It’s the Bengali new year. The first of the Bengali month Boishakh makes it Poila Boishakh. New accounting book for traders, new clothes for everyone and it’s festivity all around. To add on to the festive mood, there are special luncheons, meals and food festivals across Kolkata.
There are most likely three common patterns of the menu planning which has emerged in the restaurants across Kolkata. First, opt for the popular dishes where the diner can identify with the name and has some memories attached to them. Second, Bengali cuisine can never be complete without a touch base on the Bangladeshi cuisine. So do a face-off or an amalgamation of Epar Bangla and Opar Bangla. Lastly, any Bengali celebration is incomplete without a touch of Rabindranath Tagore so some recipes which claim origin to ancestral Jorasanko Thakurbari goes well with people. In addition, few other new trends are focussing on Calcutta Cuisine, which is essentially a buffet of dishes with various cultural influences that Calcutta had. This year, these three stand out for some of the innovative dishes which is perhaps getting served for the first time in Kolkata.
A food festival with lost recipes? A sceptical mind always gets an alert when someone speaks about lost recipes. One of the most pertinent questions is how was it lost and how was it revived? Unfortunately, very rarely I have received a satisfactory answer to this. I didn’t ask these questions here but I enjoyed the food thoroughly.
Check out the Tele Bhaja section where the must try are Aloo Aar Aam Ada Diye Chop. Thin Slices of green mango in the mundane alur chops elevates it exponentially. Gondhoraj Murgir Peyaji has a sizeable chunk of chicken deep fried to dark brown colour with a typical Bengal gram flour batter and thin slices of onion. Dimer Chop has quarter sized boiled egg paired with mashed potato with spices and fried onions. In the Non-veg section, there are chicken, crab, mutton and fish; an equal representation of all proteins. Drumstick and Bori Prawn Curry is a predictable show stopper. Shukto, the ultimate palate cleanser of Bengali cuisine, is made with poppy seeds and milk, a common practice in Bangladesh.
Enchorer Rezala or Green Jackfruit Rezala and Alur Dom adorn the veg section. There is a live counter for Mughlai Parota as is for Phuchka. They call it Mango Lemon Baked Yogurt, commonly known as Aam Bhapa Doi. It’s tough to resist the temptation with Lobongolotika, Komola Bhog, Nikhuti or Aatar Payesh. A plate will be a perfect symphony of various sizes, shapes, colours and structures of sweets each standing on its own merit. (refer cover image)
Timings: Lunch and Dinner buffet on the 15th of April 2019
Cost: INR 2,250 plus GST
Yauatcha is going local time. Is it the first time? I am unaware but am sure this is for the first time Yauatcha, the Chinese dimsum tea house, is celebrating Poila Boishakh with food inspired from local ingredients skillfully infused in traditional dimsums.
Hibiscus Chicken Dumpling
Hibiscus Chicken Dumpling, made from Hibiscus or Jaba gives it a beautiful red colour.
Prawn and Gondhoraj Lime Dumpling
Gondhoraj, one of the most popular faces of Bengali ingredients, is packed with prawn for Prawn Gondhoraj Lime Dumpling and the classic Har Gau gets a twist. Mustard, another star of Bengali cuisine, along with Mango which doesn’t need any external validation for the popularity in West Bengal.
Steamed Spicy Betki with Mango and Indian Mustard Sauce
These come together with 'The Bhekti' to make Steamed spicy bhekti. It’s the makeover which is expected when the son of soil Sorshe Bhekti visits a Chinese dimsum tea house. The very popular spicy Hakka noodles for the vegetarians can also be a top draw. Gondhoraj Sorbet is on the offering as a dessert and Huanying Xiatian is the special cocktail with Vodka and Gondhoraj Lime once again.
Timings - From 8th to 30th April 2019
Cost for two: INR 1,850 plus taxes
When one claims that Calcutta is a perfect example of global fusion food where global classics incorporates local ingredients to get reinvented, many would debate this.
Bengal Lancer's Punch
There are so many examples which prove that some of the dishes of Calcutta are multicultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic. This Bengali New year, Food researcher Pritha Sen joins hand with restaurateur Surjot Rout at Ekdalia Road to present a slice of that. Let me spell out some names like Topse Muchhee Fry, Armenian Khichuri, Cabbage Keema Dolma, Prawn Gravy Cutlet Curry, Yehudi Murgi Roast. The Armenian Khichudi is from a free exchange of flavours where Bengal Khichudi and dry fruits and raisins, dill and parsley used by Armenians come together. The Jewish roast chicken has liberal use of turmeric, which is a local influence. Cabbage Keema Dolma again is an amalgamation of Armenian and Jewish influence. The grape leaves got stuffed by the traditional Mediterranean stuffing of rice and mince meat.
Portuguese Sausage Curry
One of the most interesting dishes is Prawn Gravy Cutlet Curry. Simple, mild marinated prawn crumb fried which is originally served with a sauce, over time got changed into a gravy and is served with the cutlets immersed in it. Firingee is a very popular Bengali term of yesteryears which means anyone European but not to any particular country. Hence the name Firingee Thala.
Prawn Gravy Cutlet Curry
There are veg and non-veg option and there are A la Carte options too for Polo Pilaf, Portuguese Sausage Curry and Lobster Chiney Kebab.
Timings - From 13th to 21st April 2019
Cost - INR 799 for Non veg Thali and INR 499 for Veg Thali
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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.