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A few years ago, restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee set out to find the origins of the delightfully fragrant gondhoraj lime, and traced it back to Rangpur in Bangladesh (erstwhile East Bengal). Nonetheless, Bengalis on either side of the border are extremely proud, and rather sentimental, when it comes to the gondhoraj – the reason why you should never compare it to any other. And no, it is not kaffir lime.
At his Bengali specialty restaurant Oh! Calcutta, Chatterjee has a fantastic bekti gondhoraj on the menu. Basically, the dish has chunks of bekti is smothered in a yoghurt-based marinade flavoured with a dash of ginger, green chillies and the juice and zest of gondhoraj lime and steamed to perfection. It is easily one of their best, and most replicated dishes (of course, there is no beating the original). There is also gondhoraj flavoured paneer tikka on their menu, in case you are a vegetarian.
In the recent years, the gondhoraj lebu has enjoyed a top slot when it came to experiments and innovations in restaurant kitchens. One city-based chef who has pioneered the cause of the gondhoraj is Joymalya Banerjee of Bohemian. To begin with, the menu at his restaurant packs in a wonderfully refreshing gondhoraj julep (sans the alcohol), and a tangy, fragrant gondhoraj sorbet that works as a delicious palate cleanser. But that is just the beginning.
For a Bengali, Sunday lunch typically means mangsher jhol, a light mutton curry, potatoes mandatory, and plain steamed rice. The Sunday mutton curry is special, only it gets better by several notches, if it comes with a few wedges of gondhoraj lebu on the side. What Chef Banerjee does at Bohemian is, cook a mutton stew (drumsticks go into it too) with gondhoraj leaves that steep in the stew, oozing its fantastic tang and aroma into the meaty broth. This mutton and drumstick stew with gandharaj leaves is easily one of the best summer dishes around.
Another must try is the gondhoraj chicken, one of the bestsellers on the menu at 6 Ballygunge Place, which is basically strips of chicken soaked in gandharaj lime juice (and a few spices) and fried. It makes for a fantastic appetizer.
And, talking of appetizers, a quirky number on the menu at The Factory Outlet on Camac Street is the gondhoraj lime scented panko-crusted mushrooms on skewers. Pair it with a glass of chilled and spicy aam panna and gondhoraj mojito, for an extra dose of citrusy goodness. Or, try the gondhoraj ghol – Bengali style lassi flavoured with the juice and zest of the aromatic lime – most Bengali specialty outfits have it on their menu these days.
One excellent way to use the gondhoraj is to use it in marinades for grills and kababs. At Hub, Taj Bengal, the tandoori jhinga gandharaj is one such tandoor specialty. The smoky finish from the tandoor coupled with the delicious aroma of the lime gives the prawns a whole new dimension. Cut to Oudh 1590 and try the Awadhi sugandhi mahi – chunks of Kolkata bekti laced with yoghurt and saffron marinade. What gives the dish an edge over regular tikkas is that the restaurant’s Lucknowi karigars add a dash of gandharaj lime to the marinade. Another fantastic version of the dish is served at Durbari, Swissôtel Kolkata’s specialty Indian outfit. Their gandharaj mahi tikka is one of their signature dishes and a bestseller too.
But your gondhoraj trail is not quite complete without something sweet and lemony! And when it comes to desserts, Bohemian once again takes the trophy with their gondhoraj lemon pie with ginger brittle. The pie’s predecessor, the gondhoraj soufflé, had created quite a stir among the city’s discerning foodies. With this pie, Banerjee has taken his gondhoraj fixation to another level. The pie comes topped with whipped cream and crunchy ginger brittle. Try it. Or, keep it simple with Pabrai’s gondhoraj lemon ice cream or a couple of gondhoraj sandesh at Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick Sweets. These you should not miss.