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For a pucca Bengali, mutton is the best meat on the planet. By mutton, we mean goat, of course. And one mutton dish that you must eat when you are in Kolkata is the typical mangshor jhol (a soupy curry) cooked in Bengali homes. Served best with a mound of steamed rice and wedges of lime, the mangshor jhol is manna for true goat-meat lovers.
But a good mangshor jhol is essentially made at home and unless you are invited to one, it is unlikely you will get to taste the real deal. Nonetheless, there are a few stunning mutton preparations, beyond the obvious kosha mangsho and Mughlai dishes, which you can find on restaurant menus in the city and these you must not miss. Here are 10 mutton dishes, old and new, that no trip to Kolkata is complete without.
Niramish mangsho – The name literally means ‘vegetarian mutton’. Surprised? Well, in Bengal, onion and garlic are considered ‘amish’ (non-vegetarian) and the sacrificial meat offered to Goddess Kali is cooked without using onions and garlic. And hence, the name ‘niramish mangsho’! This dish, usually cooked with asafoetida, ginger and a host of warm spices, does not usually feature on restaurant menus, except for one place that serves it – Aaheli, the Bengali specialty restaurant at The Peerless Inn.
Kancha lonka mangsho – Kancha lonka mangsho is a traditional Bengali recipe where the mutton is braised with loads of green chilli paste and other ingredients like ginger and coriander leaves. It is fiery and the flavour of the green chillies rules supreme. Oh! Calcutta turns out a neat version of the dish, but the kancha lonka mangsho at Bohemian (Ballygunge) is in a class of its own and one of their bestsellers.
Jhupu Pisi’s Mutton delicacy – A more recent addition to the city’s must-try list is the Jhupu Pisi’s Mutton, a soupy mutton curry cooked with mustard leaves and pickled red chillies, served at Santa’s Fantasea in Golpark (they also have a branch in Salt Lake) that has earned rave reviews for their tribal and seafood specialties. This recipe is purportedly an import from Mizoram and goes best with wild red rice from the region.
Banspora mangsho – Another crowd-pleaser at Santa’s Fantasea, the banspora mangsho – boneless chunks of mutton marinated with spices and chargrilled inside a hollow bamboo stem – is a tribal delicacy from Orissa. Many have been gushing about this smoky mutton preparation with a distinct flavour from the bamboo stem.
Mutton kabiraji cutlet – A thin slab of spiced mutton in a mesh-like coating of beaten eggs – mutton kabiraji is one dish you cannot miss while in the city. The best kabirajis in town can be found in heritage North Kolkata eateries such as Mitra Café and Dilkhusha Cabin. With a steaming bhanr of chaa, this is one of the best evening snacks you will have here.
Kochupata mutton – Kasturi, a modest-looking restaurant in the New Market area, is famous for their Opar Bangla (erstwhile East Bengal) cuisine. Their most popular dish is the kochupata chingri. But they also make a mutton variant of the same dish – a rich mutton curry cooked with taro leaves – which is worth trying out.
Mutton and baby potatoes simmered with green mangoes and okra – Trust Bohemian to come up with something like this. Served with steamed rice and stir-fried wilted greens, this refreshingly light mutton curry with baby potatoes and okra has a delicious tang from the raw mangoes. If a mutton curry could be cooling, this is it. Perfect for summers.
Mutton tikia – If biryani-chaap is the city’s favourite twosome, tikia-porota is a close second. Mutton tikia (not to be confused with tikka) is nothing but fried minced-meat kababs laced in rich, fatty gravy. While quite a few roadside shacks make the tikia, some of the best mutton tikias in town are served at the New Aliya Hotel on Bentinck Street and Chitpur’s famous Royal Indian Hotel (better known as Royal). Mutton tikias also make for a fantastic stuffing for the kati rolls – a hot favourite in town.
Dum ki raan – Peter Cat is synonymous with the chelo kababs, but they also turn out a fantastic dum ki raan: a whole leg of goat slow-cooked in the oven for hours, after which the meat is pulled out in shreds and tossed in thick, sweet and spicy gravy. It comes with the long shank bone tucked in for the looks. This is a must-try here.
Mutton olathede – Ammini is a quaint restaurant near Sarat Bose Road and serves a small but impressive selection of home-style Kerala specialties. The dish that stands out here is the fiery mutton olathede: mutton braised with host of spices and red chillies, a lot like the Bengali kosha mangsho, but flavoured differently. It is best paired with some appams.
An independent journalist based out of Calcutta and a dedicated food enthusiast, she writes mostly about food and travel, and has worked and written for publications India Today, The Telegraph, Live Mint as also Lonely Planet India’s website. She also loves to experiment in her kitchen and runs a food blog – allthatsdelicious.com. But mostly she eats, frets about how much she eats and then eats some more.