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In Kolkata, fish is a lifestyle. It is not difficult to find some good fish curry and rice in the city. But the Bangali’s love for fish extends far beyond machher jhol. And by fish, we also mean prawns, for a Bangali, chingri is a maachh (fish). Here are a few places in the city which you must visit just for the sake of fish. From traditional favourites to quirky innovations and sheer variety, these are the city’s top fishy favourites.
Bohemian: Head to Bohemian to sample bekti smoked with cumin and Darjeeling chillies and tilapia fillets wrapped in bacon rashes and cooked in a ginger and fennel infused sauce. Chef Joymalya Banerjee, best known for his quirky take on essentially Bengali flavours and ingredients, turns out a few stunners when it comes to fish. He serves a smoked hilsa consommé with hilsa roe shavings and stuffs kajoli fish (a local fresh water fish) with egg yolk mousse and stews them in an orange cumin broth. Or, there are bekti fillets baked in foils with wood-smoked pineapple and cumin, a treat really.
Kasturi: Kasturi on Mirza Ghalib Street (they have other outlets too) is an iconic Bangladeshi joint serving Dhaka-style Bengali food. But here you could easily skip the meats and stick to the fish. Their kochupata chingri – shrimp cooked with taro leaves and mustard in loads of mustard oil – is legendary. But you should also try their mustard laced bhapa bhetki baked in foil boxes or the aar machher hing paturi. For a hot summer day, the pabda machher jhol (soupy curry) with aubergine and bori (dried lentil pellets) is a fantastic option. And, of course there is hilsa – stick to perennial favourites such as shorshe ilish or try the Dhakai korma. But one dish you must try here, even if it means an exercise of will, is the lotte shutki sheele bata – a spicy mince of dried fish – it stinks a little, but beyond that it is delicious.
Fish Fish: The place is called Fish Fish for a reason. Of course, the name is also a pun of ‘phish phish’ which means ‘to talk in whispers’ in Bengali. The extensive multi-cuisine menu here is dedicated to fish. There is everything from galouti kababs made with minced bekti and seekh kababs and European-style steaks made with the feted chital (knife fish) to traditional Bengali dishes such as tel koi, carp in a mustard oil emulsion, and aar machher kalia, a rich curry make with long-whiskered catfish.
Bijoli Grill Snack Products: Bijoli Grill is one of South Kolkata’s iconic eateries and they are best known for their fish fries and rolls. Head to their swanky restaurant on Southern Avenue for your fill of fish, there is more on the menu but expectedly their signature dishes are (with a few exceptions) all fishy. There are continental dishes such as fish a la kiev served with a cream cheese sauce and fish Florentine, or try the gondho lebu fish flavoured with Bengal king lime served in a white sauce. Their version of the fish meuniere has spice laced bekti fillet, shallow fried, in lemon butter sauce. And, there are the perennial favourites such as fish fry, fish orly and crumb-fried fish rolls stuffed with minced fish and shrimps.
Codfather: This a small place on Lake Terrace, near Desapriya Park and as the name suggests, fish is in focus here (though the menu has chicken, lamb and pork too). For starters there are creole fish fingers and herb crusted fish fingers or Hawain grilled prawns. Move on to more wholesome dishes such as the fish mornay served with garlic bread, a simple grilled fish in lemon butter sauce and cheese and spinach stuffed fish mignon with sour cream sauce. The menu also packs in a fish burger. But the bestseller here is the fish-n-chips (you could opt for the beer-batter crust). There is a bar too, so you could pair the batter-fried fish with a bottle (or a few) of chilled beer.
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.