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Kolkata is a melting pot of cultural diversity. It has embraced migrants from different parts of the world and made them its own. One such community is the Chinese community that first set foot in the city during the British rule. Since it was the capital of the country, many Chinese families got attracted to settle here. And that is how the Chinese settlement came to existence in the central part of Kolkata. In this blog we will take you on a journey to explore some of the popular street foods across the Chinese settlements including Tiretti Bazar and Tangra. To guide us about the locality, cultural scenes and the food, we were joined by our gracious and dynamic host Pamela Das.
We started the tour early in the morning from Teritti Bazar. The place is known for the daily morning street market where one can find numerous traditional Chinese breakfast items. These are mostly prepared and sold by the Chinese families living across the locality. On Sundays the crowd swells up with food enthusiasts thronging the place for pork baos, sui pao, sauces and condiments etc.
Our picks included pork bao, rice pudding, fried rice balls, sweet crispy rajma stuffed bun, pork pastry, meatball soup and prawn papad. Of these the best thing was the sweet rajma stuffed bun and the least pleasant one was the meatball soup as it was too bland.
After the heavy breakfast we moved to Tangra which is known as the new Chinatown. Apart from the numerous factories and units, this place had earned the reputation of being a hub for great traditional Chinese food. Most of the iconic eateries over here are family run. Though their ambience is unpretentious, their food is much coveted. Here we tried wonton noodles or the singhara chow as the Bengali’s call it at two different places. At the first place Ahyusen, we saw how the noodles were being using a tedious, ancient noodle making technique which was so fascinating. At the second place, Ah Yung, the wonton noodles were bit more flavourful and robust.
After that hearty wonton trail we arrived at our final destination Eau Chew which is deemed as the oldest family run eatery in the city. Here we tried two of their hot selling dishes named Chimney Soup and Josephine Noodles. The sensational names got us excited.
Chimney soup was a lightly seasoned broth containing eggs, chicken, prawn and vegetables. The unique thing about this dish is the brass vessel in which it was served. It has burning charcoal inside it. There was a chimney-like outlet through which the heat dissipated. Josephine noodles on the other hand was pan fried noodles that had miscellaneous ingredients. Both the dishes were super yummy. With that hearty meal and warm conversations with the owners at Eau Chew, we came to the end of this delightful tour.
The neighbourhood of Burrabazar is a prominent trading hub of Kolkata. We were there for a quick food walk during our Kolkata visit. On reaching here we were greeted by narrow lanes lined with old old, unkempt buildings and filled with a jostling crowd consisting of porters, traders, businessmen, shoppers etc. The place has countless wholesale shops, selling everything from textile to pharmaceuticals. Despite all this commotion, this famous shopping destination, has evolved into a popular street food destination as well. The food available in and around here is mostly native to the Sindhi and Marwari community that settled here in late nineteenth centuries after a section of them migrated to Kolkata. So come let’s see what all dishes did we try during this evening food tour across this stretch
We began with Kandoi Sweets, an old establishment that sells a wide array of authentic Gujarati snacks and sweets that is less available in other parts of the city. Here we tried the Gulaab Pak, a rose flavoured burfi and Urad dal ladoo, a wintertime special sweet whose base ingredient is Urad dal. The former one had a strong taste of rose that came from the rose petals used in the preparation of the burfi.
While moving to our next destination Jain Bros, we stopped by a roadside vendor to bite into some juicy pieces of Jicama which is known as Shank Aloo in Bengali. The fruit was very refreshing.
At Jain Bros we tried some green peas kachori with a thick and spicy potato curry. The sweetness of the peas infused a delightful flavour to the combo. The place is so popular that it is frequented by generations that too from different corners of the city.
After that quick grab we tasted some luscious carrot halwa from the adjacent shop named Panditji Halwa Wale. The unique thing about this halwa was the slight burnt flavour that came from the halwa that had stuck to the sides of the kadhai while being cooked. It is available only during the winters.
The next destination was another popular snacks shop named Ambika Bhujiyawala. They had a huge range of snacks and sweets. We decided to try their crisp and flaky onion kachori that had a spicy onion and besan (chickpea flour) filling. Along with three kinds of chutneys it was a treat.
After that spicy stuff it was time to try some sweet treats. Hence we stopped by Gopal Kulfiwala for some traditional kulfi. It is not the regular brick and mortar eatery but a makeshift stand on which Gopal bhai had set up all his containers and bottles. This kulfi was quite decent.
Continuing with the sweet trail, we reached Kaligodam, an old sweet shop famous for it’s boondis and ladoos. The sight of the freshly made golden orange boondis made us salivate. We grabbed a small helping of this traditional sweet and tried it with savoury sev. The boodis were yummy.
Next destination was Yadav Milk Supply shop that is known for their pure milk and malai based products. Our pick was a classic unsweetened malai roll that was definitely a treat for a dairy product enthusiasts like us.
The stroll down this lane led to Badri Kachori wala, a favourite joint for all kachori lovers over here. Their’s one was a spicy yet hearty combination of khasta kachori topped with besan potato curry and sev.
From there we went to try the Mihidana ladoos from Tiwari Sweets. The desi ghee ladoos were fresh, soft, greasy and luscious. Furthermore we couldn’t resist ourselves from trying a plateful of kulfi falooda. The drizzle of rose syrup on the top just elevated the lusciousness to the next level.
A few steps ahead we beheld a snacks seller who was doling out bhujiya mix to the shopkeepers and traders over there. We tried some of this mixture and realised how light and zesty it was. This inexpensive munchies was fun.
From there we headed on to check out the regular meal thali at a old Gujarati Basa. Basa is like a mess that serves no onion garlic, home style meals to many locals who don’t have the luxury to savour a home cooked meal. The food here was very basic but quite wholesome.
We wrapped up the tour with a glass of hot milk from Bansilaal Sharma. It’s consumed for health benefits. Since we had it quite late in the evening, the milk that we got to drink was the portion that had thoroughly reduced due to continuous boiling. As a result it had become dense and sweet.
Chitpur is one of the oldest localities of Kolkata. And nestled here, near the Nakhoda Masjid, is one of the famous food destinations in the city named Zakaria Street. During Ramzan this place is abuzz with various foods prepared for Iftar. On regular days too it’s a haven for biryanis, kebabs, haleem, halwa etc. We had visited this stretch during December last year along with our gracious host Pamela Das. Let’s take you on a walking tour of the place and acquaint you with some of the popular flavours.
Our first destination over here was the Bombay Hotel. As we reached this old eatery, we were welcomed by a crowd of happy customers and enticing aromas of different curries and breads. We tried their spicy yet wholesome Dal Gosht with Khamiri roti. It was quite rich, high on chilli, flavourful meal that was easy on the pocket.
The second stop was Dilli 6, an eatery specialising in delicacies from Old Delhi. The cook here was very well informed about the eating scene at Delhi. After a quick and hearty chat with him, we went on to try their famous Chicken Afghani. This creamy and buttery grilled chicken based dish was pure indulgence. It was smooth, comforting and had a clear note of sweetness.
From there we went to the third destination named Taskeen. It is an institution when it comes to fried chicken at this part of the city. Their Murg Changezi which is essentially a double fried chicken based appetizer was phenomenal. The genial owner informed us how it was different from the Changezi that we Delhiites are familiar with and also how the marinade for the dish is made using 51 different ingredients. It was a mind blowing revelation indeed. We finished it off with some Kesariya falooda which was rich and distinctly luscious.
Our fourth stop was a cart selling Anarsa or deep fried sweet rice flour dumpling. It is quite a popular snack with the daily workers from Bihar, who reside in this area. These super economical snacks gave then a quick respite from intermittent hunger pangs that they experience between meals.
Next we checked in to our fifth destination, Baba tea stall, for a quick tea break. It was super crowded and the smell of the boiling beverage was so reassuring. People were joyfully chatting over copious amount of tea that was being served in bhars or clay cups. The tea was quite good.
After that invigorating sip we headed on to try the fabled Suta kebab from Adams kebab. But in between we tried a small helping of freshly made kalakand and patti samosa from two different places that we visited impulsively. The Kalakand was quite delicious while the potato filled tiny samosas were average. On reaching Adams, we were deeply fascinated to oversee the preparation of the suta kebab. Putting the soft kebab mixture on the skewer with the help of a cotton thread or suta was such a skillful task. The grilled mutton kebabs had a granular appearance and texture while the taste was phenomenal.
The final destination of this gastronomic tour was the century old Haji Allauddin sweet shop. Their sweets, especially halwas, are well renowned. It was a joyful opportunity to listen to the young owner Hamd who zealously acquainted us with some of their hot selling fares. Their signature Batissa halwa just blew our mind with its unusually luscious taste and textures. We also finished off some mava ladoo, akhrot halwa and dahi balushahi. The mava ladoos are one of the oldest sweets of this shop and were delicious. We thoroughly enjoyed the non veg food walk across this bustling stretch.
In the wake of the current pandemic followed by the prolonged lockdown in the country, it is the country’s informal workforce that has been badly hit. The loss of livelihood and dwindling resources have left them in great distress. A notable chunk of this unfortunate category includes the street food vendors who are our prime stakeholders.
Apart from the suspension of work due to the deepening Covid-19 situation in India, the most worrying part of this crisis is that nobody can predict their comeback which seems to be long and arduous. We are deeply anxious as to what challenges will come their way once the grip of the pandemic loosens and things start getting back to normalcy. Also what kind of skill sets they would need to imbibe to win back the confidence of the consumers is what needs to be pondered about. These were the few questions that have been bothering us for a while and we are trying to get answers for it.
Having spoken to a couple of the vendors like the one who sells parathe and the daulat ki chaat wala with whom we have been working closely, we realized how grim and uncertain their situation is.
To get some clarity about this distressing situation and the way ahead, where a huge chunk of the street food vendors all across the country are staring at an abyss of loss of livelihoods. and the way ahead, we spoke spoke to Ms. Sangeeta Singh who is the Head of Programs at NASVI. It is an organization working for the protection of the livelihood rights of thousands of street vendors across the country. Their scope of work also covers the street food vendors.
Currently everyone is talking about the fate of the restaurant and hotel industries in the wake of the pandemic. But no voices have been heard about the plight and rehabilitation of the street food vendors. So what would be the status of the street food vendors once the crisis recedes.
Sangeeta agreed that in Delhi itself many issues pertaining to the street food vendors have come to the forefront which they are trying to find solutions to. She is of the opinion that it is impossible to talk about the food of a place without mentioning the street food vendors. When we talk about food, culture, and tourism we should understand and acknowledge the fact that it’s the street food vendors who represent our food cultures to the world. Moreover when you go to any corner of India and yearn for the real food over there then you often approach a street food vendor.
NASVI has been working with street vendors on different aspects. Since it is a livelihood advocacy organization, the major volume of their work is directed towards improving their livelihood. They train them on hygiene issues as the sale of hygienic food naturally boosts their income. Till now they have trained vendors from 19 to 20 states. She informed us that in their training itself the livelihood component is attached.
Due to the Covid crisis, we all are distressed but the section that is most affected is the informal workforce especially the own who are self employed there trouble is more and the plight of the food vendors is more than others and we are working on that.
Speaking about the measures that they have undertaken during this pandemic, Sangeeta told us about the letters they have written to the PMO and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs mentioning that they should rope in the food vendors to distribute food arranged by the government to the needy. They know their respective localities so well hence they could have used that channel but that did not happen.
As per an advisory general street vendors can resume work after sometime but not the street food vendors. They cited the issue of crowds.The government should think about what they will do for livelihood. They lack the capital to start something new and their savings would be exhausted soon. NASVI is working on ways to support them but they can’t fix things alone. They have distributed ration to 1500-1600 people from their own end but unless their livelihood is revived it really won’t make much difference to their ordeal.
Currently they are thinking about an app through which vendors can directly stay connected to the customers. The food vendors are on tenterhooks whether they can put up their stalls soon after this. Sangeeta said that the coming three months of transition is going to be a phase full of confusion both for the vendors and consumers. She and few leaders from her field have undergone training on Covid precautions. But what she really fears the most is that if e-commerce things pick up fast in the favour of the restaurants then the vendors might go into oblivion. Hence they are trying to find ways to implement home deliveries for the street food vendors and to train them. They would also be sensitizing the customers about their role and support. She further added that in the face of crisis we can’t dismiss them and leave them to their fate saying that we are afraid to have the food that they serve.
Sangeeta rued the fact that there aren’t any credible bodies like the one working for the restaurants named National Restaurant Association of India. Their organization works for all vendors but has a specific team who works for street food advocacy. Recently we stood for the vendors in Mumbai. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) partners with them to conduct training programs for vendors.
So what all steps need to be undertaken for their survival? What are the alternative livelihood options and what will happen to their skill sets? These are some burning questions bothering the fraternity.
Sangeeta opines that the global change is going to affect them badly and we have to again work on their revival. Vendors are realizing the importance of hygiene. Hence they will have to adopt measures to ensure that the food they serve has to be hygienic otherwise people are going to reject it. We citizens along with have to create a positive ecosystem and have to show generosity to save the spine of the food culture. We have to educate vendors and give them proper training. Their unit is small and hence it is not hard for them to emulate the healthy practices.
We customers have to order things maintaining a distance. As far as the payment mechanism is concerned, digital things have been there for the past 3-4 years and have to be made more vigorous. Sangeeta believes that till date it was luxury but now it won’t work like that. Even the vendors won’t be able to take currency notes as they are vulnerable as well. If consumers are at risk, then the vendors too are at risk. So many things need to change. Currently the vendors have to display the guidelines from NASVI on their cart. Now they will be given Covid specific pointers that will be added to the current training module.
The central part of Kolkata is a wide stretch that includes office areas, shopping destinations and educational hub. The office zone includes the stretch of BBD Bag. Lined with numerous government and private office buildings and shops, the area is also home to one of the most popular street food zones in the city. Hence it is thronged by a crowd that mostly composed of office goers and loyal food enthusiasts. So if you are on a food trail in the city of joy, then you shouldn’t miss out the delightful treats available here. Along with our gracious host Pamela Das, we strolled down these vibrant lanes exploring the wide range of street food and the heritage. After exploring the street food scenario across the commercial and administrative hub in Central Kolkata, we went across to the shopping hub in this zone to explore some of the popular eateries across JLNehru Road, Dharamtala and Camac street. These places attract a motley crowd from the city and beyond. Below is the list of eateries that we visited in this tour.
ARUN TEA STALL: Since there were a lot of iconic places to be explored in the area, we started our food tour quite early in the morning with a refreshing cup of tea along with some club kachori and sabzi. The saffron flavoured tea, a specialty of this place, was by far the best tea that we had in Kolkata. People who love spicy flavours would love the combination of club kachori and potato sabzi. It was great speaking to the genial Arun bhai about the origin and evolution of the place.
CHITTO BABUR DOKAN: From there we took a taxi ride to Dacres Lane, an iconic spot that is locally known as Office Para. Dated back to the time of the British Rule, it is one of the oldest surviving street food centers in the city. On reaching there we were greeted by a lane full of eateries some of which were quite old. We made our way through the staggering variety of food all over to reach the iconic Chitto Babur Dokan, a shop whose name is synonymous with the locality itself. The eatery focuses on light and hearty veg and non veg dishes that caters to the hunger of the office goers coming to this area. We tried their two bestselling offerings. First was light and hearty chicken stew and toasted bread and second was a humble khichuri platter. The mild flavours of the European stew and the Bengali khichuri have rendered them a hit with the customers who look for some light stuff for lunch.
KONA DUKAN: From there we walked towards BBD, Dalhousie and reached the busy area near the Calcutta Stock Exchange. This area is best known for great tea, sandwiches, toasts etc. No wonder during lunch break or any possible break, people come together to discuss the day with each other. There isn’t a more rewarding sight than watching people bond over food in a zone where it’s all about business and commerce. Here we tried a luscious malai toast from the ever busy Kona Dukan. Those who have tried the combination will know it’s enchanting taste. And the best part of the experience was we discovered that a little sprinkle of salt and pepper just elevated it to the next level.
BHOLA SANDWICH: Next we tried a comforting cheese corn toast from Bhola Sandwich. Fresh white bread slices joined by a creamy stuffing and then grilled to perfection made for a quick and happy snack.
KULFIWALA: The Kulfi Wala in front of the stock exchange sells a luscious range of natural fruit kulfis. Our pick was the orange kulfi that was quite refreshing. It comprised of a whole scooped out orange stuffed with real orange pulp and reduced milk mixture.
ANADI CABIN: Next destination was Anadi Cabin, a 02 year old eatery on JL Nehru road whose Mughlai Porota is a hot selling snack. The busy interior and the fascinating account of the owner was a clear testimony of its towering reputation when it comes to this particular snack. Mughlai Porota is a thick, crisp,flaky and truly hearty mince and veggie stuffed shallow fried parantha.
NIZAM’S: From there we crossed a sea of shops selling a wide range of things starting from electronics to clothes to reach New Market. Established in 1874 this place houses one of the oldest market buildings. Another very interesting thing here is the multitude of street vendors dotting this stretch. Our destination here was the iconic Nizam’s restaurant whose Kathi Rolls are nearly 118 years strong. You have to taste them once to realise it’s deliciousness that is the result of the combination of a well cooked paratha, yummy kebab, onions and lime juice.
TAJ MAHAL PAAN SHOP: After polishing off that legendary thing we grabbed a sweet paan from Tajmahal Paan shop to cleanse our palate and prepare our tummy for more treats.
NAHOUMS: Then we checked into Hoggs Market. Among the numerous shops selling clothes, toys etc stands tall one very famous cake shop named Nahoum’s. This 118 year old Jewish bakery is an emotion for many. Their cakes, tarts, brownies, cookies attract patrons from the city and beyond. We decided to try their Christmas time favourite plum cake. A bite of the fresh, warm, dense and dry fruit rich slice of this plum cake was so blissful.
VICTORIA VADA: From there we headed to Camac street to have crisp and light Moong Dal fritters from Victoria Vada. The owner told us about his 35 year old journey of selling these mouthwatering vadas. Since he started his business from Victoria Memorial, he retained this name after shifting to Camac Street so that people will identify him as their favourite one.
MASALA BREAD WALA: Next was the turn of an innovative masala bread that was a party of flavours and texture. White bread slices topped with sweet, savoury and tangy mixture of boiled potatoes and other fun stuff was phenomenal. And more so was the love with which the person arranged it for us was so heartening.
CHANA JOR GARAM SELLERS: The last thing we tried on this food tour was a traditional snack called Channa Jor Garam. It’s a dry mix of dried flattened channa, onions, spices etc. It is a light munchie thing that keeps you happy on the go. It was fun to interact with the two guys who were dressed up traditionally and were gleefully selling their fare in a traditional basket. We truly respect their enduring spirit for standing for such a long time with such a heavy basket isn’t an easy task.
During our third day in Kolkata, we were all ready to explore the popular street foods available across the lanes of South Kolkata that is an aggregation of a residential section, a famous shopping destination and a melting pot of cultures from across the country. Hence this food exploration is an eclectic combination of South Indian, Punjabi and Bengali bestsellers that the foodies-both locals and visitors, love to gorge on. To guide us with this trail we have with us our genial host for the day, Sachika Ghosh herself is a loyal visitor at many of these eateries. Having grown up eating in this area she is best aware of most of the go to dishes that are affordable and hugely popular with the crowd dotting this area.
Our food journey started from the busy Lake Market area of South Kolkata that has a substantial population from the Southern States of India. And so by default our first stop was Rao’s Udipi Home, one of the most famous South Indian restaurant in the locality that has been visited by our late President APJ Abdul Kalam. Something that started as a lodging place is now a hub for authentic Udipi cuisine that is delicious, homely and affordable. We were excited to try their most selling fare which included soft idlis, crisp deep fried vadas and an equally great Masala Dosa. Everything that we tried had a homely vibe.
After a brief stroll surveying the marketplace dominated by shops selling South Indian essentials, we took a taxi ride to reach Balwant Singh Eating House in Bhowanipore. A favourite joint for morning walkers, office goers, shoppers and general visitors, their chai is highly famed. We were here to try two of their iconic beverages-Doodh Cola and steamed tea. The first one is a refreshing concoction of milk and cola. It’s had a very unique zingy and refreshing taste. The second one was a smooth, invigorating cup of milky tea that had been prepared in a novel manner. It is one of the favourite tea destinations in the city that caters to an eclectic crowd comprising of morning walkers to students.
Soon it was lunch time and hunger was making us restless. Sachika suggested that we should try some favourite Punjabi fare for lunch whose taste have endeared the Bengalis too. So we headed to Jai Hind Dhaba and ordered two interesting dishes that were quite different from the Punjabi classics dominating the menu. First one was the Egg Tadka, a Punjabi variation of the Bengali Egg Torka. We loved it’s comforting notes that emanated from the whole moong dal, scrambled eggs and aromatic warming spices. The second dish was Chicken Bharta. It was creamy and flavourful. The fun part about these two dishes were the clear Bengali touch bought in by the use of some quintessential Bengali ingredients.
We then walked towards Gariahat and Deshapriya Park. The area being a famous shopping destination in the city, it attracts a lot of crowds. And where there are people there is food that is delicious, affordable and that provides a quick relief from the hunger pangs. Undoubtedly the place has a plethora of snacking options. And as usual we are in search of some of the most popular eateries over here that have been delighting the foodies for a long time. We are glad to have Sachika with us who would be walking us through the lanes and thoroughfares introducing us to eclectic street food fares in the locality.
Our first stop over here was Balaram Mullick which is one of the city’s most reputed sweet shops. The huge variety of sweets over here was a testimony to the Bengali’s never ending love for sweets. The mind blowing variety just blew our mind and taking the owners recommendations into account we settled for baked rasogolla, baked mihidana, patishapta, gurer kanchgolla, gurer rasogolla and monohara. The sweets available in Bengal during the winter months are deemed special and are much coveted. It’s because most of them are made with the winter special date palm jaggery that is prized for its uniquely pleasant taste and aroma. All the sweets mentioned above were made with this nolen gur and their taste was just phenomenal. After that sweet overdose it was time for some savoury snacks. For this we arrived at one of the two immensely popular snack shops named Maharaj and Maharani. Situated close to each other they had started out as one shop, but are now operating separately. Their menus were almost the same but according to the public each specialised in different dishes. Maharaj excelled in Hinger Kochuri and Aloor Tarkari while Maharani’s best selling dish was Shinghara.
Fish being a staple of the Bengali cuisine, it is also savoured in the form of this irresistible snack called the fish finger. Our destination for the same was Shankar’s fry. Their yummy Bhetki fritter with its crisp, grainy exterior and the soft fleshy interior was such a piece of sheer joy. The smell, the taste and the contended crowd testified why it is considered as the King of Fish Fry.
Finally it was time to end the food tour with another ubiquitous snack best loving treat called puchka. Sachika took us to her favourite vendor in this part of the city. It’s Bengali version of Pani Puri. The stuffing and the water is quite distinct from the North Indian counterpart. The puchkas were simply addictive while the churmur was such a fun treat. With this we wrapped up another gratifying eating spree in the city of joy. See you soon with many other surprises. Till then keep walking and keep exploring.
North Kolkata Food trail that started from Chittaranjan Mistanna Bhandar followed by College Street has now extended to the historic lanes of Hedua, Bidhan Sarani and Shyambazar. Apart from the exciting colonial history that these places bear in their bosom, they are also home to some of the iconic eateries whose glory continues to enthrall foodies from all walks of life. Most of the dishes available here are quintessential to this region. And a majority of them have been tickling our taste buds since aeons. Hence as we set to embark on the gastronomic journey, were super excited to partake not just its acclaimed taste but also the stories that they entail. And to guide us in this quest of ours we are being assisted by our gracious host Pamela Das a young food enthusiast who know these areas extensively.
While passing through the footpath of the busy thoroughfare of College Street, first we halted near a vendor selling another the favourite, quintessential Bengali snacks known as Jhal Muri. A potpourri of puffed rice, potatoes, spices etc. mustard oil this ubiquitous snacks from Bengal is a zesty, filling, economical and convenient option to the random hunger pangs. No wonder this simple eclectic dish embodies the spirit of the city that is humble, joyful, endearing and vibrant.
From there we took a tram ride to reach Bidhan Sarani. Kolkata is the only city in India that uses this mode of transportation and hence it is one of the quintessential features of the city. Our destination here was the famous sweet shop Ghosh and Co. Pamela recommended their chocolate sandesh that are deemed as the best in the city. We were pretty surprised by this innovative sweet whose optimally sweet, balanced chocolaty taste was pure delight. We also tried the seasonal jaggery sandesh that was made with the season’s special date palm jaggery called the Notun Gur. This one surprised us with a coconut filling inside.
Next place was again a sweet shop that is an institution when it comes to the traditional Bengali sweet called Sandesh. A visit to the land of sweets in incomplete without paying a visit to the legendary Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandi who have been selling just sandesh since 1844. A morsel of their coveted Jalbhara was enough to cement their indisputable reputation of being the best sandesh maker in the city. We also loved their Mohini Sandesh, coffee sandesh.
From there we went to try some chaat from 80 year old Hedua Chaat Corner. Their Singhara with lentil stuffing and tikkiya chaat were hearty and fun. Soon it was time to try another popular evening time Bengali snacks called chop or vegetable fritters at the celebrated Lakshmi Narayan Shaw and Sons shop.
The Aam Choop and Beguni were delicious. After such deep fried savoury treats we arrived at Allen’s Kitchen to relish their special prawn cutlet. This greasy prawn fritter made with humble ingredients was truly indulgent.
Our penultimate stop was this iconic eatery named Mitra Cafe. We loved their best selling dish fish fry and chicken cutlet. It was soon time to wrap up this gratifying food trail that was full of flavours and stories. Stay tuned for more.
The worldwide glory of Kolkata rests not just on its rich history and heritage, diverse cultural and deep intellectual canvas but also on its irresistible food scenario that is a convergence of subtle and robust flavours. So today we are exploring the go to food items that thrives in the historic, vibrant and nostalgic lanes of North Kolkata along with our gracious host Pamela Das.
Before heading to College street or Boi Para as it is locally known as, we had to commence our food tour in the city with the ubiquitous Bengali sweet Rosogolla that is one of the soul foods of this historical city. And for this Pamela took us to Chittaranjan Mistanna Bhandar who Rosogollas are deemed as the best in this part of the city. True to its reputation, each of the syrupy white balls transported us to a state where there was complete bliss. It was fascinating to learn about the evolution of sweets especially the Rosogolla from Pamella.
Every nook and corner of North Kolkata is replete with history, a significant chunk of which relates to the Colonial rule. We visited the Shobabazar Rajbari which is among one of the oldest royal houses of Kolkata aristocracy. This important heritage site is famous for its annual Durga Puja celebrations in the month of October-November.
From there we reached the 300 plus year old potter’s colony called Kumartuli, that is the largest workshop for clay idols, sculptures and earthenware. Watching the artisans in action was a fascinating sight to behold. From there we covered a distance of nearly 3 kms to reach our next destination, College street. It is a huge area lined with books shops. College street is the learning center as it also harbours some of the oldest schools, colleges and universities.
We started our food trail with Radhaballabhi, Cholar Dal, Aloo Dum and Misti Doi from Putiram, a century old iconic sweet shop in the area whose sweets and breakfast snack are a craze with students, professors, teachers and locals. The food was subtle yet delicious. And the ambience especially the stone tables and the wooden furniture spoke of its glorious heritage.
Then we headed to another heritage shop named Paramount that has been serving an eclectic range of refreshing flavoured drinks since 1918. We opted for tender coconut and tamarind sherbet. As the drinks were being prepared, Pamela informed us how the place used to be a center of nationalists activities during the freedom struggle. Both the drinks were totally contrasting in taste yet amazing.
Our next destination was Indian Coffee House. Situated in the academic hub of Kolkata, the College Street, it is a favourite destination for hangouts not only for the students of nearby schools and colleges (Presidency college, Vidyasagar College etc.) but also the office goers and intellectuals of Kolkata. And all this glory is due to the colonial nostalgia that it boasts of. We tried their black coffee called Infusion and learnt about its history from our host. The food here is decent the ambience is magnetic.
Our penultimate stop was Dilkhusa Cabin, a 102 year old eatery that mostly serves cutlets and croquettes among other popular Indian dishes. We tried there Bhetki Kabiraji that was super greasy but delectable. These cabins used to serve as private eating spaces for the womenfolks of the aristocrat families who came to try European snacks. And the word Kabiraji is a distortion of the word coverage that refers to the egg and flour coating over the fish fillet. The final stop in this leg of our trail was Favourite cabin. This humble eatery that now serves basic snacks like tea, toast, cakes etc to the masses who loves adda or group talks was once the favourite hangout zone for eminent freedom fighters, leaders, poets and intellectuals like Netaji, Kavi Nazrul etc.
Sunday mornings are for indulgence, for unwinding and for savouring. I decided to head to brunch with a friend to Café Amaretto in South Point Mall on Golf Course Road in Gurgaon to give in to my growling stomach. The name Amaretto is inspired by a liqueur by the same name hailing from Italy. It is an almond flavoured liqueur, which I am now tempted to try.
The café is warm and cosy, perfect for a winter morning, complete with fairy lights at the entrance and large paintings on the walls. The décor is simple, mostly hues of white and beige. We ordered a round of eggs benedict to begin with. The eggs were cooked perfectly, the ham poached, and the hollandaise sauce had a hint of tanginess to it. It was accompanied with fried potato sticks. I decided to try the Amaretto’s healthy concoction to go with it and give me a healthy kick to the meal. It was a delicious mixture of fresh fruits and veggies including apple, beetroot, carrot and celery. My friend opted for the safer, more traditional option; cappuccino served with a side of crumbly biscotti. The service was swift, and efficient.
We followed up the eggs with buttermilk pancakes alongside Nutella, whipped cream and honey. The pancakes were browned, fluffy and drizzled with almond bits, pomegranate arils and powdered sugar.
Amaretto’s winter collection of wholesome, hot and comforting dishes enticed us to push ourselves to try the gnocchi filled with mozzarella and basil tossed in a tomato confit broth. I can never resist a good gnocchi dish and this particular one was quite unexpectedly unusual and tasty. The tomato broth was flavourful, and the cheese and gnocchi bits balanced out the dish very well. It is a must have if you go in the winter. Overall, a lovely morning of having familiar comfort foods along with flavoursome and unique combinations.
Price for two: Rs. 2000
Location: Lower Ground Floor, South Point Mall, Golf Course Road, Gurgaon
With all its scenic beauty, Pokhara is one of the most enchanting valleys in Nepal. The green hills, lakes, forests, rivers, waterfalls, terraced fields etc are like a balm for the weary soul. Popularly known as “City of Tourism”, it city is quite free from any kind of pollution. Tourists flock here to enjoy its natural beauty and also to take part in adventure sports that this place is famous for too. So during our Nepal Food Tour, we were here to explore the culinary side of this postcard perfect place. And in this exploration we were joined by our host Kamal Bhatta who has explored this place well. Our gastronomic journey started with a pleasant stroll around the cobbled and beatified pathways around the Phewa lake. Here you will find quite a few hawkers selling fresh food items mostly breads , pastries etc in wicker baskets. We bought a cinnamon roll and croissant from an old lady and a young man respectively. They were quite decent in taste and fresh as well.
From there we went to visit the Gupteswar Mahadev Temple and Davi’s Fall. This famous cave has many shrines, the most important of which is the temple of Lord shiva. Within 2-3 km of Davi’s Fall there are many eateries, few of which are very popular. So we went to Mt. Kailash Tibetan Restaurant for some yummy and authentic Tibetan style momo and shabaley. Everything that we tried at this small eatery was quite impressive. Next we went to another Tibetan restaurant run by a Nepali lady who has lived in Punjab. There we ordered some Bhaklep(Tibetan bread), curry and Po Cha(salty butter tea). The naan like, griddle baked flat bread along with a simple curry made of potatoes, ridge gourd and chicken was quite a hearty combination.
We then went to the Lakeside part of Phewa lake that is known for swanky restaurants and hangout spots. The Duna Tapari restaurant here specializes in an awesome fish based menu. Fish lovers from far and near come here for traditional fish based delicacies made from the fresh catch sourced from the lake. We ordered Bitte tareko, Hans Choila, Paphar ko roti, polecko machha, machha jhol, machha surawa and few other things. Fresh ingredients and right use of condiments and masalas everything tasted brilliant. After some recreational activities nearby, as evening approached we got hungry and went to have the Traditional Thenkthuk from Sherpa Kitchen. This pretty restaurant is run by a Sherpa family. We saw how the simple yet comforting soup was prepared using common ingredients. But it was the seasoning of the very versatile local pepper called Timmur that enhanced its flavours.
Our last stop for the day was a popular restaurant named Fewa Thakali Bhanchha. As the name suggests it was all about Thakali cuisine. We ordered the Cheli set. The term refers to aunt so it is a platter dedicated to the lovely ladies in our life. There were nearly 12 things in the platter including starter, main course and beverage. The most impressive components of this set were steamed Jetha Budho rice, Mustang simi beans dal, Aloo tareko, Aloo dhameko, Fish fry, Mutton fry and chutneys. It was indeed a super gratifying meal. Everything was balanced and flavourful especially the Jetha Budo rice which is like the Basmati Rice of Nepal.
We are grateful to Kamal for this interesting food tour set amidst the natural grandeur of this place. Till next time keep walking and keep exploring. And for all the food related details check the video linked above.