A few days ago, a WhatsApp forward message said, “You can’t make everyone happy. You are not an Aloo Parantha”. Brings smile but it also means that by and large it is felt that Aloo Parantha is generally loved by everyone. I was reminded of this while having a quick dinner at Shiraz Golden Restaurant recently in Kolkata. Here, Aloo and Parantha both, separately though , in their distinct avatars made me quite happy.
It so happened that I reached the city quite late and although I normally don’t take dinner, I was quite famished and needed to eat. So, on the way to the hotel, requested the cab driver to make a halt at the Park Circus for my grub. Now, when you are at a local, celebrated eatery, all your calorie consciousness must go out of the window for a while and you must indulge in the enjoyment. Having said this, please don’t fall pray to the amount of food (or the oil) seen here in the pictures. I carefully manage my portions, yet enjoy the food to the full.
I ordered Chicken Chaap with Parantha to come first and then the Mutton Biryani. I asked my server Md Usman if I could get half of Mutton Biryani. He advised me that there is no half plate but then sugggested that I should leave the Parantha and the Chicken Chaap. Somehow, I didn’t agree and I am glad, I didn’t.
Almost immediately, the Parantha came in. Sitting in a white plate this perfect circle with golden hues conquered me instantly. It was like love at the first sight. The contours of layers were distinct and you can’t take your sight off this beauty. Forgetting everything, I brought it closer and it was super fresh. Had a crispy texture. Pick it up and tear a part of it, you realise it is flaky and is laden with ghee inside. What a marvel ! Almost dry outside and very moist inside that it will smear your fingers. The first bite and it is crispy outside, flaky and super soft inside. Very smooth and yes, it’s mildly sweetened. I had to quickly eat two three morsels on its own before I could realise that I had ordered a curry also to go along with it.
Chicken Chaap, a Bengal Style Mughlai delight, was a dark brown heap of chicken morsels sitting in a pool of golden oil was a sight of delight. The aroma had that meaty Mughlai masala. Steering clear off the oil pool, I picked up the chicken. Each piece was coated with a flavourful masala. Not very spicy but the Mughlai flavours were predominant. The meat was tender and juicy. The chicken had its fat content intact which provided another dimension of taste to the whole thing. The flavours had a hint of creamy texture and the masala had a nutty finish. The recipe uses curd, poppy seeds and sometimes cashew also which gets it the distinct flavours. Having started with the meat now, for a while again, I forgot the Parantha.
But yes, once you start eating the Parantha with Chicken Chaap, your palate gets to enjoy series of flavours. The Parantha with its glory when eaten with the soft meat has its own class. The mild sweetness of Parantha finally takes a royal closure on your palate and that is divine. I suggest, for once, turn a blind eye on the oil quotient for a while and enjoy the royalty. It is worth that adventure.
Now was the turn of the Mutton Biryani. Kolkata Biryani has always beeen my favourite and is a delight to savour. The colourful and aromatic heap of rice landed on the table. Surprisingly, the heros, Mutton and the dear Aloo were no where in the sight. However, first my Biryani test…picking up a pinch of rice and dropping on the plate. Each grain fell apart. Wow !! This means, it’s perfect. Then, a digging in the heap of the rice to look for the hero. The first attempt brought out a big piece of Mutton and then an Aloo, both in their full glory. The mutton piece when pulled out and tapped, the rice grains clinging on to it came down in the plate. Another sign of a quality Biryani.
A spoonful of the rice in the mouth told you it was flavourful. Each grain was coated with the flavours of the spices. Yet there was no sight of the spices or masala. The Biryani was moist and yet there was no sign of oil. It even had a mild sourness as an aftertaste which was difficult to detect. And that’s the quality of a good Biryani. The meat was soft, coated with masalas and very juicy. It also had a fat layer intact which provided another dimension of flavour. The Aloo again was moist, soft and full of flavours. In fact, Aloo holds a special place in every Bengali meal and particularly the Biryani. It is delight to enjoy the Aloo which has soaked in it the full of Biryani flavours and yet retain its identity. A Bengali family sitting on the next table had six members in the age group of 6-60. Once the food arrived, the family was engaged in a verbal duel that who gets which size of Aloo and surprisingly there was no fight over the meat. Amusing !! A typical trait of the the state. Why not ? When in Bengal, even I would want to have a larger share of this Aloo in the Biryanis. So, in my Biryani, I enjoyed the flavourful Rice, the succulent Meat and of course the lovely Aloo, equally. Infact, I enjoyed the Biryani itself
Now this flavourful meal had to be wrapped up with a traditional dessert. So, Phirni was the obvious choice. Frankly, the very looks didn’t excite me much. A pale white crust set in an earthern bowl was served which appeared to be chilled. The consistency was right while the taste was just ordinary. No aroma or flavour except a predominant flavour of rice paste. Surprisingly, there were even no nuts. Well, the pasty texture did have that crunch of the rice. Overall, it was not bad. Perhaps the meal had raised my expectations too much.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my meals at Shiraz. The service was super fast and the staff was very courteous. Md Usman, who served me, suggested me to come after the festival period and that the Biryani would be even better. He also suggested to try the Chicken Razela there. Well, there is always a next time and I shall certainly go, again.
I strongly recommend that If you love your food, for once, ditch your calorie consciousness and indulge, in limits though, in these heavenly delights. I am sure you would love this galaxy of flavours. If you take this adventure or have already taken, do let me know your thoughts.
Bon Appetite !!