Kolkata – our “The City of Joy”, the ancient British Capital of India offers our taste buds a beautiful array of various kinds of mouth-watering cuisine. The city is termed as the “King” when it comes to its Street Food which is a contribution by the various rulers through history. It is said that the primary contribution to Street food is by the Marwari’s (king of chaats) and Chinese community who migrated in the late 18th century.
Let me take you on a mouth-watering and blissful journey through the Street Food capital of India.
The first name that pops into one’s mind when the name Kolkata is mentioned is “Jhaal Muri”; a mixture of puffed rice, onions, tomatoes, cucumber, coconut pieces ,coriander, peanuts, green chillies with a dash of special “muri masala” and lemon juice.
It is rightly said that “necessity is the mother of all inventions”.
According to hearsay the British rulers refused to touch the kababs from the skewers (kati) directly because of which flat bread was served on the side. Over time the flat bread was filled with the kabab (mutton /chicken/meat) pieces, onions, green chillies and sauces and thus the Kati Roll was invented. The Kati roll has been adapted in various forms across the globe as one of the favourite “On the Go Snack”.
Kheemar Doi Bara:
This unusual recipe is said to be an original Thakurbari (Tagore Family) recipe documented by Purnima Thakur who married into the Tagore family, and inherited one of the cookbooks of the family. It is a combination of minced meat balls which are fried and then dropped into sweetened curd which is flavoured with subtle spices.
Pani Puri, Golgappe, Dahi ke Batashe are the different names that this street snack is called in various parts of India. Originally from Kolkata this is a crunchy deep fried hollow piece of dough which is filled with spiced potato and dipped in spicy tamarind /raw mango water. This snack is quite a mouthful of flavours and personally I can eat this at any point of time during the day.
Aloo Dum & Luchi / Radha Ballavi/ Dal Puri:
These are variants of a simple potato curry served with deep fried flattened breads which maybe plain or filled with lentil stuffing. This snack serves as a wholesome meal for any local Bengali and is most commonly found in the commercial areas of the city.
Various kinds of vegetables dipped and coated in gram flour batter, deep fried and served with bhaja masala and green chillies; Telebhaja, as sinful as it sounds is available at every street corner of the city. Aloo Chop (spiced potato), Beguni (eggplant), Fuluri (plain gram flour), phulgobi (cauliflower) are just to name a few variants of the Telebhaja that have to be tried. I personally eat it with puffed rice and green chillies –the Bengali way.
A popular and filling street snack which is basically boiled and flavoured dried yellow peas served with onion, green chillies, coriander, sweet tamarind chutney, green chutney and a dash of lemon juice. This chaat is can be customized according to an individual’s taste and has been adapted across the country in various forms namely Ragda Patties (Mumbai), Aloo Tikka Chaat (Delhi) etc.
Dimer Devil / Devil’s Eggs :
An excellent side dish for alcohol lovers , this is boiled egg wrapped with a spiced potato paste ,covered with bread crumbs and deep fried , served hot with onions and green chillies. Rightfully called the Devil’s Eggs as they are delicious and sinful to eat.
This is not mentioned as a famous street food of Kolkata at many places but one of my favourite childhood memories are around this spicy mixture of peanuts, green chilli chutney, chopped onions, and coriander and lemon juice. This is available at all the Ferry Ghats (Jetty) stations across the Ganges River at least the Ghats are where I tasted them!
Chinese / Tibetan Snacks:
As mentioned earlier the Chinese who immigrated to Bengal gave birth to the “Bengali Chinese” cuisine which is now replicated across the country and known as “Indian Chinese”. The Chinese noodles which are locally called “Chowmein” are thin noodles tossed with vegetables, chicken, green chillies, soya sauce, vinegar, spicy sauces and served piping hot. The Tibetans who brought dim sums / momos-a snack which you can never get tired of eating. The dumplings are steamed or fried and served with a boiling vegetable broth and spicy chutney –a personal favourite during the chilly winter
There is still a long list of Street Snacks like the Dal ka chilla, Raj kachori, samosas, Kulfi faluda, Dal Vada, Pav Bhaji etc. which can be enjoyed at Kolkata and there is not shred of doubt that Kolkata is rightfully called the “Street Food Capital” of India.