears, the shutters are opened at Afreen and the goodies are stacked inside the glass case. Amir Basha, the manager, explains that many mosques have eateries surrounding them that sell similar snacks.

A little distance from the shop, Afsar Jan sits on the pavement with her basket of ulundhu and parappu vadais. She too is targeting those who walk out of the mosque after breaking their fast. “Today is my first day,” says the 55-year-old. “I made 20 vadais and also some bajjis. I hope they get sold out.” Her face lights up when we buy a couple of paruppu vadais — they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Now, all we need is some nombu kanji to go with it.