I’ve been writing food articles for over two years now, and I’ve realised that my articles usually fall into two categories. The first type is an expression of the nerd in me, trying to craft meticulously edited articles with extensive internet research tied together into a clear narrative, then edited and re-edited until the day it finally gets uploaded. The articles on Italian pasta and Bengali cooking techniques are cases in point.
The articles of the other category take far less time and effort. These are the ones sourced from nostalgia or emotion, be it the logorrhea induced by the amazing meal at Rooh (I penned the whole thing within 24 hours of the meal) or the nostalgic reminiscence of the biyebari feast, induced by a bout of homesickness one fine winter’s evening. These are more like diary entries, written down by the right brain rather than the left, not as coherent, yet expressive enough to touch people’s hearts.
This Pujo season, the Gourmet Glutton brings you the best of both worlds, a tightly edited trilogy as well as looser, more anecdotal articles, all of them highlighting the beauty of Bengali food. This article, as you’ve might have sensed from the tone so far, falls in the second category. Gather around folks, for here’s a story of a homesick Bengali from Rohtak who struck culinary gold in a place far away from home.
A few months ago, in June, we were just recovering from what seemed like an unending spell of misery, the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The few months preceding that were hell, with notifications about deaths and oxygen crisis flooding the internet and stories from friends and colleagues about relatives passing away, losing jobs, and so on.
We were all low-key frustrated so one fine weekend, three fellow Bongs decided to escape Rohtak for some fresh air. We decided to go to CyberHub in Gurgaon and visit Oh! Calcutta. We had visited the place before, and they do serve some really good Bengali food. It was my first outing in months, and the open roads with Rabindrasangeet in the background was therapeutic.
When we reached CyberHub though, we were disappointed to find the restaurant closed. We decided to visit an Italian place instead (mostly upon my insistence), but it turned out to be a bad decision. Apart from their espresso and tiramisu, both of which were very good, the food was subpar. What now, we thought. Well, we were all missing Bengali food, and CR Park was just a half hour drive away so, why not?
For the uninitiated, Chittanranjan Park or CR Park is an upscale South Delhi neighbourhood known for its large Bengali community and of course, Bengali food. I’ve heard people rave about the Bengali food there, and was curious about trying it out. When I reached the place, I was taken by surprise.
From a fish markets to sweet shops, from old-school doshokorma bhandars with Bengali banners to people calling out in Bengali, it felt for a moment that I was back home. We were lured by everything, but the thing that eventually won was a telebhaja stall selling an array of fried goodies from fish fry to mutton chop. Although we had had pizza a couple of hours ago, we ordered a significant amount.
We went to a small restaurant called “Amar Sonar Bangla”, recommended by one of my friends. It was small, unassuming little place, decorated with Calcutta-themed paintings, with rabindrasangeet playing in the background. Luckily for us, they allowed customers to bring in food from outside, so we sat down, opened up the brown paper bag full of telebhaja, and gulped them down in record time.
Since we were already partly full from all the telebhaja (not that we regretted it), we decided to be judicious with our orders. No veggie dishes this time, we decided. Out shot the orders: bhetki paturi, rui machh er kalia, kosha mangsho. To accompany this lavish spread we ordered both plain rice and mishti polao, as well as an obligatory portion of jhuri aloo bhaja. Finally, because it was still mango season, we opted for kacha aam er chatni and papor.
Whether it was because I was deprived of this food for so long or not, I can’t say for sure, but the food was astounding. Actually, strike that. I’m saying this objectively. The food was stunning, the paturi in particular. The fillet of fish was humongous, atleast twice as thick as the one served at 6 Ballygunge Place back home. The mustard was punchy, and thank God we had ordered the rice, because the sweet polao wouldn’t have done it justice.
I decided to avoid the rui, mostly because I was starting to get full I had my priorities sorted when it came to choosing between fish and mutton. I did have the gravy though, and boy was it amazing. It was rich and decadent, yet had a certain balance restraint. It went wonderfully with the slightly sweet polao. The mutton was great too, but somehow paled in comparison to the fish dishes. Coming from someone who prefers meat to fish any day, (a serious breach of stereotype, I know) you know it’s not a biased opinion.
The tangy mango chutney and crispy papor was the perfect ending to an already perfect meal. The bill too was astonishingly cheap, amounting to about 500 per head, including taxes. You’d be hard-pressed to find Bengali food of such quality at such affordable rates, even back home. Before leaving though, we stopped at a local sweet shop for mishti doi and sandesh. It didn’t blow us away, but definitely brought the day to a satisfying finish. With full tummies and satiated hearts, we began our return journey to Rohtak.
There really is a magic in food. Its ability to stir up emotions and bring back old memories is unparalleled. Would a non-Bengali friend enjoy the food as much as we did? Sure, they’d probably find the food delicious, but that emotional connect, that’s specially for us. Which is why I’ll never be as emo about moong dal halwa as some of my colleagues are. It is delicious no doubt, but that’s it. Bring me some mishti doi, and it’s a different story altogether.
One Comment Add yours
Reblogged this on Her Unexpected Inception.