Food is to die for. Food is the essence of living. Food is that existential truth that propels civilizations on the path of progress. Food is the Gospel. Food is divine. But when it comes to eating, I am very choosy and tend to stick to select few dishes that strike a chord with my palate. I do experiment now and then, but that does not stop me from ordering konjee crispy chicken every time I am having Chinese or a plate of chilly pork with a pitcher of beer!
Talking of food always makes me nostalgic – my food-mate Bham and I have had numerous experiences – good, bad and great – while trying out restaurants in and around Kolkata. The discussion of food always opens the floodgate of memories.
Picking 10 Best Dishes out of the vast variety of cuisines I have treated myself to is no mean job… here I will list only those items that have withstood the test (taste?) of time and will continue to charm humanity till the end of time:
- Chicken curry-Dosa at Pecos, Bangalore
Ask any Bangalorean and they will give double thumbs up to this. After downing those countless pitchers of beer with beef fry or chilly pork, when you realise you need to help yourself to dinner, this is the best option available.
- Calamari at Toit, Bangalore
The ideal Saturday night snack! The perfect combo with mindblowingly brewed beer at Toit. Good music only adds to the pleasure.
- Biriyani and Kebabs at Arsalan/Shiraz, Park Circus
In a world where people associate Biriyani with Hyderabad (yuck!), Kolkata Biriyani is the uncrowned king of the palate. The essential aalu and egg – and the aroma of the rice when served hot – at Arsalan will make your mouth water even as you read this. Top it up with mouth-watering kebabs from Shiraz and your day is made.
A Bengali meal
- Chicken Dak Bunglow at Bhojohori Manna
The ideal Sunday lunch. A plateful of steaming hot rice and ghee. Chicken Dak Bunglow is the cherry on top. Numerous other Bengali eateries will offer you the same dish, but no one comes closer to the one served at Bhojohori Manna.
- Parota-Kosha Mangsho at Golbari, Kolkata
Kono kotha hobe na… If you want to experience heaven on earth, take the metro to Shyambazar right away… Word of caution – Golbari owners have separated now; do not fall for the non-authentic kosha mangsho.
- Luchi-aalur dom, home-made
A regular Sunday breakfast whenever I visit home. Sunday is incomplete without pressing the fulko luchi with the thumb. Period.
Kochu bata and kochur loti
- Bhat-kochubata/dhonepatar chutney
The surreal feeling, the enigmatic taste and the culinary delight can never be experienced with another recipe. This has to be made with the shil nora. You will keep wondering how a plateful of rice disappeared within minutes. Even kochur loti is heavenly, if prepared the right way.
The sole companion of a Bengali on a hot and humid day. Panta is a East Bengali dish. Read this before the salt gets over….
- Khichuri-Begun bhaja
The staple diet on rainy days. Add a little ghee/butter on top and you will soon be transported to the wonderland where money grows on trees and you get paid to write poetry.
Without doubt the best invention in the world. I can survive on this for the entirety of my life without complaining. The Musur dal with peyaj-rosun phoron and the jhirjhire alubhaja is worth a thousand orgasms!
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Imagine any normal evening in May. Sweat beads trickling down your forehead onto your eyebrows, finally on the cheek via the eyelashes – and you wipe it off and break into a scream “Dinnnnnnnner”.
Whooooosh! A bowl appears in front of you. To your heart’s delight it has panta bhat in it. A perfect dinner delight on a summer night, no? Now, my non Bengali friends must be wondering what on earth is panta bhat? Well well, if you have not tasted panta bhat, your culinary life is a sad failure.
Ok, do not get to worked up. Panta bhat is just the Bengali term for fermented rice. A delicacy of East Bengal, it is a hit among the Bangals (now please do not ask me what this means, have already talked about Ghotis and Bangals more than enough). Panta bhat, aam kasundi, and peyaj (onion slices) make for the perfect dinner menu during summer.
Now as you all might be wondering, where is the recipe, damn it! Righto!!! Here you go……
I am sure you all have leftover rice at home everyday, and you have no idea whether to throw it away. Well, it comes in handy for making panta bhat. Just soak it in water and keep it like that for a few hours. As the rice gets fermented, throw away excess water and add salt, kasundi, dal, and any spice you want. Mix and mash. If you are not salivating yet, get some aachar from the refrigerator and start hogging!
Panta bhat is best enjoyed with begun pora (roasted eggplant). All you have to do is roast the begun on oven. Rotate the begun 360 degrees over flames until its black skin starts sagging. Once the whole outer skin is charred, remove it from flames, cool the begun. Once cooled, mash it (for the hygiene freaks, if you want taste, make sure you use your hand). Add salt, oil, chopped green chillies, tomatoes and onions along with spices of your choice. Bazinga! Begun pora is ready.
Do drop in a tweet or a mail once you have tried this at home. 🙂