Work brings me back to Kolkata and there isn’t enough time for a full-fledged food wandering but a man still has to eat. Luckily, the streets of Kolkata are not without options.
The first stop was jhalmuri, and I must say things have become much fancier than I am used to. Every vendor had a choice of different kinds of muri, including a ‘healthy’ brown rice variety that we finally chose. Not spectacular, but distinctly Kolkata enough to erase memories of years of bhel.
I wanted to show off my knowledge of Kolkata, took my team to the Ganguram at Everest House, and was sorely disappointed. A similar fate befell us at KC Das. Lets not even get into the details. Wandering among the ancient Chinese shoe stores near KC Das (some date back to the 1790s) I decided to pay a visit to the food stalls in the bylanes of Tipu Sultan’s Mosque. Years ago, this place was one of the few in Kolkata serving beef (most places prefer mutton) and had delectable seekhs. It turns out I was too late for the seekhs, but a small, satisfying bowl of Arbi Haleem (from Arab, not the vegetable) put me in a much better mood. This haleem has distinctly Hyderabadi roots, and probably came along with Tipu Sultan’s sons (who were exiled here after his death). Nearby a stall sold square samosa-like things with an onion-peas filling, while biriyani-seller allowed me a taste and a picture of the local speciality – beef biriyani (I still prefer the mutton variety). Not much influence of Hyderabad remains though – even the biriyani was avadhi style.
A short walk from there got me to an old favourite – the New Aliah Hotel. As you can see from the sign, its been around for a while, and its popularity is undiminished. I had to jostle with at least a dozen regulars to get my order of chaap and rizala packed.
The next day was far more satisfying. First came a visit to a very old favourite – the tiny Ghosh Brothers sweetshop on CIT Road. I’ve been coming here since I was a child (some four decades now) and in that time they have not changed in any noticeable way. They used to be famous for their ice-cream sandesh, but apparently that does not sell that well any more. What is still available is still excellent, including a droolworthy laccha rabdi.
The last stop, for lunch on my way to the airport, was a soundly modern option in Salt Lake that has received much coverage. Abcos Food Plaza is a strange animal – a multi-storey glass tower that harbours four theme restaurants (but apparently a common kitchen). We sat on the first floor – Kipling Klub. A rainy-day lunch of khichudi with three kinds of fish fry (topse, bhetki, ilish), an ilish-paturi and beer was a great finish to a short Bongland trip.