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Cuttack- Land of Aloo Dum Dahi Bara

Cuttack – Land of Aloo Dum Dahi Bara

By Anubhav Sapra

Cuttack Street Food Tour YouTube Video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX53yAbir7c&t=43s

Cuttack – a city of 52 markets and 53 streets is one of the twin cities of Odisha (the other being Bhubaneshwar). Cuttack is also the second largest city in eastern Odisha. Recently, I went on a food exploration in eastern Odisha covering 4 cities – Cuttack, Bhubaneshwar, Berhampur and Puri.

trinath aloo dum
Trinath Aloo Dum Dahi Bara

Cuttack should be known as the land of aloo dum dahi bara. A plethora of  dahi bara stalls can be spotted everywhere. Dahi (yoghurt) and Bara (lentil dumplings) are served with a thick potato curry, a startlingly unique combination if we compare it to the northern style dahi bhallas. The baras are served soaked in a thin runny chaas (buttermilk) kind of dahi, tempered with spices. 4-6 pieces are put in a dona and topped with aloo dum. The exact preparation varies from stall to stall. The timings of the stall also change from one vendor to vendor.

The most popular dahi bara stall is Raghu’s Stall- a 45 years old shop in bidanasi. The baras are served with aloo dum, sprinkled with red chillies and salt. Even though slightly spicy for some, they also sell cuttack peda at the next counter in case the spices get you in a hustle. Raghu comes every day and sits at the corner to oversee the preparation. It is so popular that they are sold out within one hour from 5 pm to 6 pm.

Next, we went to Trinath Dai Bara shop. The baras here were topped with thick and super spicy aloo dum, ghugni, sew, onion, sweet and spicy chutney. It was delectable, with the pinch of spice. This was the only place in the whole of Odisha where I had hiccups after having his dona of dahi baras.

We also tried the dahi bara at Puniya, available only in the mornings– served Raghu style but comparatively less spicy, and Eshwar dahi bara at Biju Patnaik Chowk. My personal favourite was Eshwar dahi bara because of two reasons. First, Eshwar was the most humble person whom I met in Odisha. He started selling dahi bara at the age of 13 on a cycle and now owns a cart. Second, the dahi bara was spiced perfectly. He also adds a sweet bara with the salty one and tops it with aloo dum, ghugni, sew, onion, chutney. I loved the preparation and the love and warmth with which he serves his customers.

Dahi Lassi
Dahi Lassi

Dahi sharbat and rabdi sharbat are the two most popular beverages of Cuttack. The process of making them is quite simple, but the preparation is exquisite when finished.

At Sen and Sen shop (near chandi mandir), which is 50 years old- sugar syrup, yogurt, grated coconut and rabri are layered and the essence of pineapple and jamun is added as a finishing touch. They are not mixed together. Small pieces of ice can be tasted in between while you drink the sherbet.

At Dil Bahar sherbet shop in Baxi bazar, they blend the mixture with ice completely and top it with essence of pineapple, jamun and small pieces of cashew. I like the one at Dil Bahar because everything was blended together with the shaved ice.

The preparation style of chai and taste changes from one region in India to another. In Odisha, the chai is pre-made at most of the street side chai stalls. On one big giant pot, the tea is brought to a boil, with all the spices and some thick omfed milk. Then, in a smaller pot the chai is strained and served. The chai is thick and delicious. At Monu tea stall in baliyatra padia, the warm hearted owner adds ghee in the tea. Known as gua ghee tea, it tastes good.  The tea shop is very popular during baliyatra.

Chakuli Mousi – Annapurna Devi

Mausi chakuli shop in Nandi Shahi is a hot spot for breakfast in Cuttack. 76 years old, Annapurna Devi runs a morning breakfast dish- chakuli with red hot spicy chutney. She wakes up at 4:30 am,  does all the preparation and sets up her shop at the narrow entrance of her house. The steamed fresh chakulis are cooked in a traditional way with the batter spread over a piece of cloth on a boiling pot. The batter of the chakuli is made with rice and white lentils (biri). It’s a close cousin of dosa and idli. At Mausi chakuli shop, the chakulis are served with spicy red garlic chutney. This was one of my best experiences in Cuttack. It was again more of the warmth and affection of Annapurna Devi that made the dish and the whole experience special for me.

Naya Sadak is a hotspot for breakfast in Cuttack. The food carts sell chakuli with ghugni (chickpeas), coconut chutney and red chilly chutney. One can top it with pyaazi- onion fritters. The interesting part is that the plates have to be washed on your own.

For evening snacks, Kalia chops and babu bhai chops shop in Professor Pada are widely known. Kalia and Babu bhai, both are bothers and run the chop shops adjacent to each other. Both of them sell prawn, liver, mutton, and chicken chops. At babu bhai’s junction, the devilled egg was excellent. The boiled eggs were filled with minced meat, wrapped in mashed potatoes and covered with powdered biscuits. The chops are deep fried in oil and served crisp with chilly and tomoto chutney.

The last stop in Cuttack was biryani at Girija Hotel. The biryani is served with runny onion and tomato raita. Cuttack style biryani is a mix of Awadhi and hyderabadi style. It is light on the spices with a hint of kewra, layered, and cooked on dum.

The other landmarks on Cuttack-Bhubneshwar highway are Nana hotel, Phulnakhra and Pahala. Nana means elder brother in Odisha. Famous for their mutton curry with rice, the typical dhaba style set up is enticing at nana hotel. The food is served on an eco friendly dried leaf. A plate of mutton curry and rice costs INR 120. This was my next favourite meal in Odisha. I loved the spice level, soft and succulent pieces of mutton, and not so thick mutton gravy.

There are two variants or rice available here- Usna and Arwa. Based on the taste preference, one can opt for any of them.

We also tried mutton at Nanda hotel. Nanda Hotel’s mutton curry is full of fat and a layer of fatty oil can be seen floating on the top. Even though tasty, Nana Hotel wins this round for their delicious mutton!

Not far from cuttack is a landmark in Indian sweets history- Pahala, known for rosgullas. I am sure everyone in North India would have grown up eating thande thande rasgulle. But here the rasgullas were warm and fresh, straight coming out of the boiling chashni. I loved it to the core.

Pahala Rosgulla

The step by step preparation of rosgullas was interesting to observe. To prepare the dough, chhena (cottage cheese) is mixed with suji (semolina) in the ratio of 1 kg of chhena to 50 gms of suji. After the dough is kneaded, it is filled with khoya or dry nuts and boiled in sugar syrup on a wooden fire. The piping hot rosgulla has different colours based on the hours of boiling. The ones that are boiled for longer duration are brown in colour and the others are white. The rasgullas were super soft and not extravagantly sweet. The syrup was thin.

There is another variant of rasgulla in Odisha of Salepur. Half an hour journey from Cuttack is a town called Salepur famous for Bikalananda Kar’s rosgulla. Kar’s rasgulla were brown in colour, and sugar syrup was thick. I met the second generation owner, Mr Pramod kar who showed me the processing unit of the rosgulla. They are quite mechanised and use the standard assembly line of production. Electric boilers are used for making the rosgullas of different sizes. Based on the size, the price is fixed, ranging from Rs 5 to Rs 25. Rosgulla’s costing Rs 25 are quite big in size and have cashews in them. At the entrance itself, pots of rosgullas are lined up with each having a different size of the sweet delicacy.

A taste of this ‘hatke’ style of rosgulla was indeed the experience of a lifetime!

 

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Kerala Food Journey- Kozhikode/Calicut

Kozhikode/Calicut

By Anubhav Sapra

Marco Polo described Calicut as the greatest province in Malabar. Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama first landed on Indian shores in 1498, in Calicut, paving the way for the spice trade between Europe and Malabar. Calicut emerged as the Centre of spice trade, that brought the Arabs, the Portuguese, the English, the Dutch and the French closer to the Indian subcontinent.

Hence, not surprisingly, the food of Calicut is heavily influenced by the Arabs. The intermingling of Arabian food with the local spices and cooking techniques came to be known as Moplah cuisine. Moplahs are the Malayali speaking Muslim community in Malabar.

Hotel Paragon
Paragon fish mango curry

Calicut or Kozhikode is one of the most foodie friendly cities of Kerala. Interestingly, almost all of the food joints are right next to each other and can be easily covered in a day’s time. We stayed there for 24 hours and managed to taste the food at all the iconic places.

The journey started with Hotel Paragon beneath U.H. Flyover on Kannur road. The iconic restaurant is in existence since 1939 with branches in Calicut and Dubai. The restaurant is known for its yummilicious Dum Biryani, Fish Mango Curry and Vellappam. Fun fact, in Malabar region, the quality of rice is completely different compared to other parts on India. They use a special variety of rice called Jeeraksala rice- a small grained rice known for its delicious aroma and taste. The Biryani was lightly flavored, cooked using Jeerakshala. The accompaniments that are served with Biryani are Raita, coconut mint chutney and lemon pickle. There is no concept of salan in Kerala. To our surprise, the fish mango curry was creamish in texture and quite similar to a Delhi styled Butter Chicken gravy. The only addition was the raw mango slices. The smooth creamish fish curry complimented the Vellappam quite well.

Dancing tea/biryani tea
Dancing tea/Biryani chai

Most of the restaurants in Kerala serve tea with all the meals. The tea glasses and the style of making the beverage are uniform all across the state. At hotel Paragon, I tried the ‘dancing tea’ aka biryani tea. The tea was layered in style – tea, with milk and foam on the top. The layers were easily noticeable and the movement of different layers added a twisty surprise to the flavours of the beverage. When stirred with a spoon, it becomes a normal milk chai.

Milk Sharbath shop

Opposite to Hotel Paragon is Kerali Chips Corner, famous for fresh banana chips. The assembly line production and processing of banana chips are interesting to observe. The bananas are peeled – cut into pieces, washed, and fried in coconut oil. The fresh and crispy banana chips are a must-have snack at this place.

Next to Hotel Paragon is Bhaskarettante Kada or milk sharbath shop. This shop, although only half a decade old, is the most popular joint in Kerala. They have a pre mix of sugar syrup and essence of Nadan Nannari plant which is added to milk along with crushed ice. The same syrup is used for making other sharbaths. In lemon soda they also add a tablespoon of mint chutney in the sharbath.

with Mrs Ameera Shafi

As the day wore on, we were fortunate to get a home cooked meal at Mrs Ameera Shafi’s home. A housewife with great interest in cooking, she cooked for us to taste some of the most traditional and authentic dishes of Malabar. At her wonderful home, we got the chance to savour dry Mutta Mala, Pancharpatta, Chicken Stew, Ari Pathiri, Buff Fry and other dishes. But the highlight was Mutta Mala and Pancharpatta; a traditional dessert in Malabar not easily available in the shops and streets. It is said that this dish, entirely made up of eggs, was brought to Malabar by the Portugese. In Portuguese they call it Fios De Ovos. The Malayalee word ‘Mutta’ is used for eggs hence can be called ‘egg garlands’. The egg white and yolk are separated before cooking and boiled in sugar syrup. The other dish, Pancharapatta is different layers of eggs cooked in hot oil, on a slow fire, to be devoured with mashed bananas and powdered sugar. It is rightly said that there is no food close to home cooked food.

Hotel Sagar, Calicut
Hotel Sagar

The next morning we started our food exploration in Calicut with Hotel Sagar located at Mavoor road, near KSRTC bus stand. For brunch, we had Ghee rice with Meen curry. The Meen curry was sour and tangy, flavoured with tamarind. It complemented the ghee flavoured Jeerkasala rice perfectly.

Next we headed to Hotel Rehmath on A.G. Road. Established in 1961, the restaurant was started by Kunjahammad. It is said that Hotel Rehmath was famous for its beef biryani, popular in Calicut. We reached the hotel around 1:00 pm and within few seconds there was a long queue even before the hotel opened its doors for us hungry souls. The restaurant has mutton, chicken, fish and Kada (quail) Biryani. The biryani, prepared with raisins, was a bit greasy compared to other biryani joints we visited in Calicut.

Hotel Rehmath, Calicut
Hotel Rehmath

Located at a walking distance from Hotel Rehmath is SM Street known for Top Form Fish Biryani and numerous Calicut halwa shops. A food pilgrimage to Calicut is incomplete without getting the halwas packed for home. The different flavours of halwa range from a myriad of fruits to a variety of vegetables. Some of the common ones are coconut, banana, jaggery, mango, and tender coconut. The main ingredients of this delicacy are refined flour, sugar and coconut oil. We got our loot for home from Sankaran Bakery, recommended by a fellow foodie friend on Instagram.

Adam Chaikada
Adam Chaikada

Adam Chaikada or Adam’s teashop is a new entrant to the food scenario of Calicut. Hardly a year old, this restaurant has now become a popular eatery in the city. Modeled on a Portuguese heritage property, the place retains its old school architecture. It is no less that any upscale restaurant in any of the big cities in India. The walls are adorned with paintings of localites cooking Malabari delicacies, with a few cooking utensils in display. The menu has been curated keeping in mind the younger generation, adding the perfect twist to the Malabari dishes. They currently serve more than 100 varieties of fried chicken. We tried a small platter and were blown by the creativity of the chef. We also tried a mocktail made up of green mangoes and green chilies. The concoction may give you hiccups but it is really a refreshing drink.

Hotel Zains, Calicut
Hotel Zains

Across the main junction of Adam Chaikada is Zains Hotel known for Malabari snacks. The restaurant is located at Convent Cross Road behind the beach fire station and the bright red colour of the building makes it look like a cottage. The restaurant was started by a lovely lady Zainabi Noor, 30 years back. In Malayali, she beautifully narrated the story of how her restaurant started. She only speaks Malayali, hence one of the servers from UP helped us in the translation. Noor’s husband, from Afghan, was working in Gulf for 15 years. Both of them decided to open up a restaurant in Calicut so that they can stay together. Her exceptional culinary skills helped in curating the menu and training the staff members. The kitchen at the restaurant is clean and well maintained. The walls of the restaurant are decorated with press cuttings and pictures of Noor Mohamads’s sporting days, from when he played Football for Kerala. Some of the Malabari snacks which are difficult to find at other places are available here like, Mutta mala (described above), Unnakaya (mashed boil bananas stuffed with grated coconut, raisins, cardamom), different varieties of stuffed breads known as Pathiri, which could be beef, chicken or fish.

Hotel Bombay, Calicut
Hotel Bombay

The last stop in Calicut was another iconic restaurant established in 1949- Hotel Bombay located at Silk Street, started by Kunjahamad. This two floored restaurant still has an old world charm attached to it. A restaurant synonymous with Moplah biryani and Malabari snacks, people in Calicut still vow to their Biryani. The Biryani that is served with Date-chutney and Raita has a distinctive flavor in comparison to all the other places we tried. Tasting a bit artificial, this one didn’t please our palette as much as we would have hoped.

Some of the Malabar snacks on offer at Hotel Bombay are Kozhi Porichathu, Mutton Cutlet, Elanchi, Unnakaya and cakes. One of the most revered dishes here is the Ela ada. The main ingredients of Ela ada are rice powder, jaggery and coconut. With no usage of oil, the mixture is then wrapped in a banana leaf or plantain, and steamed. This is another place where one can try the Biryani tea. As it takes lot of time to make biryani tea, they only serve it before 3 pm and after 8 pm. Another kind of tea popular in Malabar region is Sulaimani chai- a black tea preparation with cardamom, ginger and lemon.

Of all the cities we have been to in Kerala, this was one city that had a long affair with its Biryani. All the restaurants have their specialty as Biryani – be it hotel Rehmath, Zains, Paragon, Bombay or Top form. In fact, it was more of a kind of Biryani trail for us; our favorite being the Hotel Paragon. The lightly flavoured, non greasy Biryani served with Raita and chutney was delectable. Calicut is, and should be rightly called as the food city of Malabar.

   

 

 

 

 

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Kerala Food Journey- Kannur and Thalassery

Journeying further into the God’s own country, we reached Kannur and Thalassery.

In Kannur, even though we could not visit a lot of different places, we had our hearts’ fill at Hotel Odhens on Odhens street, known for its fried sea food delicacies.

The peculiar restaurant opens only for lunch between 12 noon and 3 pm. The mad rush of people standing next to the tables speaks quite well of the popularity of the place. We ordered a fish curry meal that was served on a banana leaf, and tried fried squid, fried prawns and fried mussels known as kallumakkai or ‘fruit on the rock’ in Malabar. Kanji vellam or rice water is the drink served with meal.

The last city of our 9 day food sojourn in Kerala was the biryani capital of Malabar- Thalassery. Thalassery is synonymous with Biryani. The city is easily accessible by local buses and trains from Kannur and all the food joints can be covered in a few hours. The two iconic restaurants here are Paris Hotel- not to be confused with France and Rara Avis. Rara Avis is near the New bus stand, AVK Nair road and Paris Hotel is in an old heritage building at Logan’s road. Interestingly, the building used to be Kerala’s first printing press. Both of them are known for the Thalassery style Biryani. There are two styles of cooking biryani in India- Pakki and Kachi. The Kachi Biryani is of Hyderabad – they call it Kacche Ghosht ki Biryani where meat and rice are cooked together. In Pakki style, both the main ingredients are cooked separately, meat and rice are layered and put on dum. This can be called dum biryani as well. In Thalassery the Biryani is Pakki Dum style Biryani.

Coming to the quality of rice, most of the North Indian states use basmati for making biryani. However, in Thalassery they use Jeerakasala rice. The rice is small grained and full of aroma. The Biryani is devoid of colours. The accompaniments are onion Raita and pickles. There is no concept of salan in Malabar, as the biryani can be relished in its own flavours itself.

We tried the biryani at Rara Avis. It was simply delicious. The flavours of the rice were excellent. We also tried the rice pooris called Ney pathiri, served with a small portion of chicken curry..

Our last stop was the newly opened restaurant, Sea Park Views with Ari Orotti and chicken stew tingling our taste buds and leaving us with dreams of visiting again, and experiencing this, and much more, over and over again!

 

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Kerala Food Journey- Alleppey

 Kerala Food Journey- Alleppey

YouTube video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi1JEBSiFQ0&t=1s

 

The city of Allepey is known for its backwaters and houseboat tourism. We drove on a scooter from Cochin to Allepey, exploring the local cuisine along the way.

An eatery on Alleppey Thannermukkam road at Pathiramanal junction, Kaipuram, just a few kms away from the city was our first stop. The restaurant, called Vaidhyarude Kada is known for more than 40 odd varieties of fish. It has another outlet right across the road by the name Hotel Smitha, where the owner himself cooks and serves the food.

Vaidhyarude Kada is run by his wife. The eating area is in the huge verandah of their house, where fried fish, rice and other dishes are lined up on a table. Revered dishes here are the fish head, tllapia fish curry and fried fish dishes like lobsters and crab.

We reached Allepey and hired a houseboat for the on-boat food experience. The houseboats are well equipped with a kitchen, bed room, dining area, and everything you require for a comfortable ride. Most of the houseboats have two staff members- a captain who steers the wheel and an in-house cook who cooks dishes based on the preference of the guests. We hired the boat and headed straight for the fish market to get some tiger prawns and crab. The dish was cooked in less than an hour by the in-house cook. He marinated the fish in Keralan spices and fried the crab and prawns. The fried crab and prawns were truly delicious. This was indeed, the experience of a lifetime. 

 

 

Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.