If you are a true Indian, you will never will be able to resist its scrumptious street food. Health and hygiene have never stopped us from digging into the mouth-watering flavours of street snacks that are an integral part of the Indian culinary space. One such city that ranks high on a street food aficionado’s list is Kolkata. And what better time than Durga Pujo to discover the hidden gems of Kolkata.
Egg rolls, radha ballabhis, singhadas, kochuris and the oh-so delicious Calcutta biryani—the menu is endless when you are roaming around in Kolkata’s by-lanes. But if you are away from Kolkata and craving for the mouth-watering Bengali fare, here’s Monkey Bar’s latest initiative, ‘Next Stop Kolkata’ – a unique food promotion that is an attempt to capture the essence of these gastronomic delights for food lovers outside of Kolkata. ‘Next Stop Kolkata’ has a special menu coinciding with Durga Puja that features some of Kolkata’s best street eats. Chef Dheeraj Varma, who spearheaded the project says, “Last year, we hosted a Durga Puja bhog thala (prasad plate in Bengali) promotion in Kolkata and Delhi and it was a tremendous success. This year, we wanted to take it one step ahead. We didn’t want to be limited to just the Bengali bhog. So, Kolkata’s street food served as the perfect muse for us.”
To help Chef Varma with the endeavour, The Monkey Bar, enlisted the help of Iti Misra. The Kolkata-based home chef and food consultant has made a name for herself as a repository for Bengali food culture, history and techniques. Together they made a list of renowned eateries across Kolkata and went on a sampling tour. “I went to Kolkata for a few days, and in those days, we covered almost 30-40 eateries across the length and breadth of the city,” Varma speaks of his on-ground research.
Once back from Kolkata, Varma and Misra, put their heads together to create a robust menu of 10 dishes and three cocktails that will please any hardcore food lover. All the items on the menu are varied and represent the confluence of cultures on the streets of Kolkata. “The idea is to rekindle the nostalgia and make street food exciting. Kolkata isn’t just about Bengali food. The streets of the city are perhaps one of the most cosmopolitan streets in the country. The city loves its food and celebrates its diversity; the street food is a specimen of the same,” says Misra. She helped Varma’s team with the tweaking of recipes to make them restaurant-worthy.
A glimpse at the special menu and you will find myriad influences of all those who’ve made Kolkata their home over time. From Mughlai to Tibetan to Colonial to Chinese and of course Bengali. From the Beadon Street Fish Roll to Girish Park-er Shoitan Deem, College Street Hing-er Kochuri to Chitpur Road Chicken Rezala, from Tiretti Bazaar Prawn Dumpling to Esplanade Mughlai Porota, Vardaan Market Moong Daal Pakodi Chaat to Elgin Road Pork Momos, Lake Market Chicken Kabiraji to Vivekanand Park Ghooghni, the menu covers all possible bases.
Keeping in mind that Durga Puja coincides with Navratri, there are plenty of options for vegetarians as well. The beverage menu also features bold Calcutta inspirations in its names and also ingredients—Piara Peara, Puchka Caipiroshka and Thaanda Chaa.
Speaking about the menu curation, chef Varma says, “We chose to do this so as to cater to a bigger audience and not restrict the food to just main course. The menu has good mix of appetisers and main course dishes.”
Ask Misra to throw light on this unique initiative and she says, “There are several different communities that came to Kolkata in search of jobs and settled here for a better life. They made Kolkata their home away from home, holding on to their beliefs, cultures and food traditions. Over a period, these diverse ethnic food patterns became a part of Kolkata’s cultural and culinary ethos and gained immense popularity. People would travel all the way to the city of joy to taste these diverse food specialties. These food initiatives are a way to put this gastronomic multi-culture in the spotlight.”
Next Stop Kolkata! is on at all Monkey Bar outlets in Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, from October 4 to 21, 2018.
Image courtesy Sanjay Ramchandran
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