Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Phuchka, Egg-Chicken roll, Jhaal Muri and...

On my recent trip to the mater land, I had lofty intentions to make "eating food", especially street food my priority.

Yeah, 2 weeks of binging on street food on the streets of Kolkata was going to be my motto.I had decided. And then I would click enough pictures to last me an year of blog post. I dreamed.

That way I could still have a food blog and not cook. I was elated.

And then some publisher would come across my wonderful blog posts and commission me for a book, a nice glossy book, and then I could chuck my job and start my very own telebhajar ar cha er dokan (tea stall) by NH 34 or NJTPK if you prefer. I was on cloud nine.

But things did not exactly happen as planned. It never does. Not complaining.

I ate a lot, but not exactly street food.The Ma, the Ma-in-law, the aunts and similar characters thought it necessary to feed us delicious, home cooked meals, by the bushels every few hours. While my agenda said I should eat greasy shingara from Mahaprabhu down the road, early morning my Ma got up and made singara from scratch. There is little you can do on the face of such maternal super power.

And thus it went, 3 kinds of fish for lunch, mutton for dinner, long forgotten vegetables like mocha and thor, fried luchi or kochuri for breakfast, narkel narus to stuff your face with. I managed to do my best in spite of this. Aided with dependal, metronidiazole and other such serious sounding stuff I had limited amount of roll, phuchka, jhaal muri, alur chop and such. My pics were taken hastily and I didn't dare take out my DSLR , at any of these places in the fear of being shunned and ridiculed.

But I can't resist sharing with you some of the delicious stuff along the roads of Bengal.

Phuchka, the life line of most female Bongs who have come of age. While gushing about Phuchka to my non-Bong friends and colleagues , I would refer to it as Pani Puri or Golgappa. But that, it is not. Phuchka is well...phuchka. You stand in a circle around the phuchkawala, the shalpata bowl in your hand, you lean forward a little and pop that brittle pale brown ball into your mouth and it goes "phichik", the light sour tamarind water bursts into your mouth giving way to the mashed potatoes, spiced with green chili, cumin powder and red chili powder. Fireworks explode and honestly this is the closest I have experienced to what a M&B heroine would have in a totally different scenario.

And D, you need not worry, I just love food too much.

Phuchkas, I found have become very expensive though. "Paanch takay Paanch ta"(5 for 5), the guy told me. Even then, I did not haggle or ask for a fau( a free phuchka without the tangy water), a typical criteria when ordering phuchka. I ate only 2, in the fear of my dying of cholera and then I moaned my impending phuchka less old age.

Then there is the egg roll or still better the egg chicken roll. I cannot get enough of this but could only manage two rolls during the stay. The very thought that I could not visit Hot Kathi makes me want to take the next flight back.

But the rolls at my para( the neighborhood) almost made up for it.The paratha was soft and flaky, the chicken pieces tender and the spices just right without an overdose of ketchup.The chopped onions extracted from the dungeon below with a squirt of lime added just the right crunch.

And the sauce in that Maggi bottle is not Maggi, it is some amazing tomato thing which my dad insists does not even have tomatoes.

If you can close your eyes and not think of this man perspiring in the hot, humid atmosphere, you will eat only egg roll from the street all your life.

Then there is the Masla Muri or Jhaal Muri as I prefer to call it. This amazingly simple and tasty commodity is not available in all corners of Kolkata any more. The lanes, by lanes and  Shoshtitala'r mor is now overtaken by garish yellow carts selling Bollywood Bhel Puri. Now Bhel Puri is NOT Jhal Muri, though both have muri/puffed rice as the base. Bhel Puri is wet, doused with a wet chutney and needs to be eaten with a wooden ice cream spoon at Chowpatty. Jhaal Muri is dry, can be eaten directly out of the paper bag or using your fingers in Kolkata.

To eat Jhaal Muri you need to travel, slow.You have to take a bus or a passenger train rushing through the green paddy fields and potholed roads to the far suburbs.A commute where time is not really an important factor. It is only to be whiled away and there is nothing better than Jhal Muri to aid you in that process.

The jhal muri guy at the bus terminal or station just tosses some muri/puffed rice with a sprinkle of some suspicious oil, finely chopped onion, green chili, roasted peanuts, a handful of bhujia and a pinch of dry masala powder. I never ask the other stuff like chana etc. in my jhaal muri but you can if you want. He then shakes the mix in the tin can.Poured into a small paper bag made of yesterday's news with a sliver of coconut balanced on the top, you have your fuel for the journey. 

I also ate alu'r chop and singara sold just behind this Jhal Muri wala along the highway.

Tha nimki, gaja and Jalebi stall outside the Puja Pandals.

And when the tummy protested with all that eating, daab er jol aka coconut water came to the rescue.


BS however insisted on having nuggets and fries at the McDonald. Sighhhhh.....


  1. I have started feeling homesick after reading ur write up. I wish to take the first flight and then rush to the street corner to gobble up a pani puri and hog on the egg roll.
    Lucky you ...... glad u had a lovely food filled trip :-) Like always luv d write up


  2. wonderful! you are a great writer and a photographer! I don't know about the publishers but be sure that you do have several readers as your fans. I don't know you personally but each time I read you I feel that I know you, just as I feel when I read so many others who are well known well published authors!

  3. comparing phuchka to golgappa or panipuri or anything under the sun is a sin. period.

    and this is going to be my favourite post of ALL TIME. unless you visit India next year and write about phuchka again. then that will be my favourite post of all time.

  4. Am in homesick now, wish i grab some egg chicken rolls, very tempting,seems u had a fabulous trip..

  5. oh My captured everything...everything so perfectly!!! yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  6. Thanks for sharing the pictures. Reminded me of my own place. How easy it is there to find all kind of mouth watering food. Happy that you had a lovely trip.

  7. Now I want to visit Calcutta forgive me Kolkata. Sadly my hometown is a not a street food kind of place. Well may be not in the same mould we like our watery curry with parotta.

    Even without all the glossies you might still get a book deal. You are very creative and write deliciously :)

  8. Mouth watering post! Long time since I had pani puris. Lovely read.

  9. What a lovely, funny post!
    Loved 'maternal super power'! And poor D, having to compete with a puchka!

  10. I am planning to visit Cal in Jan for the first time in my life. I am so excited about it. I want to eat all the foods that you have mentioned in your post and more. If there are unmissables in terms of street food, can you guys let me know?

  11. You write well and enjoy reading your posts. I must say, you are brave to eat all that street food.. nowadays, when I go back to hyderabad, I can not muster courage to eat the street food anymore in fear of falling sick.. I love pani puri and I got to these restaurants where they serve pani puri made of mineral water... I must admit though, it is not as much fun as eating it on the street!

  12. Kolkatta street food for me will forever mean churmur. And yes, phuchka too. I am so looking fwd to my (probable)trip to Cal next year and reading this post makes the wait almost unbearable!

  13. The very first thing when i get my "me" time in the morning is look if there is a new post from you.Girl u really make me hungry.I keep on introducing my friends to ur seems u r so very part of me ...may be just" another Me".
    Ur trip back home seems like a journey we all have taken with u...loved every bit of it."Maternal super power" loved the expression.
    Bhalo theko!Bhalo likho bolbo na....karon tumi emnitei bhishon bhishon bhalo lekho.

  14. Dear Sandeepa
    Thanks for this great post..really you took me back to Jadavpur Univ days. The only shop which used to sell phuchka in delhi CR Park area, sells Golgappa now...Time to go to Cal for Fuchka and Kati Kebab and paratha at Bihar -UP restaurant.
    Have a nice weekend

  15. I love the authenticity of your photos. My parents are originally from Kolkata, but I haven't visited for over a decade now. I'm hoping to have a wedding reception there in 2012, and I'm looking forward to trying the street food.

  16. pete khide, and monay dukho and some hope for I might visit next summer.and will eat even if I have cholera.

  17. Great write-up with great pictures once again. Welling up with nostalgia and homesickness. Thank you and its an allround pleasure to be following your blog. Keep up the great work!

  18. Great post! I’m looking to make some changes in my own eating habits, so I appreciate your insight a lot! Thank you. I recently stumbled upon this blog like I did yours and I thought your readers may appreciate it:

    I’ve started to look for their stuff more regularly and I think I’m going to add your blog to my list as well. Thanks for the post!


  19. Very interesting post indeed. All that food! GROAN. I am positively green with envy.

  20. Loved the post as always,more so as i have not been able to go to Kol since a year now.U made me remember Phuchkawala, Jojo at JU,he not only made the awesomest phuchka but was a lovely person too.We have a phuchka shop at DLF,Gurgaon but nothing to beat Jojo,the lake phuchkas...
    I so agree with Chandrima,each time I read your post,I feel I know you...... Such real pix,so Kolkata!

  21. like most of them i can also relate to u very well.reading your ost always brings a smile. whenever i read your post i think about commenting but never do so but frankly you write really well.infact i can picturise while reading your writeups...interestingly i have pictured a image of yours in mind :)

  22. I am overcoming a bout of homesickness and lo, I see your post. Not that I am complaining. But wonderful photos and it does remind me that its such a long journey back home.

    There was a phuchka wala who came to my parents' home in a rickety bicycle. P and I made sure we ate from him everyday. He still asks for us - didi aur jamaibabu nahin aate hain? he asks. :-)

  23. And you didn't bring me a single phuchka! I can't figure out the magic ingredient in any of these things, I can make them all at home but the Kolkatta special seasoning is only available on the street there. I think it's mind over matter, if you don't mind an upset belly for a bit then it doesn't matter. Everyone blames the phuchka, I think it's the korra pak shondesh myself.

  24. I was born and grew up in Kolkata. And after reading your post I can't wait to go back in February, even though it is a quick 10 days trip with 2 little kiddies in tow. Wish me luck! But for now, my dinner menu tonight will be jhaal muri and phuchka. I still eat from the streets when we go back. My husband's theory is that you go and eat out the very first day and get sick if you have to. After that your stomach is acclamatised and you can enjoy the rest of your trip ;-)

  25. LOve the post... i just want to take the next flight and go..

    I'm not really sure how much my tummy can take all that delicious mouth watering street food.

    Good to see you back. belated diwali wishes

  26. Hey Sandeepa.. super post.. Glad I saved your post to read today. Nice start to my weekend! :) I was laughing out at some of your lines.. Sounds like your trip was a "jolly-good-time". :D

  27. Awww.... those devilish delights we all love!! With the holiday season just round the corner, its a time to give in to such food temptations.....only wish we were in Kol for the holidays : )

  28. reading all of that i just want to say that : " bari jabo :'( "

  29. I really don't know why I visit your blog. It always makes me so hungryyyy :(

    Just kidding - so I see you were in India! Sounds like a great trip, glad you could make a family vacation! This must have been the first time so many relatives met Little S, right?

  30. Miss that! But its only couple of months and then I will hog on all that

  31. Sandeepa, just started reading your blog lately (kind of accidentally bumped on your blog while surfing for some recipes). ......and now I am hooked. More for your writing and some for your recipes. You go girl....a book deal is bound to come your way soon!..And out of those one and half million visits, I may have contributed several hundreds already and spreading the word to my friends..

  32. I loved your descriptions of the street food. And particularly loved the 'maternal power'. So true! Everytime I go back to India for a vist, relatives and friends conspire to 'force' me to eat stuff I don't want to eat and my list of must-eat foods that I bring with me each time gets sadly neglected. I am going again for a week next month and this time I am hiding out in mumbai for a couple of days just so I can eat all the food I want! Ha ha!
    Just discovered your blog and enjoying it.

  33. I love reading your posts because then I can relate to all the food stories my husband keeps telling me. And trust me I have heard all those above street food a million times from him. I want to make jhal muri for him. Shouldnt be difficult!?

  34. This is the first time I'm reading your blogs. After a very hectic week I finally managed to take out some time for my side by hobby. Though I'm a Bengali by birth I've been staying in the south n west of India after our marriage and hence I cook different cuisines in my home. For the last few days I was craving for some authentic Bengali dishes. Generally I call up my mom/ mom in law to ask about any Benagli recipe. But this time I opted for the internet and whow... I found this website. I've read multiple articles today and honestly speaking, I've fallen in love with your style of citing your expressions! Great job and gr8 recipes!


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