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Monsoons are here and this is the best time to feast on some smoky kababs. However, this time around pass the usual tikka and malai kababs, look beyond the kakoris and galoutis and try out something different. Here are a few stops in Kolkata where you can sample good old kababs that come with delicious twists or a dose of imagination – all of them lip-smacking good.
The Punjabee Rasoi, tucked in an inconspicuous neighbourhood in Kasba, turns out some of the best home-style Punjabi food in the city and has something of a cult following; their tandoor specialties are their strong suit. One dish that is likely to appear on every table here is the adrak ke panje, a house specialty. Deliciously smoky char-grilled goat ribs laced with mild spices with a distinct hint of ginger. The meat, dripping spicy juices, is finger-licking good. While you are here also try their murgh lahsuni kabab, a fiercely guarded recipe and one of their bestsellers.
Gabbar’s Bar and Kitchen is known for their quirky menu and signature twists on traditional Indian favourites. A recent addition to their menu is the chicken potli kabab, which is basically juicy chicken drumsticks stuffed with spiced minced chicken, marinated with typical tandoori spices and finished in the tandoor – easily one of their best dishes.
Aaira, the specialty Indian restaurant at Myx, on Park Street, turns out a similar dish the Mumtaz tangdi; only in this case the minced chicken stuffing is flavoured with lemon grass. However, if you are at Aaira, a must try tandoor specialty is the murgh rozali kabab, which has chicken breast fillets stuffed with minced chicken and gooey cheese, smothered with a fiery spice mix and grilled in a clay oven.
If you are a pork fan, head to Spice Kraft in Ballygunge. The highlight of the menu here is owner-chef Sambit Saha’s quirky signature entrees and here he turns out burrah kababs with pork ribs. The spice-laced pork ribs burrah kabab finished off with a flame-torch comes with a generous drizzle of chutney made with tamarind and jalapeños.
Zyka, a swanky restaurant in New Alipore is a grossly underrated restaurant. They turn out fantastic Asian and North Indian food, and menu lists a few superlative kababs. A must try on the kabab menu is the murgh chandi kabab, their rendition of the chicken cheese kabab (perhaps) popularised by Arsalan. The chandi kabab is basically melt-in-the mouth reshmi kababs that come doused in velvety cheese sauce. This is a must try.
The bestseller at Santa’s Fantasea, a specialty seafood and tribal fare restaurant, is the bans pora mutton, which traces its origins to the tribals of Odisha (or so the menu claims). The boneless chunks of mutton are laced with mild spices and herbs, stuffed into a bamboo shaft, sealed with dough and shoved into a tandoor, until the meat is slow-cooked to perfect tenderness. The result is smoky chunks of meat infused with a distinct earthy flavour from the bamboo.
One of the favourite kabab stops in the city is Kebab-e-Que, the multicuisine outfit at the Astor Hotel. Their kastoori and chakori kababs are legendary, but they also make a fantastic bhuni mirch aur hare pyaaz ka jhinga. The prawns are marinated with a muddle of roasted chillies, fresh mint, spices and spring onions and cooked in the tandoor. Or, try the golda chingri chine kabab at 6 Ballygunge Place, one of the restaurant’s original favourites. King prawn shells are stuffed with a mix of cheese, prawns and spices and baked to give it a beautiful golden crust.
A classic Bengali recipe is the chital machher muitha, dumplings made with minced clown knife fish, stewed in rich gravy. At Fish Fish, the city’s only dedicated fish restaurant, they turn out a seekh kabab with minced chital fish instead, spiced with typical Mughlai spices, and cooked in the tandoor; it is a fantastic fusion of two traditional favourites.
Vegetarians need not feel left out, there is much more on offer than the usual dahi ke kabab and hara bhara kabab. Pop picks include the delicious kumbh galawati (fiery galawati kababs made with minced mushrooms, fried in pure ghee and served on mini parathas roundels) at The Palms on Southern Avenue, easily one of their best dishes and the avocado shami kabab at Kebab-e-Que, melt-in-the-mouth pan fried patties made with lentils and avocado.
These kababs are worth braving the rains for!
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.