After being raised around the boundaries of Park Street’s bustling street food stalls and star-shaped Christmas decorations, I found myself on a college campus that was situated in a town as different as it was far. Maryland’s Chestertown’s most striking aspect was that it was silent, almost deafeningly so, much to the delight of its elderly residents. But, the non-cacophonous nature of the town proved to be a source of only paper-cut pain: temporarily stinging.
And much to my surprise, the most agonising reliving of my fracture from Calcutta was the lack of access to Indian food. I had foolishly underestimated the power of the rituals I unknowingly built with maar hatte makkon bhaat, butter rice cooked by my mother. These past four years have taught me how tightly stitched one’s identity is to food; and now that I find myself in Bombay, a place still devoid of maar hatte makkon bhaat, on a quest for an impostor good enough to trick me, even for an hour, even for one meal, and have found five candidates that come closest to hitting home.
I. Oh! Calcutta
Where: Andheri West, Khar West, Tardeo
This restaurant describes itself as an ode to the city of Joy and I find it hard to disagree. My mother, a descendant of a clan of Mukerjees, Chatterjees, and Chowdhurys, insists that non-Bengalis visit Oh! Calcutta for a taste of the Bangali khaabar, Bengali food.
From the traditional Aloo Bhaja and Cholar Dal to the edgier Maacher Paturi, this place has it all, including a bar.
Cost: Approximately ₹ 1200 for two
II. Bhojohori Manna
Where: Oshiwara, Chembur, Powai, Vikhroli
Like me, Bhojohori Manna was born in the paras of Kolkata, eventually making its way to Bombay. What started as a wok full of passion for food between four friends grew to an expansive business bringing a home-style version of Calcutta’s cuisine to all corners of the country. The richness of this eatery’s Koraishutir kochuri, stuffed kachori with peas, a personal favourite dish of mine will warm you on your chilliest day. Coupling that with Jumbo daab chingri, prawn in coconut curry, papad, and chutney, will bring you a few bites closer to the city I call home.
Cost:Approximately ₹ 700 for two
Where: Oshiwara, Andheri West
Peetuk’s (cheap) menu reminds me of a childhood game my friends and I would get passionately consumed in because it demanded chant “Cheese roll, mutton roll, egg roll, fish roll, yum!” in perfect choral unison. This restaurant is a refreshing departure from the first two because it offers Calcutta’s famous street food, particularly chops and rolls. Bengali biryani, the only variation that includes a soft potato and is surely sourced from the Garden of Eden, can also be found here.
Cost: Approximately ₹ 300 for two
Where: 22 Link Plaza, Oshiwara, Andheri West
If you’re unsure about the authenticity of this restaurant, the numerous posters of Robindronath Thakur and Satyajit Ray will try their damnedest to change your mind. The Calcutta Club, one of the oldest Bangali eating joints in the city, offers you the works – begun bhaja, fried eggplant, aloo dum, chorchori, mixed vegetable curry, and plenty of fish, chicken, mutton, and prawn options.
Cost: Approximately ₹ 600 for two
V. Sweet Bengal
Where: Powai, Malad, Bandra, Vile Parle, Thane, Tardeo, and more
Friends and family say my mother and I have similar mannerisms and tastes. But, I’ve found a point of difference: her first love was a hairy-chested celebrity in the ‘80s whose name I can’t remember and mine was rightfully Nalen gurer sondesh. Kolkata would be an indistinguishable dot on the Indian map without its ever-hungry sweet tooth. In fact, the “No Roshogolla beyond this point” sign is a social media favourite for travellers passing through Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport. After a filling meal, try an assortment of Bengali desserts, my favourite part of Bengali cuisine, at Sweet Bengal. From barfi and roshogolla to chomchom and mishti doi, they have it all.
Cost: Approximately ₹ 550 for two
Feature Image Courtesy : Free Press Journal
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