Forget Nizam’s kathi rolls and chimney soup at Eau Chew; Kolkata’s underbelly is just as yummy - and deliciously secret. Here’s our guide, courtesy bpb reviewer turned Kolkata-resident plus chef Auroni Mookerjee.
As I didn’t grow up in Kolkata, I don’t get all the fuss about Nizam’s, but I do adore kathi rolls. I enjoy Kusum, purely because it’s convenient on a tipsy night, as you wrap up at one of Park Street’s many watering holes. But, my favourite is probably Gariahat’s Campari (don’t be fooled by the name, they’re just a roll and cutlet shop) where the rolls are a tad juicier (a bit like a Bombay Frankie), and the filling takes me back to my Grandma’s homemade rolls stuffed with leftover Kosha Mangsho.
Kusum Rolls, 21, Karnani Mansion, Park Street Area, Kolkata, 033 22652090 or +91 8274030009; Campari, 155B, Gariahat, Kolkata, +91 9874940570.
Maach, Pice and Rice
While I’ve always been the biggest admirer of Kewpie’s and had many a meal at Bhojohori Manna, Oh Calcutta and 6 Ballygunge, I think my biggest culinary revelation since moving to the city has been the city’s pice hotels (the name coming from a ‘back-in-the-days-when-we-used-paisas’ billing system).
Kolkata’s take on a working man’s thaali or lunch home, at these establishments your entire meal revolves around a big mound of bhaat and a daily menu of the usual Bengali courses of daal, bhaaja, sabji, chorchori, maach, mangsho & mishti or chutney. While every major bazaar or office paara will have one of these, here are a few favourites.
The extremely popular, Kasturi near New Market specializes in Bangal (or Bangladeshi) fare and my must haves are kajoli maach with jhinge, chechki maach’r chorchori and their signature kochu paata chingri. They also nail one of my all-time childhood favourites, jhuri or kurkure aloo bhaaja. Adarsh Hindu Hotel, near Gariahat dishes out the meaty-fattiest cut of chitol peti in town, a maach prep that looks like a porterhouse steak and tastes even better than pork belly. Head to Tarun Niketan near Lake Market, for the most homely and well-balanced (creamy yet pungent) shorshe-baata pabda’r jhol. And try Hotel Siddheswari Ashram, again Near New Market, for melt in your mouth mangsho and poshto boras.
Kasturi, 7A, Mustaque Ahmed Street, New Market Area, +91 8334922225; Adarsh Hindu Hotel 212, Rashbehari Avenue, Gariahat, 033 24062147; Tarun Niketan - 88/1B, Rash Behari Avenue, Ward 88, Lake Market Area, +91 9836358614; Hotel S. Ashram 19, Rani Rashmohani Road, New Market Area, +91 9831684351.
Pick Your Beef
Since West Bengal is one of the few states that has rejected the nation-wide beef ban, there’s plenty of great m-eating to be had around town. They put together a rather decent medium-rare steak dinner at the ITC, Sonar Bangla and the I can’t help but stop by for a plate of boti kebabs or beef rolls when I’m in the Park Circus/ Beck Bagan area. But every few months or so, I make the pilgrimage to a little yet legendary eatery called Sufia, off Zakaria Street, where seasonal specials like maghaz aka bheja haleem (only available during Ramzaan) and nalli nihari (only available during winter mornings and runs out by 8 AM or so) are truly divine.
Sufia 2, Zakaria Street, Bara Bazar, +033 22342803.
Tangra can’t stake a claim as Kolkata’s epicentre for Chinese cuisine any more, but deep within its gallis lies one of the city’s truly hidden gems – Ah Leung, probably the last real bastion of authenticity in the area. I was introduced by local food-writer Poorna Banerjee, and have since become a regular. The eatery is only open for breakfast for five days a week and they serve just one dish – Singara aka Pork Wonton Chow. Best described as a bed of freshly made egg noodles tossed with scallions and roast pork lard, and topped with a handful of steamed pork wontons and shredded roast pork, you can season this with soya and vinegar to taste, or sip on some broth on the side if you must. But frankly, just the fatty roast pork, the meaty wontons and silken yet chewy noodles come together as one of the most perfect plates of food the city has to offer.
119, Tangra, Kolkata, near the Chinese Kali temple.
For Mughlai, Biryani & Chaap:
Everyone talks about Arsalan and Shiraz, but personally, I am a fan of Royal Indian Restaurant, and an order from their Park Circus branch is a weekly ritual. The Lucknow-styled mutton biryani here is much lighter, whiter and all about saffron and not meetha attar. Also, it only comes with a potato on request. Besides the legendary mutton chaap (if you’re into boneless and lean, this dish is not your cup of meat), you’ll also do well to order a portion of mutton keema, pasanda, or rezaala, polished off with a side of roomali.
24A, Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Park Circus Area, Kolkata, call 033 30990216.
This story was contributed by Auroni Mookerjee, old time bpb Mumbai food writer who is now resident chef at The Salt House, Kolkata.
Photo Credit: Instagram.com/dd_kolkata
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