Tag Archives: Bengali

Aabar Khabo : Once is not enough

My connection from Kolkata, actually erstwhile Calcutta, is from birth. Yes, I was born and brought up in the City of Joy which I still sorely miss. Naturally then, Bengali food is my comfort food and I thoroughly enjoy the cuisine and all its nuances.

To visit the MoMo Cafe at Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai to try The Kolkata Konnection, Bengali food festival was a trip down memory lane for me.

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Curated by Executive Chef Avijit Deb Sharma and his team, including a chef from JW Marriott Kolkata, it was indeed a spread any gourmand would look forward to. The Bengali dishes were a part of the buffet spread, which of course offered other cuisines too, catering to wide palate. There was a separate counter with phuchka Kolkata’s version of pani puri) and jhal muri, the quintessential street food of Kolkata. And of course a separate section serving the lip-smacking Bengali starters, chicken cutlet, fish fry, vegetable chop et al.

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I bit into the fish fry and memories came flooding. I have grown up enjoying this delicacy in South Calcutta where I grew up at several places, but Mukherjee sweets in Ballygunge Place, being my all time favourite. This one was close. The fish fillet wrapped in spices, coated with breadcrumbs, was fried to perfection. Comforting and familiar flavours. The dhonepatta  bhaja or coriander fritter was spicy and fragrant. The chicken cutlet with chicken mince was delightful as was the vegetable chop with the characteristic beetroot, potatoes and groundnuts. I was off to a great start and was enjoying every morsel with kasundi or the mustard dip.

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The mains were a feast fit for the kings. The thaal or a huge thali with several katoris or vaatis was a treat for the eyes. Kosha mangsho or the onion based slow-cooked mutton preparation, cholar dal, alu posto, ilish or Hilsa fish, malai chingri or the creamy prawn curry, begun bhaja, kodaishutir kochuri or green peas puri and of course the pulao, fragrant with ghee and roasted nuts and raisins, was what my meal comprised. The lebu (lemon) chatni, tomato chutney and aamer (mango) chutney were also served along, as no Bengali meal is complete without these.

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The dishes were simple and cooked home-style. The flavours were authentic replete with the Bengali spices and ingredients (mustard oil, paanch phoran, gobindbhog rice, gondhoraj lebu) and the melange of textures, absolutely delightful.

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Not only was the meal delicious in terms of its taste and flavours, but equally a nostalgic one for me as I sat recounting endless occasions when I had sampled those dishes at home or with friends and family.

Rosogulla and aamer (mano) sandesh was what I finished my meal with.  Both got my vote. But of course there were other Bengali desserts on offer too.

I left MoMo Cafe happy and satiated, stuffing a Kolkata meetha paan in my mouth, with the smile not leaving my face.

On till June 24 for dinner, this Bengali food festival is a must try for those who relish Bengali food and others keen to experiment.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

 

 

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A little British, a lot Bengali

The majestic grandeur of The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar at St. Regis, Mumbai, replete with a colonial feel is unmistakable. The aura this place exudes, befits the kind of food that is served here.

Currently running a special British Raj menu available for lunch and dinner till 31st May, the offerings celebrate Anglo-Indian cuisine, albeit with Chef Gopal Krishna’s twists. From JW Marriott Kolkata, this chef’s menu naturally leans heavily on Bengali cuisine, so he is serving the Anglo Indian cuisine of Bengal.

Anglo Indian cuisine may have common roots, but differs subtly in each state in terms of spices and the usage of local ingredients, incorporated over a period of time. Being from Kolkata myself, I was of course not complaining.

The Anglo-Indian cuisine which evolved in the Dak bungalows, Army canteens (Mess), gentleman’s clubs and the Indian Railways kitchens has been faithfully included in this menu.

The Daaber Jol which was nothing but fresh coconut water, rejuvenated me, as we settled down. Later, with my meal, I relished the Gondhoraj lebu shorbot – a refreshing cooler made with lemon and sugar, for which I have a tremendous weakness.

A Yellow lentil soup with apple, curry powder and cream, was what I began my meal with. A creamy texture, yet one, which offered a bite. It was absolutely comforting and a great way to begin a meal. There was an option of the celebrated Mulligatawny Soup too.

Dhungari Murgh Tikka

Kumro phool bhaja aka Crisp Fried Pumpkin flower, Dimer Devil Crumb or fried potato filled eggs, Betkir Paturi Mustard, poppy and coconut flavoured steamed Bhekti fish, were some of the starters, characteristic of Bengali food, that I sampled.  The essence of the flavours was captured to perfection. The dimer devil boasted of the right amount of masalas in the crust, just as the way it should be.

Subz Dum Biryani

What blew me off completely was the simple, but fragrant Dak bungalow chicken curry, a mildly spiced chicken curry from Anglo Indian cuisine. It was the quintessential Anglo Indian curry, I have grown up eating in erstwhile Calcutta. It opened a floodgate of memories for me. The only thing missing was simple steamed rice. Rotis and parathas don’t do justice to this preparation.

Dimer Dalna – an Egg curry with potato and spices, was equally authentic and well-made. Balanced flavours all the way.

Vegetarians need not despair. Mochar ghonto or Banana flower cooked with potato and coconut, is delightful and mildly flavoured. The core ingredient was intact and nowhere overpowered by spices. There are several other dishes to choose from as well.

The menu also includes few of Sahib’s signature dishes like the Satwar piste ka shorba  orToasted pistachio and asparagus cream soup, starters  like Broccoli dak bangla  and kasundi mustard.

We rounded off our meal with Bengali desserts like the Ledikeni – a cottage cheese dumpling fried and soaked in sugar syrup, Mishti Doi or the Jaggery flavoured homemade yoghurt.

A meal I would not describe as strictly Anglo-Indian, but inspired by the cuisine nevertheless. What struck me as praiseworthy was Chef’s tribute to the flavours of Bengal in an authentic manner. And I was pleased as punch at having savoured one of my favourite cuisines- Bengali.

Rating : 4/5

 

 

 

Bengali Food, that I miss

It’s that time of the year when I miss Kolkata,  more than ever. And this has been the story of my life for 24 years now, every year. Durga Pujas are almost here. The fun, gaiety, adda and Bengali food, is all a part of the ethos that contributes to this festival.Having grown up in Kolkata and am almost a Bong, so love Pujas and the food we relish during these 5 days.

Even otherwise, I have a soft spot for Bengali food. The aroma of food cooking in mustard oil. Ooh the flavour of paanch phoran(five spices) spluttering in this oil makes me nostalgic. 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. And the delectable chana sweets. What can I say about those? The list of my favs is endless.

It is the oil and the spices used in Bengali cuisine that lend a special flavour to the food which is so unique. 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 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. Have a soft corner for Doi Mach too, if prepared well.

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Mumbai has always had a few Restaurants serving Bengali food, but somehow they are not upto the mark. 25 Parganas at Sahara Star was good, but alas! it exists no more. Bijoli Grill of Calcutta is  still decent, but Bhojohari Manna is a perfect example of hype, save a few dishes. Of course Oh! Calcutta has been around for a while and serves Bengali food, but not 100% authentic.  Some of the dishes are closer home though, in flavours. But obnoxiously priced. Hangla  has become a popular chain with outlets in several places, but only takeaways. Their food is good, specially the rolls. They are the closest to the ones I am used to from Stop Over in Ballygunge Phari Kolkata or Nizams.

Gosh, with all this talk about Bong food, have to prepare something tonight as my mouth is watering or  head to a Bengali friend’s place for dinner.

 

 

Coconut Cravings

Coconut and its versatility never ceases to amaze me.  Savoury and sweet dishes, it lends itself beautifully to both. Kerala and of course Goa abundantly use it in their cooking, as it is grows locally, but even West Bengal makes use of coconut in several dishes.  Cholar(chana) dal with coconut pieces or in Patishapta (the pancake sweet) or even narkel naru (coconut and jaggery balls)

Of course, we Goans must have coconuts in our fridge all the time as it comes handy in most of our dishes. In Goa, coconut is used to give the local flavour to our cuisine.  And I love the flavour, it imparts.

Alle Belle 1

Goan sweets cannot be made without coconut. Coconut milk and grated coconut, in fact coconut, in some form or the other, is used in sweets like Bebinca, Bolinhas, Pinac, Dodol, Baath, Alle Belle, etc.

Dodol

 

I love the neutral, slightly sweet taste of coconut. Perhaps that is why it integrates so well in desserts.

Recently had a delicious Alle Belle at The Leela Mumbai. The coconut and jaggery filling was perfect. Neither ingredient was overpowering the other. I also love coconut in sweets like ladoos and barfi too.

Of course in Goan sweets coconut milk is made use of often, but somehow, I prefer the desiccated version. The texture of the coconut milk or cream does not appeal to my palate, except in savoury dishes like the Goa orange curry or even a Thai red or green curry.

Interestingly, the use of coconut for desserts is not limited to Indian cuisine only. Thai cuisine uses a lot of coconut milk in their desserts too. One of my favourites is ruam mitr. I first tasted it in Bangkok. It contains jackfruit, green noodles, palm kernels, corn, and water chestnuts in a red covering, in a very light coconut milk with crushed ice. It is refreshing and perfect for summer. And it is not very sweet.

Another popular one is Khao niew bing. This too is not overpoweringly sweet, but the undertones of coconut and fruit along with smoky hints from the grilled banana leaf make it irresistible.

Coconut in any dessert is fine  as it is fairly common in global desserts too, but I cannot handle coconut ice cream at all. Not the tender coconut one at Natural’s too, although people rave about it. But I can never resist coconut macroons. Some Goa bakeries make great ones. Even Pune for that matter. Crème brulee with coconut is quite innovative as well.

And now I am off to grate coconut for my Goan dessert! Maybe some godshem?

 

Garma garam khichdi……

Today is the perfect day for some hot khichdi. My ultimate comfort food anytime and more so in the rains. Khichdi, Khicuri, khichri…. it is known by many names, but they all mean the same thing – a combination of dal and rice cooked together, sometimes with vegetables.

It is a complete and nutritious meal in itself. Different parts of India prepare khichdi differently, but we all love it. My favourite is the Bengali version with moong dal, potatoes, other vegetables. A dash of chilli powder, bay leaves n garam masala, added and it is unparalleled. Light and delicious. It is simple to prepare too and can be made at a short notice. Pair it with papad and pickle or begun bhaja(brinjal fry) and you are in seventh heaven.

Gujaratis too make great khichdi which is eaten with their sweetish kadhi. Delectable. The Gujaratis also do a spicy version called the vaghreli khichdi. Mumbai has several restaurants which serve this khichdi. Soam in Babulnath, Mumbai makes delicious bajra khichdi. Taste plus health. I somehow don’t relish the daal khichdi offered by Udupi joints in Mumbai. there is too much of haldi in those.  Another variation of khichdi which I enjoy making is palak khichdi. Add blanched palak to your regular moong dal khichdi with ginger, garlic and voila! a great meal is ready. Again, it is not neccessary to use only moong dal in khichdi. I often make it with masoor dal and even chana dal. Only the tempering should be different.

Interestingly, in Mumbai we call the upvas food sabudana khichdi by the same name, even though it is not made with rice and lentils. a friend of mine makes khichdi with seven grains. It is the ultimate in taste and nutrition.

Some people enjoy their khichdi with pickle, others with curd. whatever the accompaniment, I am only particular about the fact that the khichdi should not be overpowered with spices. Otherwise the purpise of having a light meal of khichdi is defeated. In fact it is often eaten when one is unwell or has an upset stomach. I can eat it anytime.

Khichdi is a versatile dish and so much can be done with it. One can add interesting ingredients to it to give the basic khichdi a twist. I am all set for making khichdi tonight. Are you?

Aamer payesh (Mango Kheer) : Recipe

Ingredients : 

1 -2 Mango, ripe 

3 cups Milk (c0ndensed or whole)

50 gms raw rice 

50 gms Jaggery

For garnishing

a few chopped cashews 

elaichi (cardamom)

Method:

Wash & Boil rice in cup of milk in a pressure cooker.

Peel the mango, cut into small pieces.

Boil the remaining two cups of milk in a kadai, till it gets reduced to one-and-a-half cups and changes colour.

Add the mango pieces, the boiled rice and jaggery and stir well for few minutes.

Garnish with cashews and elaichi. Serve  hot or cold.