Why do I love Calcutta?
Is it the postcolonial hangover, the nonchalance of dreamy (yet sluggish) Bengalis, the silent rumble of commercialisation as flyovers and malls sprout up, or perhaps the vulture of culture circling the decaying remains of an era gone by? Only the heavens know! But food could be a very good reason I still love Calcutta.
Now, there are quite a few Bengali restaurants in Bombay, although I must warn you that one cooks their food in petrol (dalda), the other has zero consistency, and the final one serves frozen fish in hot gravies. So imagine my excitement when I found a Bengali take-out in Bombay, that serves Calcutta style biryani, where the aloo is the correct colour, the meat pieces generous and the rice, soft, flavourful and elongated in all its splendour. Most importantly this joint has the most compassionate Bengali couple running operations. Mou and Sougata not only ensure that the fish is fresh and the meat is well cooked, they also ensure that they customise menus to your liking and occasion, they ensure consistency and they cook up a mean Bengali feast.
I’ve often wondered what I’d eat if I were to breathe my last in Calcutta. (I dislike the word die). I would like to believe that I would order in from Shiraz (only the most iconic biryani joint in the city of joy!). I’d bully my mother into making me shammi kebabs, and kosha manghso (my maid would pull together a light, fish stew) and daddy would bring home some rosogullos.
But I’d make do with a porotha, some chicken chaap, soft shammi kebabs and fried fish!
Biryani with potatoes, a boiled egg and chicken chap. Enough said!
Memories attached: Well several, let’s just say this is chubby-food I’m willing to eat till I die.
I grew up in Calcutta and spent close to 17 years of my life breathing and eating Bengali meals. I must confess my family isn’t very regional. So there were no chor-chories and ghanto’s (and thank god for them) at our dinner tables. My mother satisfied our several culinary demands, request and needs. And then I left home (and thank god for that) and carried my history with me.
Rice, dal and fried potatoes and fried fish is what I eat on Saturdays for lunch every time I’m home. My silly sister, who doesn’t eat fish always had an egg or chicken curry cooked for her, I’d steal a piece or six when she wasn’t looking. Who doesn’t like a balanced feast?
Chingri maach in coconut milk and fish steamed with chillies and mustard in a banana leaf was food I discovered in my late teens and grew to love only after I left Calcutta.
Memories attached: My friends Vandana, Mark (a legit Bengali) and I would run away regularly to submerge our faces in chingri maach and paturi.
Wait let’s not forget the eeleash maach and the pabda maach for Pete’s sake!
Since it’s the last meal of my life and since no Bengali meal would be complete without luchi (stuffed with peas), along with a generous helping of alour dom, keema and potol’air dolma. Mou and Sougoto added them to the last supper. Along with payeesh, chutney and misti.
My large Bengali family united by a love for celebration and food, not heirlooms would be my guests to this last supper, along with Mou and Sougata, Mark
, Shalini, Suddho, Shormistha
Growing up in Calcutta has taught me to weigh things in sentiments. And I’m so fortunate to have found Feeast@East in Bombay, which makes me slightly less home-sick and satiates my eternal craving for home food.
They even cater
, so the next time you want an indulgent meal, quite like mine, please call Mou and Sougata at +918080999014. You can order online here
. You can Tweet to them here
And a round of applause to my faboosh team of photographers, Tamara
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