North Kolkata is an enigma in itself. It is so different in character from the South that one can say Kolkata has a split personality! The ancient buildings in this part of the City of Joy are the remnants of a dying culture, slowly fading away while getting encroached upon by new apartment buildings. But the area still retains its unique feel. A big part of that vibe is the paara (neighbourhood) culture in North Kolkata. In the paara, you know your neighbours and bond with them over cups of cha (tea) while munching on muri (puffed rice) and telebhaja (vegetable fritters). You engage in the famous Kolkata pastime of adda (freewheeling talk) while sitting on ‘rowacks’ built in front of old houses. I often feel that the younger generation in Kolkata are losing touch with this paara culture, especially more so because of the cafes that are coming up in the area which are the new hangoout places.
The streets of North Kolkata are filled with old eateries that used to be popular hangouts before the cafes started coming in. They have been serving a slew of delectable dishes for decades. Fortunately, these street food joints continue to be popular with the diehard addakhor (addicted to adda). Some of these places date back to the pre-Independence era. When you are in Kolkata next, you must check these places out. To help you choose, I have put together a list of five of my favourite street food places in North Kolkata. These are different from their more famous counterparts like Dilkhush Cabin, but I wanted to showcase the lesser known ones in this list.
Every true blood Bangali living in the Hatibagan–Shyambazar area swears by this shop tucked away in a narrow street named Shikdar Bagan Street. Malancha split up into two shops–Naba (new) Malancha and Adi (original) Malancha with the original cooks staying back in the old one. Both are located in the same vicinity of Hatibagan but food lovers flock to Adi Malancha for their authentic taste.
The shop is basically a food-stall with no seating arrangements but this does not bother its loyal customers. Their bestselling items are kabirajis, cutlets and Mughlai parathas. You must go early when the shop opens at 5:30pm (it stays open till 8) or you will find many items have sold out. There is a rush of people every time a batch of fresh cooked food comes from the kitchen which you can see located in a narrow ‘goli’ (alley) opposite the shop. All items are below Rs100.
Do visit Naba Malancha, located on Aurobindo Sarani near Hatibagan crossing, if you want to get more variety as they have Chinese dishes alongside the items you get at Adi Malancha.
For the residents of Bagbazar, Potlar Dokan ranks first in the list of the best telebhaja shops in Kolkata. Located opposite Union Bank of India, Bagbazar Branch, this is nearly a century old. It was built by Sashi Bhushan Sen who worked as a cashier in Calcutta Tramways Company and wanted to increase the income for his seven sons (one of them was named Potla).
Well-known Bengali author Sanjib Chattopadhyay, and director Anjan Dutta, are some of the people who have frequented this place known for fragrant radhaballavi, potoler chop and dhoka. Despite having no signboard, it is always full. It is open from 7:30am to 12:30; and from 4:30pm to 9pm. We suggest you pack your telebhaja in a ‘thonga’ (paper packet) and head to the Bagbazar ghat with your friends. The cool breeze from the Hooghly river, coupled with the deliciousness of the fritters is a heavenly combo. Even if you have as little as Rs 20 in your pocket, your stomach and mind will be satiated here.
Situated on Bagbazar Street, you can spot the shop just near the mouth of an alley with the signboard ‘Basu Bati’. There are a few benches for you to sit with your food order. The shop sells everything from Indian snacks to Chinese main course dishes. They serve some of the best kathi rolls and momos, but you suggest you order the fish fry before anything else. The moist fish inside the crispy coating can melt even the cold heart of Narnia’s White Witch. Other items you must try include the chicken roll and chicken pakora.
Found in 1922 by Niranjan Hazra, Niranjan Agar is a small eatery in Central Avenue known for their fritters as well as the excellent milky tea. Located adjacent to Gate 2 of Girish Park Metro, the special item of this place is the jumbo vegetable chop.
You must try their dimer devil (devilled eggs) which is made with duck eggs and minced meat, and the mutton kopta, which is best had with the legendary Bengali mustard sauce, kasundi, and thin slices of onion. Well-known yesteryear actor Uttam Kumar used to visit Niranjan Agar for their fried items.
The shop remains open from 4pm to 9pm, but be there early as the popular dishes run out by 5:30.
Barua and Dey Fast Food Centre
Very few know about this tiny eatery tucked away in the lanes of Shyambazar. Bidhubhushan Barua and Phatik Chandra Dey started this shop before India gained Independence. Bidhubhushan’s father cooked for the British and the kings of Shovabazar Rajbari. They are known for their pantheras, a fried minced meat roll similar to spring rolls. You must have the mutton pantheras here, minced mutton coated in a batter and fried to crispy perfection.
The place can be accessed from Gate 5 of Shyambazar Metro. You can ask anyone about Barua Pantheras and they will guide you. Check on Google Maps if you are unsure. The shop stays open from 5pm to 9pm but try to go before 7, as the mutton pantheras gets over by then.