Tasting the famous jilapis of New Purnima Snacks Bar
Pushing through Dhaka’s traffic, you arrive at the congested street that is Bangabandhu Avenue. With the AL headquarters located there, speeches blared through microphones punctuate the regular noises of the busy street. Where the microphone sounds are the loudest, stands the not-so-new New Purnima Snacks Bar.
Operating for five decades now, the New Purnima Snacks Bar has earned a legendary status among foodies. Its jilapis in particular attract eager buyers from all around the city. The loyal customer base spans across generations.
The shop itself is nowhere as big as its reputation. The tiny space can barely accommodate its 7-8 staff and employees; there is no sitting space for diners. As you enter from one side, you’ll see fat jilapis frying in one pan, the fried ones soaking in sugar syrup on the other, and another pan displaying the finished products.
These crunchy, sugary delights might be snapped up in minutes, but for Md Syed, jilapi artisan, they have been a career that spanned over three decades. He started work at Purnima back in 1984. He talks as he flips the ornate confections, never missing a beat. “Our jilapis are made with ghee, soyabean oil, dalda, and nothing less than the best flour, chickpea flour, etc. Also, there is no adulteration, it’s pure,” he states confidently. “We also sell products made on a day on that day only. These factors contribute to the delicious taste of our jilapis” he adds.
While the jilapis take centre stage, other snacks are also selling fast in the store. The humble place has boasted among its patrons, famous personalities, friends, young lovers, colleagues, and so many more, across generations. According to Sheikh Mohiuddin, son of the owner Sheikh Aminuddin, some of the biggest names in the political arena of Bangladesh have tasted their food.
Even our photographer, Mehedi Bhai, recalls how he often comes here for lunch, having their famous soft bread loaf with the juicy jilapis.
Md. Halim Reza, who has been working here since 1981, reflects on a bit of its history. The shop started operations back in 1962 as a saree shop. In 1968, it changed operations to become a food shop. At present, Purnima Snacks Bar is being run by the third generation of the founding family. According to Reza, besides the jilapis, the shop is also widely known for their kolijar shingara, dim chop, and fried chicken. These four are the highest sellers.
With iftar was still around half an hour away, the waiting line in front of the jilapis continued to grow. Even seasoned hands had to work feverishly to keep producing the crunchy delights, which were being snapped up as soon as they were made, and everyone received fresh, piping hot jilapis.
51 year-old Helaluddin Helal has been a regular customer at Purnima since he was a student in class 6 or 7. He says he regularly buys Purnima’s jilapis because they taste different. A similar opinion is voiced by Mehedi Hasan Mridul, an undergraduate freshman. He used to visit Purnima as a child with his father, and now has come himself to buy what some say are the best jilapis in town.
Across from the store, Md. Siddique, who has been running his cloth shop for around sixteen years in the area, has been a witness to its immense popularity. He vouches for visits by famous personalities including movie stars and political personalities.
The fat jilapis cost Tk140 per kg, while the thin reshmi jilapis cost Tk300 per kg. I had their dim chop and beguni for iftar, and of course a jilapi, and indeed it lived up to the hype. It’s almost guaranteed that I’ll go back again, and again, especially for the jilapis. And if you ask me, so should you.