June 19, 2016 by

Kolkata is slowly and very steadily emerging as a food lover’s paradise. It has a plethora of cuisines to offer, with new restaurants popping up in the city every other day. There are restaurants I’ve given a try, there are restaurants I’ve given a miss, and restaurants I’ve repeatedly gone back to every time I have had a craving for something delectable. This blog is for the third kind of restaurants, and some not-so-famous places, which hold a special corner in my heart and often, my entire stomach. Growing up in Kolkata, my first introduction to good food was through the lip-smacking dishes my grandmothers would prepare, a skill which my parents, aunts and uncles have all inherited. Being in a joint family, there was one thing my classmates had always been jealous of- the Sunday spread at my place. So I have to begin there. There may be many places, like 6 Ballygunge Place, and Saptapadi, which offer amazing Bengali fare. But at that fare, we could all eat lunch and dinner for a week (okay, I may be exaggerating a bit), and having a family full of food enthusiasts meant you never needed to look for restaurants serving Bengali cuisine. Some of the dishes that would forever be etched in my memory would be my thakuma’s ‘Shukto’, ‘Bhaapa Ilish’, ‘Mochar Ghonto’, ‘Kosha Mangsho’, ‘Chingri’r Malaai-Curry’, ‘Paayesh’. Why I mention these very difficult, jaw breaking names? Because justice will not be done to them if these were translated into English, which most people here would not understand, and a food crawl in Kolkata is incomplete without a visit to the house of a Bengali acquaintance and devouring these. Though, I must mention, Bengal is laced with the Ghoti-Bangal divide from the football maidan to the food plates, so you probably will not get Ilish Bhapa and Chingri’r Malai Curry in the same house. Surviving in Kolkata as a student is really easy too. No matter how broke you are, you’ll always have very delicious food to munch on. You’ll get phuchka, ghugni, churmur, jhaal-muri, shingara, kochuri, along with dosas, momos, dhoklas and pav bhaajis at every street corner. It’s a pocket friendly way to explore the entire of the country’s best street food. My most favourite street food would be phuchkas, at any street corner (not for the ones who are picky about hygiene) and Kolkata Kathi Rolls, especially the one available at Nizam’s. They might be available by that name across the country now, but they are all quite tasteless clones of these beauties. Kolkata is a meat lover’s paradise too. There are various steak joints and burger places which will leave you craving for more, like Chilli’s, Mocambo, Peter Cat, etc, besides the American food chains. But here, the potato emerges as the almighty. The proof of that is in the Kolkata style biriyani. The addition of aloo can really make all the difference, and it has triggered fights here, over which restaurant serves the best biriyani- Arsalan or Aminia, or if Lucknow or Hyderabad’s biriyani even comes close to the taste of our biriyani. Perhaps the best biriyani I have tasted is at a friend’s house, though Mumtaz mashi refuses to open a restaurant anytime soon. But biriyani doesn’t just start fights, it has started love stories too, one of them being my own. There are more biriyani lovers here than perhaps the entire nation put together. Speaking of influenced eating, the second most favourite cuisine adapted by Bengalis is Chinese. The Chinese here is far from authentic, for which you’d have to go to places like Mainland China or Chowman, and in its lesser known cousins through China Town near Tyangra, you’ll find Chinese (and Tibetan, Thai, and other Oriental cuisines which Bengalis tend to confuse often) best suited to the Bengali’s overly-sweetened taste buds. Mentioning sweet and Bengalis in the same sentence, it would be a cardinal sin if I didn’t mention that some of the best sweets in the world are available here. One of my friends, who recently came from Canada during her vacations, complained to me that their panna cota does not match up to our mishit doi. If you’re not diabetic yet, Kolkata’s roshogolla, various types of sandesh, mishit doi, mihidana, roshbhora, roshomolayi, malpoya, lyangcha, and I don’t know where to end this particular list, will definitely make you so. As if inventing the roshogolla (not rasgulla, please!) was not enough, we have also come up with baked roshogolla as a way to make the goodness better! There are lots of other things which you’d get in Bengal. It’s a culmination of cultures; of very sweet people, all living to eat. Come to Bengal, and we will show you how to eat “kobji dubiye” (dipped till the wrist).

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Preetam Dhar
Very nicely written. I can actually feel your emotions. Very good. :)
Mehuli Saha Ray
Thank you so much! It's very endearing to read such feedback. :)