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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“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

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

Blue Poppy @ City of Joy

(Itiriti: I invited Madhurilata to write about Blue Poppy, one of my latest hanging out places in City of Joy.   Madhurilata Basu  is a student of Political Science and is an independent researcher. She loves to travel and enjoys her food.  She takes you on a guided tour into the indoors of Blue Poppy.)

What is the shortest way to someone’s heart? While you keep on guessing, I would give my answer. It is always good food. But in today’s world good food comes with a big price and it becomes a rare occasion, when one can experience the unadulterated joy of having good food at a good price. But courtesy Blue Poppy, the exception has been changed into the norm. Embracing students, young professionals with their wide range of dishes and reasonably priced menu, it is located in Sikkim House in Middleton Street, near Loretto College and Gorkha Bhavan in Salt Lake, near City Centre I.  Young Calcuttans are lucky to have a place which serves Nepali, Bhutanese, Tibetan, Indian and Chinese cuisines under one roof and that too at a great price.

You can start off your gastronomical journey with Momos and if you are health conscious , you can also opt for the wide range of soups they offer. You can safely order Mixed Thenthuk or Mixed Phaktu. These Tibetan delights are homemade noodles served in a hot mixed soup.  However, my personal favourite is Pork Kothay , which is half steamed and half fried Momos. Do not forget to ask them for their famous chilly chutney, which should only be tried by the brave hearts for it is a sure killer. Instead of treading in one direction, my suggestion will be to have a mixed menu. A must have dish is Ema Dasi, that is cheese with chilly, and you can have it with steamed rice. This Bhutanese dish can be followed up with Pork Shapta (a Tibetan dish) or Pork with vegetables. The Nepali Thali is also worth trying.

One thing that is guaranteed is that Blue Poppy will definitely bring a smile to your face. A not-so-posh eating house but packed with young people is sure to make you smile. Blue Poppy opens at 8 am  and also serve breakfast like Egg and Toast or Puri Bhaji, for the boarders at both the Sikkim House and Gorkha Bhavan have breakfast there. Another good news is that owing to its popularity, it has started home delivery services in Salt lake only. However, in order to have the good food in your home, you have to wait till 5 pm.

College students flock the Blue Poppy in Middleton Street in great numbers. Owing to its proximity to City Centre I, where youngsters, in the absence of proper adda places in the region, have addas, for obvious reasons come to Blue Poppy to satisfy their hunger if they have extra cash in their pockets. The staff of Blue Poppy are friendly and their service is satisfactory. Do not be amazed if you find a long line outside. Just be patient, for it takes really less time for the good food to get over and before you can count till ten, it will be your turn to grab a table.  A meal for two can cost at around Rs 400. However, Blue Poppy’s food tastes best, provided you have a good company. Non-stop adda over the food is of course, free.

For menu of Blue Poppy

http://www.zomato.com/kolkata/the-blue-poppy-russel-street/menu; Accessed on 14 February 2013

©itiriti