Take a culinary ride with Sarmistha Neogy as she traverses the streets of Mumbai and Kolkata
The countdown has started for the biggest festival of the Bengali’s – Durga Puja. While, this festival has its own charm in West Bengal, the grandeur is no less in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai as well. Along with pandal hopping, gorging on scrumptious Bengali food is a daily ritual for people during these five days. The sudden sprout of Bengali restaurants in Mumbai is a proof of the huge popularity of this regional cuisine.
Calcutta is home to some of the best street foods in India, from rolls, chowmein, deemer devil (half boiled egg, wrapped in potato mixture, dipped in batter and then deep fried) fish kabiraji (fish fillet coated with beaten eggs and deep fried) to sweets like patishapta, Malpua or gur (jaggery) rasgulla. How about indulging yourself in a true gastronomical Kolkata experience in Mumbai? According to Kalyan Karmakar, renowned food blogger and author, during Durga Puja, people in Mumbai, prefer to have more of street food, which are usually fried and easy to share items.
The restaurants in Mumbai have already started prepping up to cope with the increase in footfalls which is usually seen during this time. Tapan Roy Chowdhury, owner, The Calcutta Club, in Oshiwara, says, “During Durga Puja, there is around 4-5 times increase in crowd as compared to the other times. So our menu is prepared, keeping this in mind.”
Menu sees less experiments & sticks to authentic traditional items:
Karmakar highlighted that, “Innovation in food during Durga Puja in Mumbai or for that matter during any festival defeats the whole purpose, because people love to cling on to their memories. It is not wise to experiment with the cuisine during this point of the time. It can work in Calcutta because for them it is mundane food, but for Bengalis in Mumbai it is not.”
Bijoli Grill, a popular pocket-friendly restaurant in Powai, also believes that Durga Puja is not the time to do experiments. Instead, they concentrate on preparing those items for which they are popular- like Fish Fry or Chingri Malaikari (prawns cooked in rich coconut gravy).
Some of the fast moving items at The Calcutta Club are Mutton chop, kasha mangsha (mutton curry), kheer Patisapta, Rosogolla Payesh and Chital Macher Muitha (fish dumpling). This year, the special inclusion is Fish Orly (deep fried fish, served with tartar sauce). Per person cost for a full meal here is around Rs 500-Rs 550.
Amit Roy, owner, Peetuk, says, “70 percent of our sales comes from fish fry, Mutton biriyani, Muglai paratha (Paratha made with flour and has egg or keema filling inside) and rolls. This year we will have fish paturi (fish steamed in banana leaf) and will bring back last year’s favourite- Luchi (a version of puri made with maida) and Mutton at our food stalls” Cost for a plate of biriyani and fish chop for two will come to around Rs 500.
However, Chhabi Dutta, Owner, The Mustard House, informs that they will be revamping their Puja menu this time. “In order to satiate the craving for some authentic Calcutta Chinese, we have got recipes specially from Tangra (China Town) in Kolkata for our food stall at Powai Puja. Our restaurants on the other hand, will see an inclusion of an extended varities of fish.”
Fixed menu Vs Thali:
During this time, restaurants either go for fixed menus or introduce the thali system as a strategy to deal with the huge rush.
The Calcutta Club believes in giving their customers the choice to order what they want and feels that there is wastage of food when you do thali. Bijoli Grill has a fixed menu, comprising of 25-30 items and the entire idea of not going for thali during Pujas is to cater to maximum people in minimum time. Oh! Calcutta, like every year, will introduce their special Pujo buffet and some of the all time favourite delicacies at this restaurant is Daab Chingri, Bhapa Iilish, (Steamed Hilsa) and Smoked Hilsa. The buffet offering is priced at around Rs 900- 995.
Bhojohori Manna is renowned for their thali or thalas as it is popularly called in Bengali. From Saptami to Dasami, their thalas which are named according to the day of the puja, includes a rich variety of mouth-watering dishes. The pricing for a vegetarian thala is Rs 575 and Non Vegetarian one is Rs 850.
Feast at home:
For those who prefer to give the long standing queues at the restaurants a miss and would like to enjoy a good authentic meal at the comfort of their homes, there is the option of ordering food through caterers specialising in Bengali cuisine or having a meal arranged by a home chef.
Priyardarshini Gupta, home chef at Authentic cook, who recently organised a Bengali meal at her Versova residence says, “People who come to my place are real foodies and have interest in trying out certain traditional family recipes, like Prawn Paturi which my granny used to make and is not available in any restaurants.”
Also if you plan to have a large family gathering at your place, you have the option of ordering from Sil’nora, who specialises in delivering authentic Bengali recipes ranging from Kolkata style chop, Shorshe bata Maach (Fish cooked in mustard paste) to Gurer Payesh.
So this Durga Puja, forget about calories and immerse yourself in these rich traditional Bengali delicacies. Bon Appetit!