Food. From Bhog To Briyani


Durga Puja is to Bengal what Ganesh Chaturthi is to Maharashtra or Janmashthami is to Gujarat.  It is not only a religious affair but also a celebration of one’s culture. And how can we define culture without its Food, in this case, Bengali Food? If you happen to be in Kolkata during Durga Puja below are a few of the local delicacies that you dare not miss and yes “Bolo Dugga Mai ki, Jai” (All praise Ma Durga):

Radhaballavi and aloo sabji / luchi and cholar dal

Phulko Luchi (Deep fried puffed bread) and cholar dal (Bengal gram soup) or Aloo sabji (Spicy Potato curry) is the quintessential breakfast that an archetypal Bengali will not miss for the world. And most importantly during the Puja days when all diet charts and restrictions go for a toss you will find this amazing combination in almost every Bengalis breakfast menu. Sometimes the Luchi may be replaced by Radhaballavi which is another version of deep fried puffed bread with delicious lentil stuffing, accompanied by some sweet, crunchy Jalebis and soft, mushy Gulam Jamoons. Few of the oldest and most famous street canteens/restaurants selling these items for more than 100 years are “Sri Hari Mistanna Bhandar @Bhowanipore” and “Putiram @College Street”.

Khichuri Bhog

Bhog’r Khichuri is something special and is served at various Puja Pandals on the day of “Ashtami”. Young Bongs clad in traditional attire, for example, Pajama Punjabi or Saree, take up the fulfilling work of serving bhog to the thousands of devotees who assemble to feast on the enchanting combination of sweet and spicy mix of rice, lentils, and vegetables, commonly served on banana or Sal leave plates. Classically complemented by Beguni (deep-fried eggplant), Lyabra (a mouthwatering assortment of vegetables), Papad (crisp disk-shaped food made from black gram flour), Chutney (a mixture of fruit, sugar, and spices) and Paayesh (sweetened rice with milk) or Kheer (porridge). To sum up Khichuri is a staple food for Bengalis, especially during the monsoon, however, the amazing flavor or the captivating dose of nostalgia, which accompanies the Bhog’r Khichuri cannot be replicated elsewhere or at any other time.

Although all Puja pandals serve this lip-smacking delicacy during Durga Puja Asthami, some of the big names renowned for their cordiality are “Suruchi Sangha @New Alipore”, “Ekdalia Ever Green Club @Ballygunge” and “Santosh Mitra Square @Bowbazaar”. However, if you are not too keen about waiting in a queue, similar combinations are served in a lot of the renowned city restaurants. For instance “Bhojohori Manna @Salt Lake and Gariahat” and “6 Ballygunge place @Ballygunge and Salt Lake” serve special “Thalis” (assortment of Puja themed food) during the ten days of Durga Puja.

Similarly, Kolkata is also famous for its huge array of street food starting from local cuisine to Chinese, Mughlai, freshly made English sandwiches and even Kolkata special American burgers. While pandal hopping during the Durga Puja you will find a food stall in almost every nook and corner of the city. And this is true not only for Kolkata but for all other cities, towns, and villages in the state, during the festival days. Being inherently foodie by nature Bengal has always welcomed any and all varieties of food, although for main course Bengali’s still prefer rice (or some variation of the same) or chapatti, evening snacks is an abundance of choices.

In short, pandal hopping in any part of the state entails a lot of walking and these small bites, every now and then, keep the taste buds happy, the tummy full and most importantly the body bursting with energy. Only one suggestion, don’t go by the names, as in don’t expect authentic Chinese or Mughlai food when you order them, eat them because of their quirky taste and unadulterated experience of Bengali street food. I can promise one thing, once you take that first bite you will, most certainly, get hooked to its taste forever.

Biryani and Kosha Mangsho

Bengalis are unique, while across the nation, during the nine days of Durga Puja(Navratri), people avoid eating meat, a Bengali cannot imagine the same minusmangsho (goat meat) and Biriyani. Kosha mangsho – mutton cooked with onions,tomatoes, ginger, garlic and a horde of aromatic spices – is a blast of heavenly bliss for the taste buds. It is best enjoyed with assorted Bengali bread or Bengali sweet yellow pulao. In th same vein Bengalis also love their Biryaniany day, anytime, anywhere and Durga Puja is just another excuse to have some.The exclusivity of Kolkata Biryani, well it comes with a potato and an eggalongside juicy succulent divine chunks of meat. Most Bengalis will typically havethis combination on Nabami. If you don’t mind long queues, head straight to “GolBari @Shyam Bazaar” for their legendary kosha mangsho and “Arsalan /Zeeshan/Amenia @Esplanade” for their “nawabi” Biryani.

There you go, a traditional breakfast, a wholesome “devoted” lunch, a finger licking evening bite and to top it all off an appetizing dinner. Of course, no Bengalimeal can conclude without “Rosogolla” and “Misti Doi”, which you can get inplenty all through the city, especially during Durga Puja. Some famous jointswould be “Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick @Bhowanipore”, “Putiram@College Square”, “Sen Mahasay @Shyam Bazaar”, “K.C. Das @Esplanade” and “GirishChandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy @Hedua”.

In conclusion, Bengalis are all about food, festivities and Durga Puja being the mega event in any Bengali’s calendar gives this fun-loving city of joy another chance to eat, enjoy and enthrall.

Author: Kasturi Baksi