Sunday, February 06, 2005

Oh! Calcutta

‘Oh! Calcutta’, incidentally, is the name of the restaurant I went to in Calcutta that serves authentic Bengali cuisine in the ambience of a place which aims to recapture the glory of Calcutta as it was before it became the nationalistic ‘Kolkata’. Well-preserved old books by Jawaharlal Nehru and Tolstoy, among others, line wooden bookshelves, and a painting of devotees on the banks of the Hooghly near the famous Kali Mandir dominates a wall.

What, after all, is a trip to Bengal without savouring its culinary delights? I sampled ‘Machcher Jhol’ – anyone who knows anything about Bengalis will know about their love for fish, and this is one of the best fish curries of the region. I must also mention ‘Aloo Jhinger Poshto’, a dish made of potato, capsicum and poppy seeds which could quite potentially make one an addict, just like the opium that the poppy seeds come from!

As for dessert, well, ‘rossogollas’, anyone? That’s always been my favourite Indian sweet and the succulent sponginess of the ones in Calcutta are without comparison.

If you ask me, the true spirit of urban India is in its bylanes. It was at one such corner stand that I tasted jhaal muri for the first time. It is very similar to Mumbai’s bhelpuri but a drier, spicier version. Smacking my lips, I grinned to myself as I watched Calcutta go by busily.

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