“There is no love greater than the Love of Eating”: Revisiting good old Mocambo

P and I decided to stop over for lunch at the good old “Mocambo” after the first phase of the sight-seeing we had arranged for P’s relatives. After visiting Victoria Memorial, St.Paul’s Cathedral we headed straight to Park Street.  Park Street houses some of the good old restaurants and continues to add glamour to the city of Joy’s night life. Despite the malls that dot the city’s landscape, Park Street continues to attract the city’s food lovers and no travel to Kolkata is complete without a stopover at Park Street.

This place has never disappointed my taste buds and it has an old world charm of its own. Though its decors are criticised for being too bright, I really love the red sofas and chairs.  Since we were a group of five, we were given the corner table. Even in weekdays the restaurant was brimming with foodies. P and I share a love for food so A kept on teasing us with why we keep coming back to Mocambo as it helps us reaffirm our principle-  “There is no love greater than the Love of Eating”. We started our meal with soup. We ordered Cream of Tomato Soup, Cream of Asparagus and Cream of Crab Meat. While Cream of Crab Meat tasted good, the cream of asparagus was full of cornstarch. Infact the base of the soup of Crab Meat and Asparagus tasted the same. After a bumpy start we headed for your main course.

We ordered the following:-

  1. Cheese and Spinach Pillows
  2. Vegetable Surprise ( Rice and some vegetables)
  3. Chicken Ala Kiev
  4. Fish Steak
  5. Cold Everest
  6. Mango King

Please skip the soups. While they are served in brass bowls, they taste like soups made out of ready-made soup packets. Soups were a huge disappointment!

Chicken Ala Kiev is not a dish for the faint hearted calorie watchers. If you are brave enough to enjoy the butter flow like a gush of stream from the deeply fried chicken breast, you will enjoy this dish. Though I have an emotional bonding with Oly Pub’s Chicken Ala Kiev as well, Mocambo’s Chicken Ala Kiev has never disappointed me.

Chicken Ala Kiev

Chicken Ala Kiev

Sinful butter

Sinful butter

Fish Steak continues to be another favourite.

fish steak

And both the desserts were the perfect end to a happy meal.

Cold Everest

Mango King

Mango King

After the lunch we were ready to explore the story telling museum of Kolkata’s rich history housed in Town Hall. This Museum is treat for all those who want to soak in the socio-cultural history of Kolkata. Though the voiceover is available in Bengali, the guided tours are available in Hindi and English.  The Museum opens at 10am and closes by 6pm. Ticket counter closes by 5pm.

Town Hall, Kolkata

Town Hall, Kolkata

If you want to share your gastronomic experience in city of Joy do drop in a line… till then happy cooking, happy exploring and happy eating…

©itiriti

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Beyond Rice, Dal and Phish : Padmaparer Rannaghar

I have been on an eating spree ever since I stepped my foot in Kolkata. Simulataneously I have been struggling with a section of a long overdue chapter which was supposed to be in my supervisor’s mail box quite a while ago. Instead, I have been drowning my sorrow of  loss of words, sentences in tasting and feasting.

My partner in crime DP lured me to try this place tucked away in the bustling streets of Gariahat. Anybody who is familiar with Kolkata neighbourhoods and is well versed with haggling has interned in Gariahat. Though Gariahat streets wear a comparatively deserted look before the (in)famous Operation Sunshine to remove Hawkers from pavements still you will find rows of neatly arranged good starting from crockery to pillow covers in the pavements of Gariahat. There are several tricks to crack your deal in Gariahat and every house in Kolkata can vouch for a “bargaining expert” who got the best deal in Gariahat and a worst buyer who could never managed to reduce a penny. Nevertheless, street shopping continues to remain an integral part of Kolkata like its street food culture. One of the street food culture is pice hotel. Though I am personally unaware of the gensesis of the word “pice” hotel in Bengal’s gastronomic street food culture, pice hotels are integral to eating out cultures in former Calcutta ( now Kolkata).

Usually pice hotels serve rice, dal, fish at a nominal rate and there are several hotels around Sealdah and other pockets of North Kolkata.

Check out the following entry by Nandini Dutta on Pice Hotels

http://nandinidutta.blogspot.in/2012/10/pice-hotels.html

Though visit to pice hotels have become rare I crave for the food served at Pice hotels. There are dedicated Pice hotels to satiate the “East Bengal cuisine”  known as Bangal food and dedicated places for Ghoti food or cuisine from West Bengal. Despite being a MohunBugun fan I have shared a fancy for Bangal food when it came to Pice hotels around Marquis Street.

Padmaparer Rannaghar is a restaurant tucked away in the lanes of Gariahat. Padma- the river that flows across Bangladesh also acts as the symbol of “Bangal” Cuisine. For instance some people prefer Hilsa from Padma over Hilsa from Ganges. Padma is symbolic of Bangal identity and food in particular. Hence Padmaparer Rannaghar is an apt name for a restaurant that mostly serves Bangal food.  DP and I headed towards this restaurant sharp at 1 O’ Clock.

DP and her family have become regular visitors of this restaurant. DP insisted that I should read the rather metaphorical and rhyming menu which can be deciphered by someone who knows how to read and write Bangla. The menu can be lost in translation. So if you are a non- Bengali speaker you have to make do with the translation services of your waiter and will miss out on the food-metaphors and the generous use of adjectives in the Menu.

For people familiar with Bengali, here are some instances from the Menu

Machcher Mukta Kanther Dal ( a Dal prepared with Fish head)

Anarasher Madhyamani Pulao ( a Pulao prepared with Pineapples)

Dugdhadhabal Murir Pulao ( Chicken Pulao)

Manshabandi Dhakar Biryani ( Biryani cooked in Dhaka style)

My morbid translations cannot match the food metaphors and I am afraid I might land with up a rather funny literal translation.  After browsing through the rather long menu what struck me was the balance between vegetarian and non-vegetarian items. Infact I would strongly recommend this place to my vegetarian friends who crave for Bengali vegetarian delicacies. They have a wide variety of greens or sag preparation ranging from Pui Shak, Palak , Kachu Sag, Kalmi Sag and Lal sag. You can start off your meal with a sag before heading for Shukto ( a bitter dish ) and then a wide variety of Subzi based Dal.

What surprised me was the Dim Diye Jasorer Daler Stew ( A  Dal-Stew preparation from Jessore). While I am a huge fan of fish head Dal preparation common in Bengali households I had never heard of  Egg based Dal preparation and we decided to take a chance. As I geared up to order some Sag DP warned me against it. Apparently Rice is served with Kachubata( Colocasia or referred to as Arvi in Hindi) and fried Kalmi greens ! Being a die-hard fan of Dal-posto combination,  I had to enjoy my Dal and Rice with some Posto(poppy seeds) preparation; so we ordered Dekhan Hasi Narkel Posto ( a Poppy seed based preparation with potato and grated coconut).  We thoroughly enjoyed the Dal with sliced boiled eggs and sliced carrots adding colour and texture to the dal. A Must try!

DP missed her Fries and ordered Nanan Bhajar Bhojananda ( which is a mix of fried vegetables). You can skip this.

Finally  three nonvegetarian items followed: Chital Pristharakhya Ananda Muitya ( a Chitol Fish Preparation), Kachi Pathar Dildaria Jhol ( Mutton Curry) and Morola Machcher Tak ( A Tangy preparation of Morola Fish). DP recommended the Chitol and Mutton Curry and I insisted on ordering the last preparation. Morola Macher Tak could have been a little more tangy.

We finished our meal with Malpua which was rather chewy. Except the sweet dish and the fries I can go back again to savour the same delicacies particularly the  Dal and the Posto.

In a nutshell, this place translates the pice hotel menu into an AC eating out place for a nominal price. We paid Rs 650 including a tip of Rs 20 for the grand feast. The staff is quite helpful and next time I am settling down for a nice helping of Dab Chingri ( A prawn preparation served in tender coconut). But the star dish of the entire meal was Kachu Bata which was complimentary!!!!!! If you enjoy the luxury of staying in the neighbourhoods of Kolkata head to this place for a lunch break after you are tired with your street shopping @ Gariahat. For all non- Kolkata foodies this place is worth a visit and add to your wish list.

Padmaparer Rannaghar:  26/4, Hindustan Park Ground Floor, Gariahat Junction, Gariahat, Kolkata-29. Phone : 933149590

©itiriti

Bengali by soul and Bohemian by Nature

I have been longing to visit Bohemian ever since I browsed their exciting menu on Zomato, an excellent review from D and D’s family and the post by Ishita Unblogged (http://ishitaunblogged.com/2013/01/06/bohemian-in-kolkata-where-food-really-does-cabaret-on-senses/).

For all those who are planning a trip to Kolkata and love to experiment with the staple Bengali fare please head to Bohemian. The food is experimental and Bohemian in spirit, the decor complements the fusion-food. Postcards of Beatles, Baez hanging all along the Bohemian long glass windows with glass jars of  sealed spices neatly arranged in a row.  We had booked in advance for our Saturday Lunch here.

There are few places which leave you chirpy with a bright decor and Bohemian manages to crack that. Located in a lane of  Ballygunge Phari and at a walking distance from Ballygunge Phari  it enjoys the advantage of a rather silent neighbourhood and yet easily accessible. So, if you are a fan of quite lunch and dinner away from the cacophony of Kolkata hotspots please head to Bohemian. If you are a foodie, head to Bohemian to see how creative one can get with ginger and fennel, Panchphoron ( Bengali five wholesome spices) and even nigella seeds ( Kaloojeere as we call in Bengali). The Menu Card is quite interesting as it begins with a prelude to Rancho and the journey of Bohemian spirit followed by a list of what Bohemian has to offer. The long list of starters is well balanced and even if your friends are vegetarian they have quite an interesting list of choices.  The menu has a balance of vegetarian and non – vegetarian dishes. Besides that, for any non- Bengali speaking person the Menu is self –explanatory. Despite retaining the Bengali food metaphors not everything gets lost in translation!

Three of us (S, M and I) settled for the following

Starters : For starters we ordered Paanchphoron Flavoured Chicken Escallops and  Chilli Pickle and Cheese Baked Prawns with Kalmi Greens. Since they did not have crabs they gave us prawns.  Though we were hesitant about the combination of Kalmi greens with cheese it was the best fusion inspired starter.  Itiriti recommends this dish for the starter.

must

Three of us decided to settle down for Oranga Aamada Sorbet. A must try !  I wish they cut down on the orange flavour and add more of Aaamada

DSCN0152

Main Course : While S headed for Joy’s special steak which was too sweet M and I settled for Bhetki fish preparation with Bengal berries ( Kul) and Bacon Wrapped Tilapia with Ginger and Fennel. Though the Bhetki preparation with Bengal Berries was innovative I wish it was a little spicy. The tangy texture of the Kul would have stood out if there was little more spice. The Bhetki fish was soft and melted in the mouth. It was served with plain rice but when I tried it with the coriander rice served with bacon wrapped tilapia it was much better. My bacon wrapped tilapia was the star dish of the table.  This dish is definitely worth a try.

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Desserts : Though we settled for Malpua Cheese Cake , SpicedMango Souffle the star dessert was Gangharaj Souffle.

I am definitely heading back to try out more fusion dishes and for all those who wants to have a twist to the usual Bengali ingredients settle down for a relaxed meal @ Bohemian. Please make a table reservation.

For menu,  visit http://www.zomato.com/kolkata/bohemian-ballygunge/menu#menutop.

Address: 32/4 Old Ballygunge 1st Lane, Ballygunge, Kolkata

©itiriti

Photos : Sarmistha

Lost in Translation

It was way back in college. I self invited and piled on with a friend for one of the wedding feasts of her cousin. Tired of varieties of gourds on offer in hostel menu, the thought of some protein in my diet was appealing. While I settled for mutton curry my “Bengali” soul ached for “Phish” (The Bengali tongue often confuses Ph for F ). A little disappointed my flat mate sprung a surprise next day when she came back with a box of sweets. She said how did I find the Jhinga? Jhinga in Bengali is a variety of gourd, a summer vegetable we cook with poppy seed paste or add it to Moong Dal. I did not even see any merit in this question. While I was struggling to see a point a friendly neighbour who was used to my “Hindi” chipped in. She asked me if I liked the prawn curry. To my shock, I realised there was some confusion. My friend added, Jhinga means Prawns. I realised I had missed out on tasting the “Jhinga Curry” because I thought it was bottle gourd curry. I gathered my composure and told myself that one needs to learn the names of non-vegetarian items in Hindi. Similarly, a friend went to Kolkata and ordered Jhinga Posto thinking she would be served a dish made of prawns/ shrimps with poppy seed paste. As the green vegetable peeped from the poppy seed paste she realised that there has been a miscommunication. Another friend of mine migrated to Kolkata and was placing an order for his tiffin. After bored with Fish and dishes over a week he decided to order “Dim” thinking it would be some Bengali exotica. To his irony when two eggs peeped from an oily red gravy. He realised that it’s best to pick up some Bengali words.

I am sure such adventures are part of everybody’s food trail. Every time I look through City of Joy’s (a Bengali restaurant in New Delhi) Menu I wonder how food metaphors could be translated as it is steeped in one’s cultural sensibilities. For instance under the section on Breads/ Rice they have something called Maa er Hather Roti. While in Bengali it sounds fine, for any non- Bengali speaker, and particularly in English it would sound ridiculous if one were to literally translate this item. It would mean “Flattened bread from your Mother’s hands”. Thankfully City of Joy does not translate such metaphorical usage of words and leaves it to your imagination but recently I received links of two news items from B which adequately explains how such adventures can turn out to be linguistic mis-adventures. In other words, how food metaphors find new meaning in such cases of appropriation and translation.

Have you ever ordered “Chicken without sex life” or “beancurd made by women with freckles” in a Chinese restaurant in Beijing? These are the literal translations of some of the dishes and the book published by Municipal Office of Foreign Affairs aims at helping restaurants to avoid what the news report calls such cases of “ bizarre translations”1. If the translations of 3000 odd dishes on offer are used by the restaurants the English speaking audience will no more hear dishes like “Chicken without Sex life “ which has been translated to “Spring chicken” or “Red burned lion head” which would know be known as “braised pork ball in the brown sauce”. The translators according to this article translated the names of dishes using four rubrics : ingredients, cooking method, taste and name of a person or place.  The book aims to solve the confusions that English speaking food lovers encounter when they hear the bizarre translations. While the translator’s efforts might have saved the food lover’s confusions in the near future what’s the harm in retaining these metaphorical translations of everyday life with a description of food… The best in this series of translation was relating Fuqi feipian which used to be called Husband and Wife’s Lung slice. Now it will be called Sliced Beef and ox tongue in Chilli Sauce… For a visual treat of these dishes with how the lexicon takes over food metaphors please visit the following link on the book of translations (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-03/15/content_14837721.htm).

So next time you are in Beijing you might be told how Ludagunr is not Rolling donkey but glutinous rice rolls stuffed with red beans and paste. 2

Notes

1 For details see “No More Chicken without Sex Life” in http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2012-03/14/content_14833808.htm.

2 For details see “Cuisine Lexicon Offers Tasty food for thought” in http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-03/15/content_14837721.htm.

©itiriti

 

Chop, Cutlet and More…

Today I met a friend briefly in the corridors of University. Commenting on my interests in life she wished me good bye with an exclamation Bhalo theko (Stay well) with Machh, Mishti and More (Fish, Sweets and More). She was recollecting about her latest trek to Chittaranjan Park Market from where she picked up Lal Shak ( a type of greens which we chop and cook with a tempering of garlic, ajwain and finish it off with a drizzle of poppy seeds. Please add garlic after you hear the crackling sound of dry red chilly!!!), Morola Machch/ Mola Carplet ( a finger –sized shape fish found in rivers, some varieties are also know as Gang- Morola and the explanation is its origins in the Ganges…) and much more. For Morola Recipes visit the following link

http://eso-bosho-ahare.blogspot.in/2012/06/morola-macher-jhal.html

Despite our mutual allergy of people calling us “Bongs”, the affection for all things seemingly Bengali gets more attractive when you move out of the comforts of home. After I shifted to Delhi I missed the chotomachch ( small sized fish) that I  hated as a kid.  As I long to go back home in a week’s time I look forward to a generous sized portions of all sorts of dishes that could be prepared with Morola Machch ( from fries, to mustard curry to chutney with tamarind pulp). Slurrrpp!!!

Such cravings for Bengali food and food items have led to niche markets in every city across India and particularly Delhi. Chittaranjan Park credits with selling food items, fish, vegetables, sauces, oils, spices and everything “authentic” that should make its way for a “Bengali” kitchen at an above average price. But we don’t seem to mind. After all phish, phood and phoodball are our passion(s) and we live by it…  Market No. 1 and Market No. 2 claims to house some of the popular eating joints serving Bengali food. I will dedicate a separate post on sweets and will list of must have/s of sn(e)cks in Market No. 1, 2 and 3. Spare me if I forget to add your list of favourite/s from these three Markets.

My five top picks

1. Maa Tara … (Market No.2)

Anybody who wanted their simple fare of veg and non veg thali or exotic vegetable dishes would brave waiting in the queue for a generous helping of Mochar Tarkari,  Fish Curry with a generous layer of oil staring at you and some runny alu posto. Despite its flaws I continue to adore and love the food of Maa Tara.  Every time you have surprise guests and you want to take a break from cooking chores “Dial Maa Tara” and they won’t disappoint you.

USP:  Simple, delicious and moderately priced.

2. Kolkata Biryani House (Market No.1)

Kolkata Biryani House: For all those who love meat, potato and egg in their Biryani, please try out their Biryani. Their Chicken and Mutton Rolls are good as well. Though they have started serving south Indian breakfast I have not tried it.

USP: Best Chicken/ Mutton Biryani. Warning : Do not order via Just eat. Last time they messed up an order at a friend’s place.

3. Ashirbad Caterers and Snack Corners( Market No.3)

Are you a fan of Fish Fry and Mochar Chop? Head to this shop where both these items are sold at Rs 10 each. This shop is open from 10am -11pm and sells rolls, cutlets and fries. My favourite picks are Fish Fry, Fish Chop, and Mochar chop. A party at my house is incomplete without Fish Fry and Mochar Chop. Manipuri Friend of mine treks down at least thrice a month to savour their delicacies. Need I say more!!!!! I am quite a fan of their simple egg rolls.

USP: Tasty and moderately priced.

4. Phuchka

Time and again I have wondered about how semolina is used to prepare this item in Northern India and  how atta ( wheat based flour) is used in West Bengal and Eastern parts of India to prepare this savoury dish. You will like Phucka across any C.R. Park stall if you like water prepared from tamarind pulp, green chillies, kagchi lebu ( a special variety of lemon). Best kick is the phucka with mashed potato stuffing with lots of tamarind pulp, green chillies and a squeeze of lime …. Yummmmm…

5. Tea

If you miss you Lemon Tea served in tiniest possible plastic cups back in West Bengal, head to a tea stall in Market No. 2 who makes the most amazing lemon tea with rocksalt and lime.

If you want all of these, you have to hit the den of Bengali food in New Delhi- Chittaranjan Park.

Nearest Metro Station : Hauz Khas  and Nehru Place.

Please memorise the market no.s you have to head before stepping into your vehicle as people use Market No./s for local navigation…

©itiriti

Feasting during Sajibu Cheiraoba

( Itiriti : Soibam Haripriya is pursuing her doctoral studies in Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics. She is a poet and recently published her poems in a collection Tattoed with Taboos. She blogs on Ibnlive.com (http://ibnlive.in.com/group-blog/The-North-East-Blog/soibamharipriya/3355.html). She brings to Itiriti readers the feasting delights of Sajibu Cheiraoba celebrations from her mother’s kitchen at Imphal.

Happy reading and  if you want to share your  New Year Feast with itiriti do drop in a line …)

Like most calendar of events and celebrations in Manipur, the Sajibu (the lunar month which falls this year in April-May) Cheiraoba (the Meitei New Year festival) too is observed on two different days either on the first day after the new moon or falls alternatively on the 13th or the 14th of April depending on the religious affiliation –either Meitei Sanamahi or Hindus (mostly Vaishnavs). Sajibu heralds the coming of summer, mild sun or pleasant rains. A few days prior to Cheiraoba, the Khwairamband Keithel  –the popular and much romanticised Ema market on either side of the tasteless Bir Tikendrajit road flyover (a flyover that perhaps is sign of ‘modernity’ more than having any role in easing traffic, one road leading to a dead end i.e. straight to the Kangla gate) that cuts the market sharply like the equator, could be seen teeming with people –mostly women buying gifts for members of their natal home. There is no idea of festival discounts in the valley –‘Make hay while the sun shines’ is an apt maxim.

As is with most celebrations of this kind the day begins early for the womenfolk even though the assortment that would comprise the meal would have been thought of the previous day. The number of dishes should be in odd numbers, my family settled for five dishes –three seem slightly meagre for such a day while seven seem slightly extravagant for a family of small eaters, a condition necessitated by health reasons. Uti, Yongchak aloo eromba, nga thongba, bora and chakhao is what we settled for.

Uti has now become a marker of Manipuri cuisine and every place that claims to stock authentic Manipuri food has to have Uti in the menu. It is a dish consisting which could either be uti ashangba (green uti) which could be made with green peas and sometimes added with a bit of broken rice or the classic Uti, the trick of enhancing the flavour of the latter is to add a wee bit of milk at the end.

Yengchak aloo eromba taste best with small red potatoes and yongchak with fermented fish. Nga thonga (fish curry) could be cooked in a variety of manner, either deep fried fish, lightly fried ones or not fried at all or more popularly the stirred nga thongba which would be rather difficult for a non fish eater to negotiate considering that all the fishes are broken and one needs to navigate an array of bones. Chakhao is simply the deep purple scented rice which is slightly sweet and is either cooked with water or cooked as a kheer with milk, camphor, slices of coconut, bay leaves and dry fruit.

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The dishes are first to be offered to propitiate the spirits, believed to be evil   –a space is mud plastered in the front gate of the house and the back gate –the dishes are offered with rice and three variety of flowers – kusumlei, kombirei, leiri and seasonal fruits of one’s choice and offering of money along with the food. One assumes this to be an innocuous offering; however the function of this offering is to satiate the spirits so that no harm befalls the family. In fact the name of the last demised person of the locality is invoked in order to appeal the former’s longer stay in the crematorium so that no one else gets claimed by the insatiable land of the death. The mud-plastered place of the offering is decorated with flowers.

In our fondest memories of childhood we vied with each other to claim the offering of money when elders disappear for an afternoon siesta or go about presenting New Year gifts to elders and relatives.

Photo : Soibam Haripriya

©itiriti