For a typical Bengali rains mean a plate of ghee-laced, piping hot khichuri served with an array of deep-fried fritters and some chutney on the side. When it comes to comfort food, khichuri is only second to bhaate-bhaat (soft-boiled rice, boiled potatoes and other veggies topped with dollops of ghee or butter). And while Bengali-style khichuri is perhaps one of the best version of this rice and lentil concoction you will ever have, there are plenty of interesting avatars of the dish that you should try while in the city.
For the khadyaroshik Bangali, khichuri and ilish mach bhaja is something of a sacred monsoon ritual; to make things even better, add jhurjhure aloo bhaja to the deal. And Chef Joymalya Banerjee has trumped up a stunning starter with this much loved combination. At Bohemian Banerjee serves his Bengal lentil risotto (Bengali-style khichuri) in spoons topped with fried, deboned hilsa croutons and shredded potato crisps. Talk of ingenuity.
Chef Pradip Rozario has been experimenting with food for decades now and serves his signature fusion food at his restaurant KK’s Fusion. His take on Khichuri and machh bhaja is his creamy lentil risotto that comes topped with a fillet of fried fish, come mashed potato and a spicy schezwan sauce. This one is perhaps one of Rozario’s most iconic creations.
However, if you are looking for traditional Bengali style hhichuri made with gobindobhog rice, head to Jhaal Farezi near Park Circus. They serve a typical Bengali khichuri studded with green peas that comes with accompaniments like begun and potol bhaja (fried brinjal roundels and pointed gourd), aloo chokha, (mashed potatoes with fried onions and chilies) pickles, papad and tempered yoghurt.
Now cross the border, well figuratively, and try a delicious opar-Bangla (erstwhile East Bengal) version of the dish – the bhuna khichuri, a dry khichuri, more like a pulao. Radhuni, a Bangladeshi eatery on Mirza Ghalib Street, makes a good mutton (or egg bhuna khichuri) for breakfast only. The mutton bhuna khichuri at Puran Dhaka, in Santoshpur, that comes with juicy chunks of meat and a generous sprinkle of birista (deep fried, caramelised onion) has been earning raves.
On Friday’s, between 12 and 1 in the afternoon, Arsalan, famous for its biryani and kababs, makes a special mutton Irani khichdi, served only at their head outlet in Park Circus. The spicy khichri loaded with tiny mutton cubes is made with rice and khesari dal and flavoured with saffron and a host of warm aromatic spices. Be on time, it is only available for an hour, and is extremely popular.
Or try the spicy bisibella hulianna, a Karnataka style Khichdi make with rice, lentils, vegetables and a mix of typical southern spices, at Tamarind near Deshapriya Park. It is deliciously fiery, and is served with appalam (papad), pickles, fried chilies and a bowl of warmed ghee. Banana Leaf, another popular South Indian eatery, a stone’s throw away from Tamarind, makes a Tamil version of the same dish – bisibella bhaat.
And it hardly comes as a surprise that a city obsessed with Chinese food will not have a Chinese version of its favourite comfort food. At Shimla Biryani on EM Bypass, they make a special Chinese khichdi (to be ordered in advance) that comes loaded with shredded vegetables and flavoured with typical Chinese sauces.
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.