“The path to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” —– an old Himachali saying.
Whether or not, it’s the case in Himachal or not, it surely is the case here in Kolkata. The Eastern part of the nation loves to eat and Kolkata can be considered the very capital of the same. Come the festive season, preferably the Durga Puja, the city rises up to the occasion, gorging on food, whatever and whenever. Food is a way of life, back here. People don’t eat to live, they live to eat.
It would be unwise to remark that the entire food scenario has undergone a sea change in the last decade. Oily potato thuds have been replaced by momo stalls, high calorie sweets have been won over by delicious ice-cream parlors and the famous singara fails to attract an appreciable audience these days. But, home is where the heart is, right??For food lovers and food-stalkers like me, it hardly makes a difference as things stay the same for me. Neither has that shady place below Sealdah station service fantastic Alur Chop changed, nor the wonderful Nolen Gurer Payesh made by mother. Bengali singaras are hard to come by, but is delicious as ever.
The main reasons behind the extinction of these dishes are the high cholesterol and calorific figures per serving. When an entire world wants to be fit with dangers of Blood Pressure, Coronary Diseases and Diabetes looming dark over them, you can’t help but appreciate the fact that these are the dark clouds on a Storm forecast day. Alter them, make them more suitable to the present day, some would argue. I‘d beg to differ. Can you take away Sachin’s straight drive and watch him play??
Here, on this occasion, I’d like to mention three food items back here in Kolkata that have been not the hot cakes in the recent past, but they surely have their place in History. As for a die-hard foodie like me, they still do!!
Starting from Sarat Chandra Chattopadhay’s scriptures to Satyajit Ray’s travels, aloor Chop or shops of the same find a mention in almost everywhere. Awesome hubs of gossip and ‘adda’, Aloor chop shops have that typical old Calcutta feel, unmistakably still prevalent in lanes and bylanes of North Kolkata. Terribly oily, Aloor Chops are mashed potato with a layer of ‘besan’, enjoyed best with ‘Moori’. Ask any elderly Bengali what he usually has for tiffin in the evening, ‘Aloor Chop’ would surely be one of the primary items. Not surprisingly, it ceases to be a topic of interest to the pizza pasta eating generation.
Nolen Gurer Payesh
Come winter, come Nolen Gur. Bengalis have an inherent disease of adding Nolen Gur to any sweet preparation they make during this period of the year. Fresh Mollasses goes into everything, starting from Rasogollas to sandeshs to payesh to pithe-puli, all of them delicious Bengali sweet dishes. Nolen Gurur payesh is the standout among those. Few would argue that Cold winter afternoons with a bowl of payesh in hand feels heavenly. Again, due to the sweetness constrictions this stands on the brink of extinction. Few Bengalis today know the real art to making the same and if so, having a proper group of foodies to feed it to.
The typical Bengali Biriyani
Biriyani is awesome!! What’s more awesome is the different gharanas that make Biriyani in different ways possible. While Lucknow and Hyderabad Biriyani are the most popular, it may be noted that Bengalis were the first to introduce potatoes in Biriyani. As the city becomes more modern and posh, you can’t help but notice the fact that the age-old Biriyani with a greater quantity of ‘haldi’ and less ‘jafran’ has taken its leave in silence. While the city keeps gorging on Biriyani from Mughal sell-outs, outskirts and not-so –wealthy parts of the State still hasn’t kept up with this brand dilemma. Bengali Ghar Ka Biriyani prevails and trust me, there’s that wonderful charm to it. I’d not be ashamed to admit the fact that I bunked classes to have one such pot of Biriyani stretching a journey of over three hours. Says a lot about me, doesn’t it??