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.
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.