In the land of rolls and cutlets

I apologise to itiriti’s readers for staying away from blogging. Deadlines kept me away from blogging for few months. As I revive my plan to blog once again, I bring to you a series of food walks that you could undertake if you are planning to visit City of Joy. Let me confess that it is not the best time to be visiting Kolkata due to the increasing mercury levels as well the humidity. Still, the city’s lifeline lies in the evening strolls along the ghats of Hooghly river.
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On one such evening DP, SM and I ventured out to Bagbazar Ferry Ghat. The ghat is well connected to Sovabazar, Howrah Railway station through the ferry service. As we waited at the jetty enjoying the cool breeze, we tried out one of the wonderful street food that you can enjoy along the ghats- Ghotigaram.
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Ghotigaram takes its name from the heap of coal cakes that keeps the bhujia mix warm as the hawker carries it around in a recycled oil tin with several aluminium cups with chopped onions, cucumber, amra, chat masala, salt, chopped chillies and a bottle of oil. Ghotigorom is available for Rs 5 and Rs 10. Newest addition to add a crunchy flavour is chopped carrots.
Take a stroll, work on your appetite and head off to Allen Kitchen on 40/1 Jatindra Mohan Avenue. If you are a non-user of google maps and rely on landmarks I suggest that you use Sovabazar metro station as a landmark to reach this legendary place. If you plan to take a walk along Bagbazar ghat and walk down to Allen you have to cross metro station and keep on walking towards Girish Park Metro station. Another legendary place of cutlets (Mitra Café is on the opposite lane of Allen Kitchen). After you take a nice walk from Sovabazar metro station (towards Girish Park) you shall spot the blue board welcoming you.
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Allen Kitchen is known for its Prawn Cutlet. You should trek down to Allen to soak up nostalgia, skip the coolness of your air conditioner and dig into one of the many versions of cutlets the city has to offer. Cutlets are part of the colonial legacy and the city’s obsession with cutlets, steak and kabiraji have gave birth to many a legendary institution. Allen’s Prawn Cutlet is fried in a brand of ghee that many of us might be familiar with. Lakshmi Ghee is a well-known brand of clarified butter made from cow milk.
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Usually synonymous with luchi this cutlet smells divine and we could not wait to dig into the juicy prawn coated in a nicely salted coating. This simple coating enhances the prawn and smell of Lakshmi ghee lingers on. Served with salad (chopped onions, cucumber and green chillies), kashundi ( mustard sauce indigenous to Bengal) prawn cutlet remains a stealer because of its simplicity.

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We also ordered steak (mutton) which comes with an interesting sauce high on ginger paste. While I leave to your imagination why and how this steak came to be served in Allen Kitchen, its time to get back to work.

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©itiriti

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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.

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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

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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

Breaking fast on a rainy day

Fish ball Soup

Are you a morning person? Are you willing to explore a breakfast destination which winds up by 9.00 am? Are you looking for good food and have no hang ups about standing in a street corner and enjoying your Saturday breakfast?  These were the few exchanges we had among a group of food fanatics who braved a morning shower and ended up meeting for a Chinese breakfast in Kolkata sharp at 7.30 am. 

City of Joy, i.e., Kolkata is a migrant’s city and the culinary journey of Kolkata as all travel guides would direct you to Tangra a bustling settlement dotted with closed tanneries and new age Chinese eating houses, sauce factory, a Chinese temple and in fact a Chinese Kalibari. While restaurants like Kafulok, Kimling and Beijing have attracted Chinese food lovers during lunch and dinners in Tangra it is worthwhile to note and remember that the oldest Chinese settlement was actually in Tiretta Bazaar  popularly referred to as Tiretti Bazaar ( Tiretti marketplace) in central Kolkata. The street beside the Poddar Court is lined with stalls selling breakfast straight from the oven. Unlike Kolkata’s breakfast joint here the breakfast is really early. So if you fail to reach by 8.00 am you might end up being served cold food.

We decided to do a survey of the street before ordering our fare. To our surprise we found it was a combination of sorts, for instance next to a stall of dumplings,  was a vegetable seller who  were calling out to the Chinese Memsahibs as he had stalked fresh Chinese Cabbage followed by an old woman who was selling fish.  We were amazed by the variety that was on offer and I for once regretted that I had to go for library work; else one could have stalked up fresh vegetables.

Greens on offer

We decided to begin our Chinese breakfast with a bowl of piping hot fish ball soup. While our hungry eyes could not wait as the lady poured our portions to the bowl; the silent wait was worth it. The fish ball made out of Chitol fish was a delight.  We could not resist the fish dumpling which melted in the mouth as soon as we bit into them. We followed the tips penned by  Joydip Sur in a piece “Chinese Breakfast :A tradition in Calcutta” ( Kolkata on Wheels, Vol 4, Issue No 2 , November 2011) and went ahead to try out the Steamed pao – a soft steamed bread stuffed with Pork, eggs and Chicken), followed by the most wonderful Pork Roll I have had. Even though we missed out on the Pork Pancake and Pork chop we decided to keep it for our next trip.

Pao

While our respective schedules did not allow us to stock up fresh vegetables we could not resist the temptation of venturing into the Sing Cheung Co. Pvt. Ltd. Shop where I bought three bottles of Sweet Chilli Sauce, Garlic Chilli Sauce, Black Bean Sauce for my kitchen. The shop’s supplies come out of its own factory in South Tangra Road.  While we waited at the shop counter for the cashier to finish his breakfast we realised it was only 9am and we had not only treated ourselves to a most amazing breakfast but also gifted ourselves with some lovely sauces. Though we wanted to buy the entire shop we realised that between our respective work schedules the sauces might sit pretty on the table top before they hit the expiry dates and realised to choose a few. The prices are reasonable and I would recommend any shop (Pou Chong sauce manufacturers) in this vicinity for anyone who wants to indulge in Chinese delicacies.

Pork Roll

So in case you are a morning person and craving for an early morning breakfast gear up for the breakfast gourmet in Tiretta Bazaar.

Happy eating!

©itiriti

Bazaars and beyond

If I want to revisit my momo memories in Nepal I want to own a perfect “Bazarer” bag to carry my fish purchases. A perfect “bazarer bag” can make all the difference in the kitchen.  In Kolkata, despite the water-logging problem I grew up watching my fathers and uncles take out their rusted bicycles during rainy season with their “bazarer bags”.

 Anybody familiar with the kitchen set up of a Bengali household will find these nylon bags beneath the sink . Two bags are neatly hanged on two separate hangers. One dedicated for the amish( non- vegetarian) raw ingredients and the other for niramish bazaar( primarily the vegetables). Onions and garlic usually came in a separate cloth bag.

As a kid my favourite subject for drawing competitions was Indian market place. In this pictorial representation of the “bazaar” I often drew a man standing next to a fish-seller selling fish of all sizes and kinds with a bag from where the greens would pop out and the bloated bottom of the bag had stacks of potatoes, and other vegetables.

Though shopping malls and organised retail outlets have made an entry into the Kolkata, nothing can beat the vibrancy of walking through hordes of fish lined up in series of rows with enough space for the customer to stand, order and take the freshly cut fish in their “machcher bag”. Machch is the Bengali word for Fish. I always had a fetish for carrying the “fish bag” whenever I accompanied my father to “Manicktala Market” or “Rani Rashmoni Market” (two noted markets of North Kolkata).

Our secret trips to Manicktala market was accompanied by a brisk breakfast of  Kachori ( fried bread) and alur tarkari( potato curry) in a sweet shop by the name Thakurer Dokan in Rashmoni Bazaar, Beleghata. If you manage to reach the shop by 9.30 am one was sure to find some space in the bench which has been there since the inception of the shop. The Kachories are made of Biuli Dal and their Potato Curry is made with freshly ground ginger, cumin and secret touch of love. The un-peeled small cubes of potatoes are thrown into the big kadai and all the spices are added, with a generous touch of turmeric, adequate salt and a pinch of sugar to finish this simple curry which can never be reproduced in our kitchens. After having this brisk breakfast and packing two jalebis( fried Indian sweet) to satiate my sweet appetite we headed towards Manicktala Market– a paradise for the fish lovers.

The enticing part about Manicktala market is the smell of various kinds of fish. Whenever guests came to visit us in winters I anxiously waited for my father’s approval to take me to the fish-y den; where fishes were sold and traded in thousands, and even more. My father believed that you could get Fresh Prawns ( Galda Chingri) at any time of the year in Manicktala and the best variety of Hilsa, Topse and Morola can only be found in Manicktala. My mother for all practical reasons hated when my father bought chotto mach (small sized fish) like Morola and Putti because it took her almost an hour to clean these fishes or to supervise the cleaning done by our mashi ( aunty who helped us with cleaning and washing).

My best days would be when my father ordered Bhetki fish fillet.I used to stand next to my father with wide eyes watching the fish seller take out his bonti(curved blade rising out of a narrow, flat, wooden base) to attack the head and remove the scales and then with the swift move of a “fish- knife” ( unlike our fancy knives; it is a huge knife which looks like a ruler from a geometry box) he used to de-bone the fish and chop the fish fillets according to my father’s requisition.

Like an inquisitive intern I used to imaginatively chop the Bhetki fish using my imaginary knife and then waited patiently for him to pack the fish fillets in a white plastic bag and the Bhetki Kanta ( leftovers from the Bhetki Fish) in a black polythene bag so that the “boudi” (meaning sister-in- law; my mother) could conveniently wash and refrigerate.  Another separate small bag to carry the fish head to be cooked with Greens was neatly packed and given to us.

As a kid I thought my mother and father knew these fish-sellers because my father used to coax him to clean the fish properly so that his “boudi” should not get upset. And often fish –sellers called out to the half-sleep “babus” who visited the bazaars by telling them “ Fresh machch niye jaan; boudi khushi hoben” ( Take fresh fish. Boudi will be happy). For a long time I wondered how the fish sellers knew what the boudis wanted in the kitchen. How could they sit miles away with their fishes and know whether boudis wanted small fish like Morola, shrimps to add to the saag ( greens)  or prepare rohu/ katla jhol. This long distance relationship between the fish seller brother in law and the middle class bhadramahila boudi always fascinated me. These were the days before the mobile phones acted as the mediating device between the babu’s wife and the fish seller.

Till one day I discovered the truth of this relationship when my mother was irritated with my father for buying some fish which she did not like she commented that my father’s brother ( i.e., the fish-seller) should stop from making assumptions about what his sister in law likes to cook. At this moment I interrupted and said that “You are being rude. He really likes you maa (Bengali word for mother). He often de-bones and removes the scales without charging a penny because he does not want to inconvenience his “boudi”. I thought justice was done. Well, this further aggravated the tensions. My mother was furious that my father had some secret talk about my mother’s non-preference for some fishes with a fish-seller.

Time passes by. After completing my years of internship under my father I have attained the “eye”, “smell”, and “feel” of what a good fish could look like. Whenever I visit the slightly not too familiar yet close to a “bazaar” of my childhood  in Delhi and the fish sellers assure me of the quality of the fish and often suggests recipes and packs the fish in plastic bags I miss the “Machcher” Bag of my childhood days. Every time I return home with packets filled with fishes I remember the ways in which my Rashmoni Bazaar fish seller in Kolkata would remind me on my way back to office to carry the Machcher Bag as he would be supplying me the best priced Bhetki, Topshe or Hilsa. I miss him. Everytime I prepare a checklist of things to buy from the market , I wonder if I would find a perfect machcher bag just like my childhood days.

©itiriti

Trails of a Momo Maniac

Last evening musing over my culinary journey in Nepal I fondly made a statement that “Everybody should visit Nepal to eat momos”.  Nepal is a momo-maniac’s paradise.  Having spent my formative years in bustling North Campus of Delhi University – which houses some of the city’s best and cheapest momo joints my taste buds were introduced to this delightful dish in a small Tibetan joint near Rabindra Sadan Metro Station Kolkata.

When I moved to Delhi, outings with friends meant going for momos. I remember fondly our first visit from our paying guest accommodation on a fatal Tuesday evening to spare ourselves the torture of “Puri( fried bread) and Chchole(Chickpea curry)” all the way to Knags( Kamala Nagar) a shopping place close to North Campus, University of Delhi for a plate of momos with our seniors. Momo’s Point clearly has stood the test of the time. Many places have come and gone in this lane of Kamala Nagar but it has never matched to the popularity of this joint which is famous among people across ages in North Campus. Mostly frequented by students, Momo’s Point serves momos of three different fillings: chicken, pork and vegetarian. Though I have not tasted the vegetarian momoes because I think they taste the best in Kalimpong bus stand, a hill station on the way from Siliguri to Darjeeling rest of the momos are heavenly. The momos are served with a fiery red hot sauce.

Momo’s Point is housed in a lane close to Mac Donald’s if you come from Hansraj side. Tell any rickshaw puller from the university that you want to go to Momos’s Point he would take you and drop you near Macdonald’s from where you will walk into a lane where either a cow or a bunch of flies will graciously greet you on your way to Momo’s Point. This lane is hugely popular among students. Though joints have come with Tandoori Momoes I like steamed momoes and Kothey (half steamed and half fried). If you want to taste a special sauce that goes well with momos; you have to visit Noodles nestled in the same lane as Momo’s Point. Along with the fiery red hot sauce they also serve a mild sauce which cools the hotness of the red sauce.

I was hugely disappointed when Belle Momos (a momo joint hugely popular in Kathmandu) made a quite entry and exit from Delhi. They served momos with mustard sauce and fiery red hot sauce. In Kathmandu there are several places where I gorged on Momos but my favourite picks in Kathmandu are Belle Momos, Durbar Marg, Kathmandu and Dhokaima Cafe, Patan Dhoka Lalitpur. Unlike the momoes that I have eaten in Kalimpong, North Campus, Delhi University and Tibetan eateries in Majnu ka Tila ( a Tibetan Settlement in North Delhi) the momos in Nepal are not only served with mustard and the red hot fiery sauce but also the fillings are pre-cooked. Belle Momos is primarily a momo- cafe and serves more than 35 varieties of momos from our very familiar chicken, mutton momos, pork momos to even low cholesterol momos. And there are lot more exciting options for vegetarians as well. Check out the link to believe it

http://www.cafereena.com.np/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/pg4-momo.jpg

As I finished a meeting with a group of colleagues and friends they decided to satiate my momo appetite they made me walk for 20 min to reach Dhokaima Cafe, Patan Doka nestled in the heart of Kathmandu and yet far away from the madding crowd.  It sits pretty with open air cafe, a book store, an art gallery and even a bar. When you walk into Yalamay Kendra you enter a different world. And Dhokaima Cafe sits pretty with an old world charm. The official web portal of the cafe tells us that the building was built in 1920 and it was used as a store to a Rana’s palace. Well, one of my close friends from Nepal had told me that apparently he had heard from somewhere that the cafe actually used to be a horse stable. Well kings have various fancies and kings had horses so they needed horse stables. But whatever it was the cafe has been beautifully re-done by architect Siddharth Gopalan to reflect the old world charm. Even though their website menus does not mention of momos they do serve momos and some amazing fresh summer juices which are absolute heavenly.  Dhokaima Cafe is a place where you can unwind your day with a plate of momos and your favourite drink. For details on Dhokaima Cafe visit the following link.

http://dhokaimacafe.com/index.php?page=about-us

So, it’s time when you are next in Nepal go beyond Thamel to Durbar Marg and Patan Doka to these two places to gorge on Momos.  If you are a momo maniac and if you have the money and desire for momos give yourself a momo holiday in Nepal and combine it a trip with Pokhra to shred those extra calories. And for all those who made fun of my travel plans to Nepal for momos should remember that the most exciting historical voyages were about the trail for spices. So, momo maniacs it’s time we head towards the momo city of all times- Kathmandu.

© itiriti

Utterly Butterly Oly

My first tryst with “pub” dates back to one of the many book fairs in Maidan Calcutta .Now the venue of the book fair has shifted to a concrete park opposite to Science City. Kolkata was then known as Calcutta and Book Fairs happened in Maidan, the sprawling greenscape of city of joy where people go for picnics, walk, horse rides and of course romance.  During one such Book fairs in Maidan, a group of friends were disgusted with the thought that I had not visited Oly. According to one of them, “If you are eighteen and you have not visited Oly you have committed a blasphemy”. Well I was eighteen; and more than that and had not visited Oly. So, they decided on a special day to take me to Oly.

There I was waiting in Parkstreet “Fulurys” bus- stop ( most of the bus conductors call out Fulury’s Parkstreet once it hits the main junction of Parkstreet with Asiatic Society on one side and a Big Bazaar on the other. Alternatively you can take a cab to reach Parkstreet  but considering this is the breathing, eating and drinking place of the city the city police have decided to do a little bit of traffic policing by making the street one- way at various times. Please check with Kolkata Police traffic before you venture out with your vehicle or you can brave a walk in the winters down Park street.

Once you cross the Park hotel you have to walk down a little further and you will find the famous Oly Pub. A man sits at a desk and smiles at the regular customers guarding the groundfloor which is not meant for “Ladies”. You have to walk upstairs and hit the floor which at first sight will look like a class room with tables and benches. Once you turn behind you will see bottles of various shapes and sizes guarding the person who manages it and the waiters dressed in ceremonial white with red head gears greeting you and throwing the menu card at your face. People love it that way I suppose. Well so five of sat like school boys and girls waiting for our teacher to come and guide us through the food and menu. Without looking at the menu the waiter all in his mid-40s placed a small steel plate of Kolkata chanachur( savouries found in Kolkata) and rattled all that is available. From my friend’s cacophony I could hear two things Beef steak and Chicken Ala Kiev. Assuming that I was God fearing and abstained from beef a plate of Chicken Ala Kiev was placed in front of my eyes with a tumbler of 30 ml Vodka and a small tumbler almost equivalent to what we get in tea shops in Kolkata full of lime cordial. My friends I gathered were regulars as they exchanged pleasantries with the waiter. Those were the days when smoking was not banned.

As I attacked the Chicken Ala Kiev with my knife the butter came oozing out and flowed over the beautifully done mashed potatoes with the exact amount of green peas and boiled carrots and created an aroma to die for. The scoop of butter inside the chicken breast neatly wrapped on a bone and deep fried was not only heavenly but visually refreshing after a long tiring day. The fact that you have to scream out to each other if you want to hear even your friend’s heart break makes Oly an adorable place. Another dish that Oly regulars die out for is their Beef steak. They always get it right. And it remains a miracle. The mystery and charm of Oly is that you are left to enjoy your drink and food as it is. And you will never have a bad day. Oly does not care about decor but their food touches your heart with the same affection that their ambience will create once you can appreciate the place. They don’t play music. People through their conversations, debates create new notations and you hear music. And if you become friends over Oly you are bound to stay friends. Oly reproduces a magic of food and drink full of raw emotions, love and pain. Next time when you are in Kolkata, stop by Oly, for that utterly butterly Oly experience with no frills attached.

© itiriti