Bengali cooking is mostly confined to the home and their dishes are carefully prepared following recipes handed down through generations. Small wonder then in Mumbai one hardly gets to sample the real Bengali food, save some food festivals in 5-star hotels during Poila Boishak or the Bengali New Year.
With The Bombay Canteen collaborating with Kolkata-based home 'Chef Iti Misra', the Canteen Bengali Bhoj spells excitement for the lovers of Bengali food. One can pre-order a Thaal or a set meal, 24 hours in advance for dinner, while a la carte Bengali dishes - both classics and daily specials are available for lunch and dinner. On till June 10, daily, at Rs 1600 plus taxes for a Vegetarian Thaal and Rs 1800 plus taxes for a Non-Vegetarian Thaal.
Contrary to popular belief, Bengali cuisine abounds in vegetarian preparations made from seasonal vegetables. Here too, there are some unique offerings like Lau Ghonto, Mochar Paturi, apart from the popular non-vegetarian dishes. What sets this Bhoj apart is the fact that one gets to sample lesser-known Bengali fare rather than the clichéd dishes one is used to eating.
The flow of flavours of a Bengali meal starts from a bitter to a sweet finish. To start with, there is Shukto. This is a dish that is essentially bitter, made up of neem or other bitter leaves, bitter gourd, brinjal, potatoes, radish and green bananas, with spices like turmeric, ginger, mustard and radhuni. Meant to cleanse the stomach so that one is ready for the meal.
The Shukto here is cooked to perfection and the flavours, reminiscent of the ones one would have tasted in Bengal. With salt, a slice of Gondhoraj Lebu, Green Chilli on your plate along with the Gobindbhog Rice, you are bound to be transported to a Kolkata home. The Alu Chingri Bharta – a mash of potatoes and small prawns, is pure delight.
The fried course comes next. Posto Borah is melt in the mouth, but with distinct flavours. The Fried Fish or Kucho Maach Bhaja, is crisp and adds the right crunch. Relish this with the Shona Mooger Dal and you will experience bliss on your palate.
The next course includes the simple Lau Ghonto or a preparation of lauki cooked in milk with badis added to impart texture and Kochur Saag Chingri made of arbi leaves with prawns and oodles of mustard paste. Supposedly the bland course, this one too tantalises your taste buds.
Fish is undoubtedly the most popular item in a Bengali meal and here Katla Macher Jhol is served with rice.
Just when you think you have almost finished a sumptuous meal, a sweet-sour Ambol or Tok - chutney and fried papad are served. The Raw Papaya Chutney or Plastic Chutney as it is called is sweetish, while the Mango Chutney is expectedly piquant. Both tease your taste buds. But, the highlight is, undoubtedly, the sweet-tangy chutney made with whitebait fish.
One cannot end a Bengali meal without the quintessential 'Payesh' or 'Kheer' and with mangoes in season, naturally, it is Aam Kheer here.
Cooked with precision and served with equal refinement, this multi-course repast, is not your usual Luchi-alu Dum or Kosha Mangsho kind of Bengali meal but a unique gastronomic journey which you should willingly embark upon. It is the simple, home-style flavours that make you yearn to come back for more.
Food critic, features writer and columnist, Mini Ribeiro is a qualified Journalist, from IIMC New Delhi. She specialises in the Food & Beverage and Hospitality space. As an established food & beverage writer, Mini currently contributes to several leading English publications across the country – Asian Age, Hindustan Times, Sunday Financial Express, Hotelier India, Go Getter and Vistara inflight magazines and Rediff.com. She also has her own You Tube channel called Mini’s Food Fundas. Fond of cooking, Mini enjoys experimenting in the kitchen with various cuisines, with Indian regional food, being her favourite. She has recently started, a platform for home talent, called 'Flavours from Home', an initiative which aims to make women who are passionate about cooking, entrepreneurs.