Archive for the ‘Gastronomically Yours!!’ Category

A kid can be madly excited when his Family shows love in the form of the realization of dreams. I always dreamt of being accidentally locked up in a sweetmeat shop or getting lost in a Russian fairy tale type chocolate castle ( now do not raise your eyebrow-I told you i am a Foodie). It was  mid year 1989 in Kolkata when at home they prepared Chicken Egg Rolls at home. We were a joint family basically from Orissa, but settled in Howrah. When delicious street foods are served at home with no limit on the intake, I guess a glutton like me runs amok like a bull in a China shop. That evening, after early dinner, I left West Bengal for ever with my Father and my kid brother. It was in the train as it left the ever busy Howrah station, sitting by the window, I realized the pain of loss for the first time in my life. And also for the first time in my life, I practiced the art of crying silently and let go a few tears through an utterly choked throat and a suddenly running nose. Bhubaneswar  happened. Not by design but by destiny.

I laughed my way through the interview at Buxi Jagabandhu English Medium School, Bhubaneswar. Weird things happened. Coming from a strict Convent ICSE school, naturally I was good at English, but the medium and language used at school here was like Sanskrit to me-spoken and used by all –known to me but I dint know how to properly use or  write it. The fear for this singular language, which sadly is my mother tongue, gradually became a psychosis and till date I can read only the name of the newspaper but never attempt to read the rest of the content until I am threatened to look down the barrel of a loaded gun. I even passed my matriculation exams with poor scoring Hindi rather than better mark fetching Oriya.

I started the school on day one with a similarly fated skinny artist from Durgapur named Surya Kant Rout and a very bright jolly fellow named Abhishek Patnaik and a firebrand of a girl called Chinmayee Tripathy. We were the 4 new entrants in the class that year. My abhorrence of Oriya perhaps made me the only fellow who studied in every section of the class in the whole period of schooling. It was a blessing in disguise, actually. I made lots of friends for the lifetime. School was fun with football being the singular passion- which started at 5 in the morning and continued till 7 in the evening. How we passed the board exams is still a miraculous mystery.

It was afterwards, in college that I rediscovered and rekindled the hunter instinct in me. A student at Maharshi College in Sahid Nagar, we used to have the best Kachori Chat at Dam Maharaja in Satya Nagar and though the Gup Chup infront of Rama Devi College were popular because of the crowd, the best one were at Ravi Talkies and Market Building and Master Canteen. For deep fried snacks like bara, aluchop, vegetable chop and singada, I would suggest one to try out Bombay Snacks at Bapuji Nagar and most of the Gangurams. Khatta Meetha in Bapuji Nagar made the best of Chole Bhature while Mausima Chaks Patra Chat’s quantity beat Kalpana Square and Sahid Nagar’s quality. For a different taste, one should try out Bapuji Nagar’s Papdi chat too.The whole of Khurda district, which was famous for pickled Jhalmudi, soon found favour with AluDum Ghuguni Dahi Bara on bicycles too. They are nothing like the one at  Cuttack’s Barabati stadium centre, but a dona full of dahi (curd water) in the summer quenches the thirst like nothing. Omfed shops specialized in quality tea, with Sahid Nagar (near present day NM study centre) being the premium one. The khatti ambience there, will beat CCDs and Baristas any day anywhere. But what will beat everthing black and blue is Cuttack Professorpada’s singular single room food outlet run by 2 brothers who prepares only sold out before being made nonveg only items. The variety available there is eaten to be believed. Mati handi(earthen ware) mutton is good too, while Appetite and Food Bugs at Sahid Nagar drew in crowds too. But sales at Green Chillies on       Master Canteen beats all records. But if you have a heavy Non vegetarian intake capacity and are ready to forgo class and do not mind tipsy company, try out the Maa Tarini Dhaba at Rasulgarh. Unique and famous for its pioneering concept and presence is the Dalma. Though these days Sola anna odia and others have also come up with the authentic Odia food concept too.

When at Bapuji Nagar, one should also try out Bhaina’s Mutton curry and Biriyani, Venus Inn’s Veg items and Non Veg preparations at Tandoor Delight, located at the fag end of Bapuji Nagar. Though I would be missing Rajdhani Chak’s Dum Biriyani- one of the best that I have tasted. Also popular is Satuas Bhaina’s deep fired snacks infront of Panthanivas near BJB College Basketball Court. While at Market Building, the Ice Golas and Pav bhajji may not compete with the one at Mumbai and Delhi‘s India Gate and Kolkata‘s Victoria Memorial, but they are the bet available in Bhubaneswar. Also popular is the ghuguni at MB and piyaji at Unit IV.

Please do not feel bad and  suffocated by the mention of so much food. This is my humble attempt at a small crude food guide of Bhubaneswar for the new breed of food hunters. Though anyone who visits Orissa and especially Bhubaneswar knows that Bhaang Laced Chena Balls and boiled eggs are available at almost every street corner under the shady lamp post in the evenings. All these are small eat outs.

One also finds omnipresent- Chenapoda, aluchop (batata Vada/deep fired masala mashed potato dipped in besan), bara (plain salty doughnut looking type snack), ghuguni(pulse based thick gravy based curry), Singada (odia for Samosa), piyaji ( onion besan based deep-fried snack), and every Oriya outside Orissa admits to missing these non healthy oily but mouth watering snacks every evening.

But for class and continental, one has to visit Mainland China beside Vishals and Crown Hotel at Jaydev Vihar and Shanghai Express in front of Ram Mandir. In fact Shanghai Express has a smoking and liquor  section too. Hakka at Unit IV has mixed reviews while Embrosia at Gopabandhu Square has space constrain and is limited in its menu card, though its quality is good enough. There are a number of good hotels like Mayfair, Pal Heights, Swosti,Trident, Ginger and brands like Smokin Joe’s, Dominos, Pizza Hut and Cafe Coffee Day.

Lastly, Bapuji Nagar‘s Pratihari Mistaan Bhandar’s Rabidi, Nimapara Chena jhili, Bikalananda kar’s Rasogollas and Pahala’ sweets opened up franchise all over Bhubaneswar.But my personal Favourite remains Market Building Nirula’s Katthi Kulfi and Master CanteenVineet’s Kaju Barfi. Just like numerous lassi shops, of which Lingaraj lassi of Sahid Nagar boasted of fan followings.

Other than these, if you have come this far and not yet burped, I would end this hunt on a general note on an Odia’s love for Pakhal Bhata ( fermented water Rice with added flavours), Badhi chuna ( fine grounded badhi

laced with ginger and garlic), ambula rayi, chenchada, Alu baigan Bharta, Dalma ( No U dnt put Ma in Dal ;p), Sukua (salted dried Fish), santula (Dry Vegetable Stew with gravy),etc.

While one finds some interesting regionally famous items like Charu, Rasam, milk based Santula, ambula besara, and saddi (turmeric and Tamarind flavoured fried rice)and  ambila down south in Ganjam region, while mudi and desi chicken and mutton curry of Baripada is equally famous.

If now you feel nauseated by all these, please listen to my all time favourite lunch. Just visit any temple in the midday like the Maa Kali temple at Baramunda, and have a ghee based meal there. And if you are interested to feed me to the fullest, treat me to Ananta Vasudev Mandir or Puri Jagannath Mandir’s Abhada.

For readers forced by circumstance, to live outside Orissa, I do not mean to remind you of sweet good old days back home and make you nostalgic. For non Oriya s, do not puke here and please do not give me that exasperated annoying look, either. And for people in Orissa, I hope to help you in your hunt for good food.

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Apes evolved into early Neanderthals who evolved into modern day human beings. During this time, man became social and stayed together to mutually protect themselves and the males usually went out to gather food and hunt animals. They became hunters by nature while the females stayed back to take care of the children and their house in general. Jungles of trees gradually got replaced by concrete jungles and modern city life came into being. I am a resident of the modern times but the old hunter instinct has stayed with me. I still hunt for food. For good food the hunter has to be skilled in tracking, attacking and capturing the prey and for that they require perseverance, guts and strength. The modern day Hunter too requires the same set of skills. Firstly s/he has to persistently keep on exploring the city and interacting with different set of people to know the whereabouts of a good food joint. His tracking skills will take him there through many dangerous areas at times. If unguided or on new grounds, he has to dare venture into a new unknown food joint or hotel n restaurant with cash and card, both. Once there he will require depending solely on his skills, on which item to try out and which to avoid. He can take the help of all available signs and cues from next tables and waiters for better food guidance. On such hunting grounds, one should never feel shy to avoid being hunted themselves. They should also avoid attacking food with fancy names on the menu card if not understood or not recommended.  Once ordered for they also require plenty of guts to attack the food served and later on if the foraged food turns out to be too wild, our hunter has to draw on all his reserve strength to over come the internal struggle to digest the consumed food item. I am such a hunter.

I was born in Howrah, and learned to have  sensually developed food buds with proper training from my late paternal Uncle, who took us kids to far away nooks and corners of Kolkata for the best food. Good Food takes time and one should be patiently perseverant in their quest for the best food. As a 10 year old , with a broken heart I had to bid adeiu to Kolkata to arrive in Bhubaneswar for further studies, but the romance with Kolkata continues till date. It may be flooded with dirty water in the monsoon and populated by Aa-Bhadraloks at places, but when it comes to food, these people are the best. They are artists when it comes to anything with fish and food. A Fish fry is just a piece of freshly cut fish marinated in turmeric and salt and deep fried in Oil. But it attains heavenly taste when done by an experienced hand. The rich varieties in fish curry hinges on imagination, with the people of East Bengal descendants who call themselves to be from Bangaal, stealing a march over their counterparts elsewhere. The popular variety ranges from the Mustard or the plain masala variety to the finely chopped onions and  tomatoes toss fried with Pomfret.

The quality of fish, especially the Pabda or Hilsa of Padma River is most sought after. Another plain jane yet “forced down the throat or else” dish is the Sukto- basically a oil & spice-less mix of vegetable in boiled and cooked in dry format, though not quite the stew. But remains my all time favourite more by fragrance than by flavour is the ‘Iilish Macher Jhol’- a simple steamed piece of a popular kind of salt water fish put to boil in turmeric and salt added water with minimal spices. It is in kitchens in Kolkata, where every day, someone is trying to perfect a great dish.Another Popular household useful food item is ‘Muri” pronounced as ‘Mudi”, basically hot sand stirred puffed rice taken usually during the evenings with the popular Indian snacks-Mixture and mustard oil. It can be  flavoured with cut coconuts and pickle oil to make it Jhal Muri or vegetables and sauces to make it Bhel Puri.

Nostalgic memories of Kolkata flood me especially on Saraswati and Ganesh Pujas early morning, when bathed, combed and shining in neat pressed new clothes, we arrive at Schools to offer puspanjalis and then be fed a sumptuous breakfast by senior school girls in twin plaits and red bordered white sarees. We get Luchi( a deep refine oil fried small round piece of pressed rolled dough made from flour) and Alu Dum. Lunch was always the delicious Khichdi, Kobi Tarkari, Chatney of mashed tomatoes and dates, and Begun Bhajja. These simple things have a definitive different flavour, which make it so endearing  and is hardly found any non Bengali kitchens. Evenings during the Soptomi-Asthomi and Naubomi of Durga Pujas are a riot. Elder are sought after to seek their blessings which usually are handed out in hard cash to spend in the evenings. Street food to choose from will leave you flabbergasted with options ranging from the simple- Chatpati, Puchka, Manso Ghuguni, Rolls, Cutlets, Mughlai Paranthas, Chicken Lollypop, Prawn Chops and the usual north Indian Chaat, samosa, alu chop and many bastardized Indian Version of Chinese chow-min and Manchurian, etc. On such days, I get reminded of Hangover-the Movie, if it ever dealt with food instead of Drinks. But of all the popular street food, I miss Phuluri and Sutthi Kadaiir Kochuri the most. At times known as Radha bhollibi, I guess.These items are hardly been ever attempted to be replicated else where in non Bengali kitchens. There is also something my brother discovered and named-“Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghaam!!” a item guaranteed to remind you of Delhi Belly!! But the Nizaam’s and Amenia’s Biriyani and Punjabi and Iranian restaurants scattered over many places are to be self discovered and relished through out the year.

Lastly, one cannot commit blasphemy, by not mentioning desserts. The Kulfis are the most awesome and comparable to anywhere in India. Rosogollas are native here (and very good especially when hot) along with Kheer Kadam and Kheer Sagar. But if there is ever Nectar to be tasted on earth, then try the local Sweet Curd or Misti Doi. Also native here are the varieties of deep fried sweets like Langcha, PantuaGulab Jamun etc. The Sandesh can and should be Geographically IPR patented like the Basmati. They are unlike the rest of India mostly made from Gur- a sugar cane or date palm extract, which gives it a brown hue and a celestial taste. Often made from different toy shaped casts like apples, guava, ducks elephants,etc  for popular demand among the children,it remain to be seen and is the reason I call these people who are passionate about their food- as Artists!!

Nostalgic memories are miserably sweet and especially when it causes a small rumble gradually grow into a grumble in the nearest corner of my ever empty feeling stomach. So its time I don my Hunter cap and go out in search of food. So till my next piece, everyone go out to  love and enjoy Bengali Food!!