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This year, the Bengali New Year will be celebrated on 15th April in Kolkata and on 14th April in Dhaka.
For Bengali expats like me this is a day to connect with our roots. The best way to do so is through food.
Bengalis in Mumbai will flock to restaurants such as Oh Calcutta, Bhojohori Manna and Bong Bong in search of a Bengali food feast. Of the three, the Oh Calcutta outlets offer the poshest of settings. The food at Bhojohori Manna and Bong Bong is arguably closer to the sort of the food served in Bengali homes. The other popular Bengali restaurants in Mumbai are Bijoli Grill and Calcutta Club. At the high end there is also Sahara Star’s 25 Parganas which is the first Bengali restaurant from a five-star in Mumbai. Navi Mumbai now has a few Bengali restaurants to celebrate Poila Boishakh in. Powai had emerged as a Bengali hub too with Bijoli Grill, Hangla, Boda and a Bong Bong counter offering new year feasts.
Not everyone goes out to eat on Poila Boishakh though. Some people prefer to meet up with friends and family for an adda at home. The cooking is often outsourced to caterers. The most iconic of these in Mumbai is Pratap Caterers. Pratap had started his career as a cook in the house of a Bandra Bengali family and then with their help set up a very popular catering company. New on the Bengali catering scene in Mumbai are Amit Roy’s Peetuk and Sougata’s Feast@East.
So what are the dishes that feature on the menu on this celebratory day for us Bengalis?
Crumb-fried, British influenced, fish chops and cutlets are a must. The fish has to be betki, basa won’t do. Luchi alur dom or luchi cholar dal (refined flour-based fried breads with slow-cooked potatoes and a sweet Bengal gram curry) are pretty popular. Given that Mumbai is the city of seafood, chingri malai curry (the Malay influenced laksa-like prawn curry) is quite sought after. Though to make a Bengali happy you should use fresh water prawns and not prawns from the sea. The most prized dish on a happy day like this is kosha mangsho, or slow-cooked mutton, as we Bengalis love our goat meat. This is best paired with mishti pulao or luchi.
The meal ends with some sweet and tangy tomato chutney and yogurt based mishti doi followed by sweets.
And what should you wish us Bengalis on our new year?
Shubho nobo borsho, which translates as happy New Year, would be just right.
Pratap caterers: 022 26007882
Amit Roy of Peetuk: 9870126912
Sougato of Feast@East: 9004551166
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.