Bengali food….ah! the aroma of mustard oil is so familair and makes me nostalgic. You can’t blame me as I have grown up in Kolkata and am almost a Bong, so love Bengali food. The flavour of kalonji or paanch phoran(five spices) spluttering in sorshe tel is unique. Kosha Mangsho with luchi or even cholar dal, chorchori, sukhto, begun bhaja, alu dum, ghee bhat, maccher jhol and sada bhat, chitol muthia are my all time favourites. It is the oil and the spices used in Bengali cuisine that enhance the flavour of the food and make it so different.
Also the taste of the fresh water fish that one normally eats in Bengal, is different. The salt water fish Hilsa or Ilish which is such a delicacy in Bengali, is unfortunately not my favourite. I prefer Rohu or Rui as the Bongs lovingly call it. Each household in Kolkata has a different way of preparing fish. A lot also depends upon the texture, size, fat content and the bones in the fish. It could be fried, cooked in a simple spicy tomato or ginger based gravy (jhol), or mustard base with green chillies (shorshe batar jhaal), with posto, steamed inside of plantain leaves, cooked with doi (curd/yogurt). The steamed fish in plantain leaves is similar to Patranu Macchi of the Parsis. Even Goans make fish in this manner with green chutney inside the fillet. I can devour fish fry or maccher jhol with rice anytime. Have a soft corner for Doi Mach too, if prepared well.
Mumbai has always had a plethora of restaurants serving Bengali food, but they seem to be abounding now. Thank God. Bijoli Grill of Calcutta is now here in Powai and so is Bhojohari Manna near Heera Panna Mall in Oshiwara, Andheri west. Affordably priced, the latter’s food is great, but alas! the portions are highly inadequate. They need to look into that. Waiting to sample their Mahabhoj Thala ( a thali). Haven’t got down to doing so. Ofcourse Oh! Calcutta has been around for a while and continues to serve great Bengali food. Calcutta Club is fairly good too, but only for some dishes. Their ghee bhat is authentic. Bhima’s rolls near the Gurdwara in Four Bungalows Andheri west, I feel are hyped, as the food quality leaves a lot to be desired. Hangla is fast becoming a popular chain with outlets in several places, but only takeaways. Their food is good, specially the rolls and the chicken kosha and biryani. They are the closest to the ones I am used to from Stop Over in Ballygunge Phari Kolkata. Arsalan from Calcutta is also there now in Khar in Mumbai on SV Road and is always packed. Can we blame people for thronging there? The food is delicious and well priced too. Hope they maintain this pricing and quality too.
Anek hoiche, about Bengali food. Will have to relook at my menu tonight and prepare a Bengali dish for sure. Tastebuds are longing for it. Not even discussing Bengali sweets today. That’s a full chapter by itself.