Last week, I was once again in Kolkata. In between work, whatever time one could squeeze out, some great food experiences unfolded. I enjoyed few versions of local Kachori Subzi, Jalebi , Kullhad Chai (tea in earthen cup), Joynagarer Moa, a North Indian Lunch at a local Punjabi Dhaba and Deviled Crab at the iconic Mocambo. Here is a sneak peek.
Breakfast – A Kachori or Kachuri Trail
There was a long pending agreement between me and my local foodie friend Subhankar. It was that during winters he shall take me along for sampling local Kachuri breakfast (Kachori is also called as Kachuri) which city’s various iconic eateries offer and are quite popular with the locals. As the luck would have it, he suddenly sprained his ankle and had to excuse himself just one hour in advance of our meeting time. But then he suggested that he shall send me the details of what he had planned for us and that, if I wanted, I (actually we, as Govind Sharma was also there) could carry on. As soon as I kept the phone down, a series of WhatsApp messages came in giving detailed descriptions including location pins. Having equipped with the guiding details, we set out for our breakfast.
Mohan Bhandar at SN Banerjee Road
This basic and rustic place was already full. Locals, families were enjoying their morning grub and talking in loud voices denoting the food was actually fueling the energies. We settled down on table to be shared with a local diner. Pat came our order of Hing Kachori and Aloo Torkari (Subzi). Four Golden Kachori (akin to what Poori is in North) sitting beautifully in a steel plate and a stream of Khajur-Imli Chutney flowing beneath them and given company by chopped pickled Green Chillies. The goldenish Aloo Subzi came in a separate plate.
The Kachori was crispy yet not flaky. Tearing the first morsel revealed it was made with a coarsely ground flour and was flavoured with Mustard Seeds and a hint of asafetida. The Curry was mildly flavoured with chunks of potatoes and few with the skin on. I love the potatoes done with the skin. It gives a different to the curry. We enjoyed forgetting all the noises being made around us.
The very flavourful breakfast was wrapped up with a Khajur Sondesh which was fresh, granular, soft and juicy. The touch of Nolen Gur (date palm jaggery) flavour made that little beauty so very refreshing.
Maharaj at Sarat Bose Road
I have a love for this outlet. Have enjoyed the Kachori Subzi here earlier as well and have written about it in my social pages too. So, am not repeating the details of the flavours. As usual, we had Kachori Subzi with Chutney and Chopped Green Chillies. This flavourful combo has to be honoured with Crispy Jalebi and Tea (the owner ordered to be made specially for us) in a Kullhad.
While enjoying our food, we also admired and clicked our selves in front of the famous Monalisa Guest House, where the iconic Vidya Balan starrerr Kahaani was shot. This is bang opposite Maharaj, my favourite joint.
Sharma Sweets at Sarat Bose Road
This local outlet, having origins in Uttar Pradesh, has quite a few branches in the city. This one is few meters away from Maharaj and Maharani. Our Khasta Kachori was a round, ball shaped served with Khajur-Imli Chutney and some Curd with a sprinkle of Chaat Masala. The crust was thick and yet flavourful. The filling was a mix of sweet and sour masala tempered with spices. While the taste of the Khasta Kachori was quite similar to what we get in the north, the sweet and sour Chutney gave it a different flavour. The intermittent spoonfuls of Masala Dahi also was a refreshing addition. The person at the counter said that there is sizeable population from eastern UP and Bihar in the city which prefers this Khasta version of Kachori over the Bengali Hing Kachori which is close cousin of North Indian Poori.
This wonder sweetmeat was introduced to me by my colleague Soumitra. Had never heard about it. He brought for me and insisted that I should try it. This Joynagarer Moa, a cream coloured ball, coated with sugary particles and dry fruits appeared to be a heavy stuff. Hesitantly, I picked it up and tried to tear a morsel out of it but was insisted upon to bite it as it is. The first bite and what appeared firm ball was in fact soft and light. It was puffed rice done with Nolen Gur ( Date Palm Jaggery), Ghee and Dry Fruits. I am told that it originated in the Jaynagar city (hence the name) in South 24 Parganas and then became popular all over. This is available only for couple of months during November- January. An interesting local sweet which is light and very flavourful.
Balwant Singh’s Eating House at Harish Mukherjee Road
When traveling, I have always steered clear of North Indian food. I don’t know how I gave in this time and agreed to a proposal of eating at a Punjabi Eatery which is quite famous with the locals. On reaching there, I learnt that it is soon going to complete 100 years of existence. This gave a lot of satisfaction that the food is going to be interesting.
Our order consisted Sarson Ka Saag with Makki Ki Roti, Baingan Bhartha, Dal Tadka with Lachha Parantha and Khichri.
Sarson Ka Saag looked, smelled and tasted like what you get in the North, however, for me a bit more of Desi Ghee would have worked better. The Makki Ki Roti too was typical what you get here and the combo was quite tasty.
The Yellow Dal Tadka again was quite well done and was very flavourful with a mild tempering of spices and Ghee. The Lachhha Parantha was a delight. It was that same moist, flaky and crisp. What made it stand out was the sprinkle of White Sesame Seeds which gave it a nutty and crunchy bite.
The Khichri was more of a Dal Chawal done together than the khichri thing. Though done with long grained rice, Green Peas and Chopped Tomatoes and Dal, it lacked that flavour of Khichri. For a Dal Chawal combo, it was good and tasty.
The surprise of the lunch was Baingan Bhartha !!
A dish full of pale white paste, oil oozing out from the sides and Green Peas and Fresh Coriander leaves playing hide and seek was served to us. Had to ask what exactly was that. We were told that this was Baingan Bhartha !
I was expecting a reddish-brownish dish with glazed hues and some seeds. It wasn’t even near that. Hesitantly, I tasted it. Oooooh !! It was a delight. A hint of smoky aroma, a paste like consistency which was tempered with spices, had green peas and tomatoes and was quite flavourful. Frankly, one of the best Bhartha with a different look. Went very well with the Lachha Parantha. The sever told me that it was prepared with a blend of roasting and boiling of the Brinjal, a different recipe.
Before wrapping up, I remembered having seen Milk Cola in their menu. Although, we were all full and no one wanted any dessert after such a tasty lunch, still I was curious about the drink. So ordered one portion while everyone denied to have even one sip. After a wait of about ten minutes, a glass jug full of chilled pale milk landed on the table. Before, I could realise what it was and click a picture, the server quickly served it in four (yes four) steel glasses on the table. I had no option but to pick it up without clicking (steel glasses?). One sip, and it blew me away. The milk tasted of a reduced / condensed milk, had the mild sweetness of the cola and the sharpness of the soda fizz. And it was chilled. While I wanted to only taste it, I finished the entire glass. So, was the case with rest. Everyone liked it so much that the glasses couldn’t be kept down before gulping down the entire stuff.
Mocambo at Park Street
This one is my favourite joint in Kolkata. One dish which is synonym with the place is their heritage dish called Deviled Crab. Had never tried this earlier. Last Sunday had this for the first time. The looks were quite interesting. Two crab shells, filled till the brim with Cheesy Sauce. Frankly, for me it was an overdose of Cheesy Sauce. You dig inside and you would find chunks of silken Crab Meat. I would have liked more of meat in it and a bit of cheese. However, not bad for an experience and yes, it did make a nice pic.
There a few more places to enjoy breakfast in the city, as suggested by my friend which I shall try some other time. In the meanwhile, if you have some more tips for me, I would be glad to add on to my list. Till then….