Bengalis are a fun-loving people, politically aware, crazy about sports and obsessive about food. I would make a trip to Kolkata just for the food, but then I am horribly biased. People believe, that Delhi dishes up the best street food in India, but i beg to disagree. For me Kolkata street food, or any food for that matter, is supreme. So, let us jump right into our street food journey in Kolkata.
An all-time favourite, phuchkas are called pani poori, paani bathashe, gol gappa in other parts of the country. But nothing beats the phuchka in taste. Crisp pooris, with a spicy stuffing of potato and filled with a tangy tamarind mint flavoured sauce, the mouth can barely contain the phuchka, as the senses are assailed with a burst of flavours that have to be experienced to be believed. Eyes watering with the spiciness, the crowd around the phuchka wala, waits impatiently for the next ball to be rolled into their outstretched receptacle. Childhood memories, of desperate searches for stray coins, to stoke the passion for phuchka, are flooding back, as is the involuntary watering of the mouth. Almost every locality or para will have a phuchka wala with his trade mark clay pitcher and his moveable cane stand, in place, of an evening.
Another favourite is the ubiquitous jhaalmoori. The simple ingredients of puffed rice, finely chopped onions, chillies, some cubes of boiled potato, a garnishing of coriander leaves, some tart tamarind sauce and a sprinkling of some secret masala, will leave you flummoxed at the crazy burst of taste in the mouth. It’s a treat to watch your jhaalmoori wala, add all the ingredients into an ancient container and with a quick flourish, hand you a paper cone of jhaalmoori that you can’t stop eating.
Kolkata Rolls or Kathi Rolls.
The wonderful roll is said to have originated here in a shop called Zaika, in Park Street. And now it is known as the Kolkata Roll!
The roti or flat bread, filled with succulent pieces of chicken or mutton, interspersed with vinegary onions and chillies, coated with beaten egg before being rolled up for you to have on the go, is manna in your hand. This is a filling meal in itself. There are vegetarian versions of this with spiced vegetables, but who wants that? Shopping at New Market….try the rolls at Nizam’s or Badshah.
Kachuri with Aloo Dom
Well, that’s the way it is pronounced in Kolkata. The Kachuri is basically a poori, with a filling of mashed green peas. This is served to you hot with a spicy potato curry in a thickish gravy. A really hearty breakfast item, often made in Bengali households, on a lazy Sunday morning. Similar to this, is the Luchi, pooris made with refined flour, and the Radhabolobi – both served with Alloo Dom. If you are near Fairlie Place, that’s where you will get the best Luchi Aloo Dom. This is the Central Business District of Kolkata, filled with eateries selling everything from chaats to proper meals. In a mood for Rice and Fish Curry? Well you don’t have far to look. You can conclude your meal with a tasty sweet, for dessert. You’re sure to find the sweet of your choice here.
Kolkata has been home to Marwari business men and their offerings of Chilla, Dal Pakori and Dahi chaat is best at the Stock Exchange road. Vardaan Market at Camac Street also has some of the best Chilla and Dal Pakori.
The iconic Mitra Cafe, has the best to offer for all things non- vegetarian. The Moghlai parathas, the Mutton Kabiraji cutlet which is minced meat wrapped in an egg nest and deep fried, are hot favourites. Try their Fish Chops and Fish Fingers and the many varieties of Rolls.
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Is tea worth a mention alongside such stupendous food? Ceratainly, if you’re talking of the famous Balwant Singh Eating House. Here, awesome tea is served to you in earthen ware pots of differing sizes. Also, a unique drink called Doodh Cola, where milk and cola is combined to produce a lovely drink. Do try it.
Under this category you have deep fried snacks of every kind. From Beguni, or brinjal fry to Fish Chops, Egg Chops, Mutton Chops and Fish Fry.
The famous Kalika Mukhorochok Telebhaja, in College Street has to be mentioned. From 4 p.m when they open, to 8 p.m when they close, people jostle one another to place their order. Usually their stock is exhausted by 7.30 p.m.
I just adore the Bengali samosa, which is so different from its northern counterpart. Here the potatoes are cubed into tiny bits. Often peas, peanuts, and raisins are added. There is a happy balance between the spicy potato filling and the sweetness that is lent by the raisins and peanuts. Tiwari Brothers in Burrabuzaar has the most delicious, crisp samosas and can be washed down with a nice hot cup of “special chai “
Chinatown in Tengra and Tiretti Bazaar, are places to get authentic Chinese food. Their breakfast speciality of Rice Dumplings and Soup is extremely popular. But you need to get there by 5.30 a.m because the food gives out by 6.30 a.m or 7.00 a.m.
In conclusion, I would like to mention the sweets. One cannot talk about Kolkata, without a mention of the staggering variety of sweets. Who has not heard of Ganguram Grandsons or K.C. Das, Nakur Chandra Dey, Balaram Mullick and Radharam Mullick. They are the names to watch out for, if you’re planning to carry sweets back for family and friends. The inimitable Rossogolla, the Rasmallai, Payesh, the Channar Jilepi, the Gur Sandesh in winter, that just melts in the mouth, and of course the thick creamy Mishti Doi .
Click here to read about Bengali Cuisine in Detail!
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