Sunday neighbourhood whiffs!

As the sunlight created a collage of graphic prints on my wall, I woke up to a rather familiar smell of Sunday morning. The hypnotising smell of “kalojeere” nigella/onion seeds dancing in bubbling mustard oil before green chillies are added. Such pleasures of familiarity are some of the perks I enjoy staying in the Bengali neighbourhood of Delhi. Such familiarity also deeply saddens me to prepare my rather mundane breakfast of toasts and tea.

As I pull myself out of the bed I imagine cubed potatoes being fried with a dash of salt and turmeric and finally water being poured in. By the time I prepare myself  a cup of Darjeeling tea and browse through “Robibashoriyo” ( Online edition) the final nail on the coffin is here i.e., the smell of the luchi ( disc shaped flour based flat bread) being fried in Lakshmi Ghee.  I recognise the distinct smell from my Mashi’s household (Maternal Aunt) preference for Lakshmi Ghee and my mother’s preference for oil (supposedly healthy!) which led to many a world war in the kitchen.

The overpowering smell of luchi and alur tarkari lingers on and takes me back to some funny moments from childhood. My mother was known for preparing white fluffy luchis and was coveted by G an M for “sada luchi” as if luchis could be red, yellow, or blue. Once, B now a handsome young man then 5 years old made this brilliant comment in a roomful of strangers, “I think they are preparing luchis upstairs. Ma, let’s go and have some luchis”. To save further embarrassment his mother got B upstairs and he walks in straight up to my mother and says “Jethin, amake luchi aar chini debe”( Jethin (aunt, elder brother’s wife), please give me luchi and sugar).  For all luchi fanatics, the last luchi should be savoured with sugar. And yours truly embarrassed the Oh! Calcutta waiters by asking for a bowlful of sugar to be savoured with luchis… Such luchi anecdotes are precious and the overpowering smell of late riser’s breakfast menu continues to increase my craving for luchi as I pen down this post.  It’s 11 a.m.

The smell of luchi will soon encounter the Sunday staple of “mangshor jhol”. Puritans like my dad, uncle and jethu will tell you that mangsho or meat refers to kachi pantha ( mutton). The ideal kochi panthar jhol will have potatoes that will carry the flavour of mutton and the cracked edges from the “jhol” or gravy. Jhol is our answer to “curry”- a runny gravy with rightly flavoured spices. The pressure cooker whistles will soon create the symphony of a Bengali Sunday lunch and a mirage of cravings for people who need to finish boring dishes like dalia khichdi that has been lying the fridge.

There you go. I can hear the first whistle, and I bet it must be from the pressure cooker cooking succulent mutton/ chicken pieces with potatoes – the prized Sunday lunch menu. The background score of kabariwala(scrap dealer and buyer) – kabari, kabari meets the fishmonger who draws up his cart shouting “bhalo chingri, katla rui”…

Such distractions of smell will never find an acknowledgement in my thesis but they are part of the woes and joys of writing. Another whistle goes… and I can smell the perfect whiff of paanchphoron crackling… May be time to prepare “green mango chutney” (aam chutney) or “paanch mishali sabji”(mix vegetables). I leave you to guess as to what dish my neighbours are cooking with paanchphoron in oil.

Do write in and let me know of  whiffs from your neighbourhood that leaves an imprint in your food rituals?


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

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…