There is a high chance that, when you walk into a Bengali restaurant, you will find a dish called mutton dakbunglow adorning the menu (along with other equally famous counterparts of the mutton kosha, mangsher jhol and others). The mutton dakbunglow or chicken dakbunglow is an acquired Bengali dish, but its origin lies with the British Raj, where this dish used to be cooked in the ‘dak bungalows’ while the British officers were on official trips around the country.
There is no definite cuisine that can be attributed to Anglo-Indian food – it is a bit of this and a bit of that. The European (British, Portuguese and French being the main influencers) style of cooking gets married to Indian spices and the outcome is some splendid dishes. The same dish can taste different in different parts of the country depending upon the available or local spices. So a Madras chicken curry is just another regional version of the mutton dakbunglow. One of the biggest influences that Anglo-Indian food has had on Kolkata is the remnants of some of its fried stuff, which form the mainstay of these shops. One of the very first innovations that happened was the aloo chop or the mashed potato of the Europeans, which got combined with Indian spices and became one of the most famous street foods of Kolkata. Speaking to Ms Bridget White-Kumar, one of the food historians of Anglo-Indian food in the country, the railway chicken curry is one of the few first innovations that, when prepared in the eastern part of the country, had mustard oil, and when prepared in the south, had coconut and curry leaves in it. Along with these dishes stand lamb stew, mulligatawny soup, mutton chop, devil chutney, veg croquettes, and caramel custard – all have been embraced with equal love.
You will rarely find a restaurant dedicated to Anglo-Indian food in Kolkata but almost all Bengali restaurants offer some Anglo-Indian dish or the other. Other places where one can get good Anglo-Indian food are the old clubs of Kolkata, founded during the British Raj. Another restaurant that opened with the name of an Anglo-Indian dish was Jhaal Farezi. When they opened the restaurant three years ago, they had an impressive presence in terms of Anglo-Indian fare. Time and again, they have tried to bring forward the Anglo-Indian menu to food lovers in Kolkata.
In the recent times, Jhaal Farezi has brought together an outstanding menu focused on Anglo-Indian cuisine for its Sunday brunch, as well as in an à la carte menu on all days for lunch and dinner till the end of July. Pocket pinch would be about Rs 800 plus for two persons. Some of the highlights of this festival are the Anglo-Indian ball curry (a sweet and tangy mutton ball curry with a distinctive flavour of curry leaves), the chicken pantheras (a classic Anglo-Indian fried dish), spicy sausage salad with baganer mashla (‘baganer mashla’ mean ‘spices made from herbs of the garden’), the ever-popular chicken a la kiev, bangers and mash Kolkata style, and many more dishes. The kicker is the jhaal farezi which is so different from the North Indian jhaal farezi that we have. It is a simple, roasted and dry vegetable dish with a distinctive smoky flavor. There is also the use of bandel cheese (a local cheese that is quite salty) in the antipasti as well in the form of a smooth and aromatic kofta curry.
With such influence on Bengali cuisine and Indian cuisine and with so many tasty and popular dishes that have been loved by the city for so long, it is only a surprise that no restaurant has not, till now, opened up in the city dedicated to Anglo-Indian food. Jhaal Farezi is definitely a positive step towards popularising Anglo-Indian food in the city and, hopefully in the near future, we will have some more joining the bandwagon.
A true blue Kolkata foodie, Anindya loves cooking and eating his Kosha Mangsho. Anindya weaves stories around food as he believes exceptional food is an emotional experience. Previously a restauranter, now a passionate photographer and traveller, he runs a successful blog called Pikturenama and contributes to other publications.