Tracing the culinary inclinations of a culture could pave the way to deciphering the cultural influences that it has assimilated. The street food in Kolkata is an instance of one such appropriation of the cuisines of different cultures that ever had an influence on Bengal. Apart from being a source of employability for local vendors, the street food of the city also decides whether you would go home with an empty stomach on your way back from the office, or with a belly full of amazing food and a hearty smile on your face. So, if you are new to the city or don’t yet quite know how to feed yourself, look no further. Here’s a list of some lip-smacking delicacies for the uninitiated soul in Kolkata :
A fried dough ball stuffed with a filling of mashed potatoes mixed with spices and then filled with tamarind chutney, pickled water, pudina and lime, phuchkas are definitely one of the most unique street foods that Kolkata offers. Even though this delicious food looks like the ‘pani puri’ or the ‘golgappa’, it is unique in its blend of just the right amount of sweet and sour in the tamarind water that is an inevitable condiment to it.
Best places to try: Rajendra’s phuchka near Dakshinapan, Phuchka near Hiland Park, Opposite Lake Mall, Deshapriya Park and Near South City Mall
II. Chops, Kabiraji, Afghanis
Mitra Cafe near Shovabazar is a 105-year old cafe in north Kolkata, which has seen the likes of Uttam Kumar, Anjan Dutta and Bratya Basu as its esteemed customers. Some of their most famous delicacies include Mutton Chop, Brain Chop, Mutton Cutlet, Mutton Curry, Mutton Kasha, Mutton Moglai, Dry Mutton Chop, Dry and Gravy Mutton Moglai Do-pyaza, Kabiraji and Afghanis. However, the cafe is tightly spaced, so do make sure to book your table as early as possible.
III. Luchi Aloo Dum/Cholar Dal
The Luchi Aloo Dum is a dish that can be found in every nook and corner of the city, especially in its sweet shops. This dish might look similar to Puri Aloo that is found in other parts of India, but tastes quite different with its unique Bengali flavor.
Best places to try : Fairlie Place (which is the central business district of Kolkata) and Putiram in north Kolkata.
It is one crispy Bengali snack which you would find in almost each and every Bengali neighbourhood that has its heart in the right place! You can have different kinds of ‘telebhaja’ depending on your mood and cravings. Most shops in north Kolkata serve ‘telebhaja’ made of onion rings, potato, pumpkin, tomato, chillis, brinjal, capsicum and literally any other vegetable you can think of. A shop selling ‘telebhaja’ in north Kolkata gives it free of cost to customers to celebrate Netaji’s birthday on January 23rd, as the delicacy was a favourite of one of India’s most iconic freedom fighters, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. It is said that Netaji used to come to Lakshminarayan’s shop in College Street every now and then to have telebhaja.
Best places to try :Vardaan Market, Camac Street, and Russel Street.
Known all over India as the ‘samosa’, this is a triangular shaped fried snack prepared by adding different spices to mashed potato which is used as a stuffing. You can have it with chutney and chillies if you so desire.
It is available all over Kolkata, especially in the old sweet shops of the city.
The moment you step into Bengal, you can find this mouth-watering dish which is very easy to make. A mixture of puffed rice with ‘chanachur’, chillies, raw onions, cucumber, with a dash of lemon juice, mustard oil, spices and dry nuts, and cucumber sliced on top, ‘jhalmuri’ is a staple in Bengali households as well as in the streets of Kolkata. However, the tastes vary from one jhalmuriwala to another. You have to find the one who truly understands your taste.
Best places to try : Jhalmuri vendor opposite Jawaharlal Nehru Road amd In Triangular Park, South Kolkata.
VII. Aloo Kabli
The Aloo Kabli sellers in Kolkata had traditionally set up their makeshift stalls in school compounds during tiffin breaks or after school hours, when hundreds of students would gather around them in anticipation of having a yummy snack. This incredible sweet ‘n’ sour snack is a mixture of boiled potatoes, roasted chickpeas, tomatoes, chopped onions, green chillies, alu kabli masala, bunches of coriander leaves, tamarind pulp and lime.
You will find aloo kabli wallas literally all over the city.
VIII. Ghoti Garam
The jingling of the bells of the ghoti garam wallas in the warm afternoons of Kolkata are a treat for the ears of anyone who had stayed in Kolkata for even a small period of time. This nostalgic treat is basically salted chanachur mixed with onions, green chillies, and amra, a sour and tangy fruit. However, in the absence of the ‘amra’, you might also find ghoti groom wallas making do with raw green mango and grated carrot. However, make sure to tell your ghoti garam walla to add a dash of mustard oil to the mixture.
Best place to try : Prinsep Ghat.
This Kolkata street food is a variation of the Chinese cuisine, and is made in a quintessential Bengali taste. The chowmein is essentially stir fried noodles topped with chicken strips, fried scrambled eggs, stir fried vegetables, chopped onions and cucumber salad and ketchup. The noodles are quite hot and spicy, unlike its Chinese counterpart which is more bland and has a lot more gravy to it. The hakka chowmein is now one of the staples of Kolkata street food, thanks to its huge Chinese community mainly living in and around Tangra.
Best places to try: Chowmein at Dacres Lane and Hakka Chowmein at Hatari.
X. Kathi Roll
It is another staple street food of Kolkata, which is essentially a paratha stuffed with a choice of filling and wrapped into a handheld treat. Most common fillings for these Kathi rolls include chicken or mutton kebab meat, eggs, paneer, and sometimes merely mashed potatoes.
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