5 Calcuttised Foods that are better than original.
Our city Calcutta has so much to offer in the name food. There is something for everyone. It also has its own variations of certain foods and dishes which in my opinion taste way better than the original. So here is my list of five Calcuttised foods that are better than original!
The Calcutta Pizza is nothing like a real pizza but its so much better, and inexpensive. Found abundantly in local confectionery and bakery shops, like Monginis(now Mio Amore), Jalojoga, Kathleen, and all the other local shops in every nook and corner of the city, this pizza is basically a round piece of bread, with a shobji like topping, finished with cheese. Expect to get about for to five small pieces of chicken if you go for the nonveg option.
I remember it was about in the late 90’s that we had just met this strange looking new snack in town that every one called the Pizza. It was so strange to me that I actually used to think it was a toast like thing garnished with noodles because of the grated cheese on top!
This version of the pizza in my opinion beats the big shot pizza giants any day because, firstly, they taste AWESOME, and perfectly spicy for the Calcutta palate and secondly they are very very affordable, priced between 20 to 35 rupees.
The only thing I can’t vouch for about the Calcutta Pizza is its quality. It is manufactured locally by suppliers who no one knows and hence we don’t know under what conditions our favorite pizza is made, or for how long it lies in the rarely ever cleaned counter of your local shop before you bite into it.
The most common item I would see my classmates bring to school was chowmein. And no, not your “Noodles tossed with garden fresh vegetables in a wok” but chow made with Aloo, peyaanj, kancha lonka, deem aar badam alongwith holud for color. If you are a Bengali who’s reading this, then only you know how many times you mum has served this to you for breakfast!
But don’t go by the plane jane ingredients. even though its one of the simplest dishes to make, this version of Chowmein tastes bloody delicious, I kid you not.
‘P’uchka : Said no Bengali ever. It was, is and always will be Fuchka.
Golgappa, Pani Puri etc are just semantics. Mention the Bombay ki Panipuri to a Calcutta person and they will cringe at the very sound of it. Originating in Bihar centuries back, The Fuchka is Calcutta’s pride, with two versions available usually around town, The Bengali and the Non Bengali version. Both versions in my opinion are mind blowing!
Version One : The Bengali Fuchka
Found in abundance around the proper bengali paras of the north like Girish Park, Bagbajar, Shyambajar, and Behala, Kalighat, Bhowanipore, Hajra, etc, in the south, this Fuchka is made entirely from atta. The filling is made by mixing mashed potatoes, dried yellow peas, green chillies, coriander leaves, dry spices like cumin powder, red chilli powder and different salts and the indispensable Pati lebu. The Fuchkas are usually stored in a glass box with a candle or a light bulb glowing inside to keep them warm and crisp.
The Tetul jol is also flavoured with salt, powdered spices, and Gondhoraj Lebu.
Version Two : The Non Bengali/ Marwari version
In locations like Salt lake, Barabazar, Theater Road, Alipore, etc, you would usually get Puchkas made from sooji and ataa. The filling is of course made from mashed potatoes but with kala chana in this case. the spices are mostly common but the star of the show is the Pudina Imli ka paani which you could just chug on a hot day. They also keep daal ke pakode in sweet water if you like khatte meethe puchke.
Its most likely that you are about to be served Puchka when you see a huge Puchka basket covered with a red cloth, and atleast two men at the job.
Special Mention : Sooji Puchka
Sooji puchkas are found in abundance in Delhi and Agra, but to the best of my knowledge, there are only 3 sooji puchka vendors in the whole of Calcutta ( 2 at City Center Salt Lake and one in Baanstalla Burabazar) and one on the other side of the river at Dobson Road, Howrah.
These puchkas are made entirely of sooji and are shaped like sausages. the potatos that go in as a filling are cut and not mashed and seasoned with green chillis, coriander, cumin, etc, served with either a chilled khatta pudina pani aur a sweet imli chutney and priced at Rs 30 for 4 pieces. They taste really yummy and the completely chilled pudina pani adds a different punch to the puchkas. If you ever spot one of these, do give them try!
The Samosa originated in the Middle east about ten centuries ago, was filled with minced meat, was known as Sambosa, and slowly found its way to India where the Uttar Pradeshis came up with its vegetarian version, but it was the Bengal which gave the samosa a real, worthy taste and redemption.
The faintly sweet Alu Phulkopi aar badam filled Bangali Shinghara is a hot seller with every local Mishthanno Bhandar. Unlike the ghee fried extra spicy garam masala laced aloo samosa, (which I absolutely love by the way), the bangali shingara is milder on the palate and you don’t even need chutney to enhance kyunki ye to akela hi kaafi hai!
5. BIRYANI !!
The fountain of youth for every hardworking Calcutta person, the epitome of all gastronomic satisfactions combined, the Holy Grail of the Calcutta Cuisine and the saviour of humanity is none other than the Calcutta Biryani.
I remember how hard I had to try to not verbally abuse a filled to capacity Bade Miyaan in Bombay for serving me the ugliest tomato dhaniya rice when I had asked for Biryani. Hyderabadi Biryani is my worst nightmare.
Never mess up a Calcutta person’s Biryani which is a magic plate stacked with piping hot saffron flavoured rice with a piece of soft, succulent meat, and half a flavoured boiled potato buried underneath, all cooked in dalda to perfection. And we all know that Lucknow is responsible for the Biryani we get here in Calcutta
This is one dish which is available EVERYWHERE. From high end restaurants, pocket friendly eateries, to you para Roll er Dokaan, everyone has that one giant handi wrapped in a bright red cloth on a slow flame. Calcutta is one place where you get Biryani for as low as Rs 50 to as high as Rs 500 a plate. It is a complete meal, and nothing else in the name of biryani will go down a Calcuttan’s throat, as the real Calcutta Biryani. Did you say cholestrol? fat? carbs? No one cares. Period.