Mumbai is to India, what New York is to the world. A melting pot of sorts where people from all parts of the country throng to; in search of a better life, perhaps for a better paycheck, many for their fifteen minutes of fame. This results in a whole bunch of homesick people, longing for their native cuisine and always in search of authentic home-style food. In this series, I will introduce you to some of India’s many regional cuisines and where to head when you have a regional craving!
We begin our culinary journey in West Bengal, home of some of the most spirited, politically opinionated and culturally aware people. Bengali food is defined by the generous use of fish, rice and mustard. Probably the secret behind Bengali women’s beautiful skin and hair. Fresh water fish, (like Rui and Hilsa) gives Bangla cuisine it’s signature flavor, and though all varieties aren’t available in Mumbai, the city does do justice to the cuisine.
Most Bengalis I know swear by the food at The Calcutta Club, a small no-fuss canteen like joint in Oshiwara, Andheri West. The dark kohl lined eyes of intoxicating, beautiful Bengali actresses stare at you from the posters on the wall; it really like you’re walking into a different world. I felt almost apologetic for not being able to speak the native tongue. An authentic experience indeed! I really like the Rui Shorshe,Tel Koi and Betki Paturi. I also enjoy the Moachar Ghonto,a vegetarian dish made with banana florets.
Bhojohori Manna is another Bengali food joint located in Oshiwara, pretty close to Calcutta Club in fact. It is a nation wide chain, and boasts of a seasonal menu, based on the fresh produce available, the weather and upcoming festivals.
Hangla’s is a popular Bengali food change, popular for street food and large delivery network. Reema Prasanna (writer/food blogger & Bengali) swears by their Aloo Chop and claims it is “the only way Bongs will eat beet root”. Being vegetarian (yes, a vegetarian Bengali! They exist!) she insists that Bong veg food is also quite extensive, and besides she explains, Kashundi (mustard sauce) makes everything delicious! Otherwise, Hangla’s Bengali style Biryani is also excellent.
Another food writer and blogger, Kalyan Karmakar speaks highly of the shukto at Bijoli Grill in Powai. Shukto is a curry of various vegetables, like potato, raw banana, pumpkin, sweet potato, drumsticks, karela among others. It is usually eaten with steamed rice. Kalyan describes this shukto as “ethreal and delicate.”
Bengali Muslim cuisine can be found at Arsalan (S.V. Road Khar, West), which is hugely popular for its Biryani and Mutton or Chicken Chaap. Personally, I have tried and loved the Bengali style Biryani made by Melody Cafe, an easy-to-miss little restaurant on J.P.Road, Andheri West.
My parents met and courted in Calcutta, though neither is Bengali. They just happened to be in the city in their twenties. Many of their romantic tales of youth are punctuated with descriptions of Calcutta’s Kathi rolls. If you want to sample some of this, Calcutta’s premier street snack head to Bong Bong, located in the by lanes of Pali Naka, Bandra West. These egg rolls, filled with juicy bits of chicken/mutton/paneer make for a hearty snack!
Another restaurant pays homage to Calcutta in a completely different way. Oh Calcutta! is one the old favourites of the city, that serves up slightly fancier and expensive bangla food. Though I find that it’s the non-Bengalis that patronize this place.
I would not be doing justice to an exploration of Bengali cuisine without a mention of mishti! Now this maybe a purely biased opinion but I believe Bengalis make the best sweets in the country. Sweet Bengal has several branches scattered all over the city. I believe all their sweets are spectacular, particularly the misti doi and malai sandwich. Though it doesn’t serve Bengali Sweets exclusively, you can find some absolutely delectable ones at Tiwari’s in Juhu.
Now get your bong on and go binge! And if you have your own favorite Bengali food joint, pray tell!
UPDATE: MumbaiMag reader Kartiki has recommended Bhima Calcutta Rolls for some aunthentic Calcutta styles rolls. Though we have not reviewed the road side stall, online reviews do reveal that it is pretty popular. So here are the details if you would like to try them out.
Bhima Calcutta Rolls, road side stall, Near Lok Nagar Bus Stop, J.P. Road, Andheri (W), Mumbai. Contact - 9819226723, 9824811576, 9833136909
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