Call of the Middle-East

Dubai is about 4.5 hours away from Calcutta (Bless you Emirates!).

But then again, if that’s too far and too long for you….check this site out

It gives you everything you need to know about Dubai and a bit more…

 

http://hashtagmydubai.weebly.com/

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Phuchka…and the Calcutta Diagon Alley

You know Diagon Alley right….(if you don’t know then Harry Potter DVD series RIGHT NOW!)

We can all agree that the world of witchcraft and wizardry has but ONE Diagon Alley.
But here in Calcutta (the land of chaos and confusion)…we have several.

Yes several…

Have a look at this one…

gariahat_panchami

Source:- http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-n7wpZWq3nS8/UQhQm4pNH0I/AAAAAAAA2MA/eZRnoxuE384/s640/DSC_0582+1.JP

Or this one

And in these alleys you get quaint bottles of digestive pills

dsc_05821

But if you walk a little ahead, you may see gentlemen standing with contraptions such as these

Lunchtime - Camac Street, Kolkata, West Bengal, India - 9 May 2009

Source:- http://www.holidify.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/3552714069_8ea2c0af19_o.jpg

Intrigued? Refer back to the video I posted earlier. Inside these improvised contraptions you would find the phuchka. Little fried balls of semolina kept to desiccate within. You can have them with a potato-lentil filling and a choice of sweet/tangy spice water.

Kind of like this

panipuri_625x350_51439872196

Source:- http://i.ndtvimg.com/i/2015-08/panipuri_625x350_51439872196.jpg

 

 

 

Smoothies, Lassis and the cultural divide

If you’ve dined at any Indian restaurant in the UK, then chances are that you’ve come across the lassi- more specifically the mango lassi.
Yes…to speak very banally it is a flavoured yoghurt smoothie. But in India- it symbolises much much more. It has the antiquity of simpler (pre-milkshake) times and infuses a sense of soothing calm which can only come when it is made by hand. Not glove capped ‘health and safety obsessed’ hands…normal, hardworking human hands.

See Mark Wiens in this video…having a beer mug of lassi on one of the mind-numbingly busy streets in Calcutta.

This one is for when you’ve just finished your favourite kathi roll…

A Very Visual Treat!

Too much talking going on right?
And pictures may say a thousand words but nothing does it quite as efficiently as a video

Mark Wiens is quite a celebrity in the online food vlogging community. While touring the world looking for the best treats, he went down drawn to Calcutta and was left enamoured by the Kathi Roll.
That expression says it all

So here goes-

Thanks Mark!

So you want to know more about the Kathi roll (and Calcutta Street Food)…

Every city in the world ( no matter how big or small) has that one culinary claim to fame. Something that is unique, intrinsic and native to the sensitivities inherent in that region. Eventually these food items became a point of definition for that city. Case in point- You would get a KFC, BK or MCD at every other place (including your local gas station) wouldn’t you- but you would go deep within the antique by-lanes of  Lebanon to sample some authentic shawarma or venture to little chippys inside Glasgow to sink your teeth into the mythical deep fried mars bar. See what I mean…

Calcutta is one of those rare cities which isn’t satisfied with having just one ubiquitous delicacy. While the Kathi Roll is the queen bee of the pack, there are others which can tantalise your taste buds in unimaginable ways.

So lets begin with a history lesson (wait wait wait!- its short and has nice pics and videos)

See that ^.

(pic courtesy http://rth.remotetraveler1.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/gallery/kolkata-kathi-rolls/Kolkata-street-food-shop-making-chicken-kathi-rolls-on-Park-Street.jpg)

That is how the magic happens.

The Kathi roll began as a solution to a very particular problem. The British had developed quite a fascination for Indian food but couldn’t figure out a way to combat the messiness involved in consuming it. In particular they relished the paratha (flaky, fried indian bread) and the ever increasing varieties of juicy, succulent, kebabs that came with it.
So then one fine day  this humble little eatery called NIzams in Calcutta came up with a solution

Pic courtesy (https://culinarycal.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/89f44-nizamskolkata.jpg)

So these guys decided to place the kebab inside the paratha and wrap it up with a piece of paper. Genius yes?. This made it instantly portable and reduced the mess significantly.
It  was a happy meal before that stuff was even dreamed of!
Imagine being able to take this indulgent meat, spicy and juicy wrap wherever you went…everything you loved snuggled inside your palm.

Kinda like this

Pic courtesy- http://theideaofindia.in/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/kathi-roll.jpg

So now that we have some history…lets get into the details within the next posts.

 

Ze pièce de résistance!

1407756972_kolkata-kathi-rolldis2

Let us begin with a story of true love.

There was a boy who was banished (for unfortunate reasons beyond the purview of this tale) from his hometown Calcutta, to a dank, desolate and drizzly kingdom far far away.
And each night, while hiding under a big, feathery quilt (he was cold and lonely!), he remembered his one true love whom he had to leave behind in the streets of Calcutta.
She would prepare herself ever so carefully every time he would come during the twilight hours of the evening.  The choicest chunks of marinated chicken lovingly placed on a circular flaky, fried bread. If she ever felt indulgent (naughtily so!), she would wrap an egg white on herself. Then a sprinkling of secret spices (Chanel take a hike) and handful of pinkish crisp onions. Maybe a smattering of lime juice (women can be caustic eh?) or a dressing of warm chilli sauce. Finally she wrapped herself in a dazzling foil number.

What a sight she was! The Calcutta Kathi Roll!

Years before the wraps and craps of today, this diva emerged with a regal flourish in the streets of Calcutta. You could say she was humble. She never solicited the most expensive of ingredients, nor demanded that she be presented within brick and mortar restaurants (she was happiest at her roadside stalls). But she was my own true love. So many evenings spent sitting with her in my arms and watching the evening in Calcutta unfold with an incorrigible lethargy.

Anyway…so  this blog is about the Kathi Roll and some of her alluring allies in the Calcutta Street Food scene. Read on but please…keep no reservations regarding that waistline ok?

Image courtesy- Timescity. Available @ http://im.timescitycontent.com/media/establishments/2014/Aug/1407756972_kolkata-kathi-rolldis2.jpg