Food has no religious or social boundary for Kolkata. Kolkata enjoys its phuchka as much as it enjoys its moghlai porota, its fish kobiraji as much as its moong dal pakodi. Some of the food items were introduced by people from various Indian states, some evolved right here from the colonial influence, and some introduced by people who came from faraway lands. But Calcutta (as Kolkata was earlier known as) welcomed them all with a satisfied palate.
So what better than to explore the street food scene of Kolkata for a Durga Puja festive spread this season, thought Monkey Bar, one of the popular gastro pubs in the city with a pan-India presence. After all, Durga Puja is the time when the city virtually camps on the street. Decked in their new attire, the young and the old, the rich, the poor and the middle class, descend on the streets, tirelessly moving from one pandal (the temporary marquees housing the Durga idols) to another, catching up with family and friends, and doing what the city does best – eating.
While people will definitely eat from their ‘para’ (Bengali for neighbourhood) phuchkawala, drop in at Radhu-babu’s dokan or Anadi Cabin, or push their way through the crowd to Chitpore for succulent kebabs, Monkey Bar will be a relief to those who want to enjoy the same food in a more stylised setting, and paired with a drink or two, believes home chef and an expert in Bengali cuisine, Iti Misra.
Along with Monkey Bar’s Head Chef Dheeraj Varma, Misra has curated a special menu that will not only make Kolkatans in Delhi, Mumbai, or Bengaluru, or the city’s residents go nostalgic but also offer a chance to others to taste what they may have heard or read about.
Called ‘Next Stop Kolkata’, the all-day festival menu will be available at all outlets of Monkey Bar in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, from October 4-21, 2018.
From 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 a significant range.
“We were spoilt for choice,” said Varma, who travelled across the city, from north to south, along with Misra. They collected recipes, tried them out in the base kitchen, checked if the recipes could bear with some experimentation. Finally, they ended up with a list of 10 or so.
One of the biggest attractions of street food is the associated nostalgia. “Most people will remember some anecdote related to the street food shared with a school friend, a favourite cousin or bae,” said Misra. However, they had to keep a few things in minds while curating the menu said both Misra and Varma. Two key points were that the food must be able to stand a pan-India scrutiny and discerning diners may not want to have an exact copy of what is available on the street in a fine-dining setting. So the culinary team set about giving a quirky twist to some of the popular food.
Aficionados of original Kolkata street food may debate over the quirky twists but as Misra would like to remind that it is not merely a street food festival but “a street-food inspired festival.”
So the ‘dim er devil’ (Kolkata’s term for devilled egg) was encased in ‘shammi kebab’ mince. Chicken Kobiraji (a minced chicken cutlet with a frilly egg coating) is served with an apple-kasundi chutney. A spicy smoked tomato chutney adds the zing to some very authentic Tibetan pork momos. On the other hand, the ‘moong dal pakodi’ (deep fried moong dal dumplings) are served ‘chaat’ style, topped with sweet and sour chutney, yoghurt and crisp fried curry leaves. The ‘tin-kona parota’ (triangular paratha) will accompany the chicken ‘rezala’ so that you can mop up the subtly flavoured white gravy. Prawn dumplings served at the famous Tiretta Bazar Chinese Breakfast Market, the Fish Roll from Beadon Street, or the Viekananda Park Ghoogni (curried white peas) are all there, albeit with a twist.
Monkey Bar has also tweaked its drinks menu with some excellent street-inspired cocktails, such as the Piara Peara (tequila, tabasco-spiked guava juice served in a chill-rimmed glass), Phucka Pani Capriojka (a mix of Vodka, Gondhoraj Lebu, fresh mint and the tangy liquid served with phucka), and Thaanda Cha (a mix of spice infused Darjeeling tea and Vodka).
“The festival captures the spirit of the city, which is often called a melting pot of people, cultures and cuisines,” is how Head Chef Varma would like to remember it.
What: Next Stop Kolkata
Where: Monkey Bar outlets in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru
When: October 4-21, 2018 (there may be age restrictions for guests from 6pm))
Pocket pinch: Average meal for two - Rs 1,000- 1,200 (food only), average meal for two - Rs 1,800 (food and cocktails)
Reservation: Kolkata – 40606446, Delhi – 41095155, Mumbai – 26005215, Bengaluru - 44114455