Bookshelf: A Cookbook that Brings Kolkata’s Iconic Eats into your Kitchen
From Mughai porota to mishti doi, Ananya Banerjee’s book, Bangla Gastronomy, takes us on a recipe trail from her family kitchen to the most iconic eats in Kolkata.
Food is nostalgia. Be it our mother’s cooking or the neighbourhood eatery, it has the power to take us home.
As a young girl growing up in south Kolkata, Ananya Banerjee had the best of both worlds. While hot, flaky Dhakai porotas from Dwarik sweets made Sundays worth the wait, at home it was her mother and aunts whose effortless cooking made for special meals. “Back then, like most middle-class families, food was always prepared at home. What used to be bought from outside was mishti doi (sweet yoghurt) and mishti (sweets). Occasional trips to the famous Anadi-Cabin for Moghlai porota used to be a big treat, while a visit to my maternal home in north Kolkata meant kobiraji cutlet from the classic Allen’s kitchen or Mitra Café,” she reminisces. Her latest cookbook Bangla Gastronomy chronicles some of these dishes interspersed with cheery stories from her childhood.
It all began when Banerjee’s love for the food that she grew up eating nudged her to host pop-ups three years ago. It was around the same time she got popular as a ‘home chef’, which made her open the doors of her home to hungry Mumbaikars. Although the city had a few Bengali restaurants, it was her homely approach to classics like kosha mangsho (slow cooked mutton), muri ghonto (fish head cooked with rice and aromatics), tomato khejur aamshotto chutney (sweet tomato chutney with dates and mango leather), maacher kalia (tomato-based fish gravy) and rosogollar payesh (rice kheer with rosogolla) that turned her into a Bengali food evangelist in the city.
What sets Bangla Gastronomy apart from everyday Bengali recipe books are dishes introduced by other cultures in the city of joy—British and Anglo-Indian, Mughlai and Chinese to name a few. It almost works as a guide for the non-Kolkatan, who loves to explore a city through its food, quite unintentionally though. The anecdotes preceding the recipes give away unassuming, hole-in-the-wall places serving some of the most iconic dishes for decades. Banerjee shares interesting stories behind recipes such as the classic Awadhi-style Kolkata biryani replete with potatoes, a Bengali-Chinese chilli chicken introduced by the Chinese who settled in Tangra, a very British chicken stew, an Anglo-Indian Pish Pash and a Kolkata Christmas cake inspired by the Jewish bakery Nahoum.
Walk down memory lane with Banerjee, who suggests visiting these eateries to experience the real taste of the city of her birth.
Dhakai porota: Dwarik Grandsons, Shyambazaar
Kochuri torkari: Maharani at Lake Market; Gupta Bros (multiple outlets)
Luchi cholar daal: Shri Hari Mishtanna Bhandar, Bhawanipore
Sandesh: Putiram at Lalbajar, Nakur-Nandi at Ramdulal Sarkar Street; Bheem-Nag at Bow
Bazaar; Ganguram at multiple outlets; Sen-Mayasay at multiple outlets
Sada Doi: Mithai, Park Circus
Rosogolla: Chittaranjan Mishtanna Bhandar, Shyambazaar
Fusion sweets: Baked mihi dana and baked rosogolla at Balaram Mullick, Bhawanipore
Cakes, cookies and tarts: Nahoum’s at New Market
Mughlai poroto: Anadi Cabin at Dharmatala
Kathi rolls: Badshah in New Market; Bedwin at Gariahat
Kolkata biryani, champ, rezzala: Royal Indian hotel (Park Circus), Sabir’s restaurant (Chandni
Chowk), Arsalan (multiple outlets) and Aminia (multiple outlets)
Phuchka, churmur, chaat, alur dom: Vivekananda Park, Lake Kali Bari and Victoria Memorial
Chop and cutlet: Mitra cafe (multiple outlets), Allen’s Kitchen at Shobha Bazaar, Apanjan at Kalighat, Kalika at College Street
Telebhaja (deep-fried snacks): Lakshmi Narayan Shaw at Hatibagan
Chicken puffs: Nahoum’s at New Market
Bengali-Chinese: Chilli chicken and chowmein at Beijing in Tangra
Images Courtesy: Ananya Banerjee
Images Courtesy: Ananya Banerjee
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