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

Advertisements

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

Rolling it out

Every evening when I am left starved to satiate my appetite in a city of “chaats” I remember the rolls that Kolkata is famous for. In my recent visit to Bangalore I discovered a clean joint by the name “Kaati Zone” where I had ordered a Turkish Roll. A great place facing Church Street to wind up with your friends before you hit dinner.  Prices are moderate for the simple decor and great food. Rolls of all sorts of fillings are available and vegetarians have a farely good option beyond paneer.

But truly if you want to taste mouth watering rolls you have to come down to city of joy. A city which breathes and lives on street food – from phuchkas to rolls to city’s favourite invention “chowmein” and “chilli chicken”. This post remains dedicated to my all time favourite “Rolls”. What is a Roll? Th basic ingredients that are used for preparing this delicacy are : Flour, oil, salt and sugar. For the filling: Chicken pieces/ cubes, Mutton pieces/ cubes , Egg, Paneer, Mushroom, Fish tikka. If you know how to knead your flour for parantha (flattened fried bread) you know how to make a roll. The longer you leave and set it aside ; the better it gets. After that divide the kneaded flour into equal portions and take a rolling pin to roll it out on a flat surface. Shift this flattened piece of bread to a hot tawa. Add oil to the sides and fry both sides and keep it aside. For the filling use your imagination. For instance you can use some fish tikka, sprinkle a little bit of chaat masala, salt and squeeze a generous amount of lime and finish off with some green chillies to add that colour. But guess what tastes best, the Egg rolls that are piled up in mobile carts of street hawkers. They are the best.

It is a sight to watch how these cooks play up with spatulas frying and tossing the paranthas and with the precision the egg yolk lands on the middle of the parantha and then is carefully spread out to the edges. The assistant cook then finishes off the dish with onions, cucumber, dollops of tomato sauce, dash of chilli sauce and if you are a regular customer he might advise you to stay away from tomato and chilli sauce and instead add the lemon zest which he must have squeezed for at least five rolls and finish off with green chillies.

Despite the way they make it some of my favourite picks for the famous Rolls of Kolkata are

Nizam: Visit any of their outlets for the basic Chicken roll. Their bread is soft, yet crisp. They even have combinations like Egg Chicken, Egg Mutton, Double Egg Chicken and double Egg mutton Roll to satiate for people with a “hearty” appetite.

Shiraaz:  Almost similar to Nizam but their rolls are much thicker and can kill your appetite for dinner. So if you are single in the city and do not want to cook your meals pack a roll from Shiraaz.

ZeeShan, ParkCircus: If you are by seven, you have to wait till 30 min before you make way for the counter where the guy sits patiently hearing almost everybody to hurry up. The juicy succulent texture of the fillings is a total pleasure to your taste buds.

Nafeel, ParkCircus: If you are a beef eater, you have to try out the short and sweet rolls with well done beef chunks coated with secret spices from Nafeel owners. The rolls are of eight rupees and you have to have the heart to stand in the pavement and finish it off because of paucity of space in the shop.

Dhaba, Ballygunge: Dhaba is a famous restaurant known for Mughlai food and it has the sumptuous rolls which are challenging to finish. Made with desi ghee it is quite a task to finish off a roll.

Bedwin: Though Bedwin has various outlets spread across the city, the best one is of course tucked away in Gariahaat. Try out their fish tandoori roll.

Alibaba: A new kid on the block with outlets spread across the city but their mutton rolls are quite a hit.

Finally, Street side shops lined across New Market facing corporation building.

P.S. And always remember Rolls are fun while you take a stroll and bite into it. You have to enjoy the experience of making your way with the roll neatly wrapped in the butter paper which has to be carefully unfolded with every bite while you make your way through the busy streets of city of joy.