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.....