A sweet Guide of Calcutta by two exiled Bengali aristocrats

Dipanjan Dutta  & Shomik Mukherjee

  

Culture or couture is not necessarily what can be narrated in a medium of media alone, yet speaking about it, and not being able to impart a visual parallel is also not self-encompassing.

Bengal and Bengali’s over the years have been best referred to as maach bhaat [fish and rice] people and famous for having a huge penchant for sweets. Diabetes is almost a hereditary given, and life is about having enormous quantities of sweets till it is detected and thereafter-controlled amount of the same. [The occasional stolen mouthful, when no one is watching, is therefore not accounted for]

  

The culinary habits of Bengalis have been the subject of much discussion amidst all the communities in India and abroad. Bengalis represent a race of people who live by a simple theorem – Good Living is about Good Eating. We eat to live and we live to eat.

The basic food is rich is spices and mustard oil, and has in its fold unique food items such as Mocha [the base of a banana trunk] and posto [dried opium seeds] comprising age old delicacies. Recipes have been handed down through effective training from mother in law to daughter in laws for years and each household with some historical lineage would have their own particular and unique style of cooking. The same food item is sure to taste distinctly different in different households, as part of the unique heirloom of the family itself. A connoisseur of food shall be able to distinguish the part of Calcutta that this house originally hails from.

Its amazing how food in this part of the world can effortlessly cut through decades/generations and most interestingly religion. A traditional Bengali family is bound to have a problem with a residential muslim cook, yet almost all their eat –outs will comprise of authentic mughlai food or biryani and mutton chaap. Here too, experts will be able to identify even the slightest deficiency in the taste of a food from another culture. Its is this refined and highly developed palette of taste buds, which to me, reflects the defining moments of the culture of Bengal, amidst all the other accusations, that they are primarily lazy and therefore huge non achievers.

Almost all hearty get together will have a conversation on good food, and a new shop which has opened out, in some distant part of the city, and the interesting part is, the next time any of the people are in that vicinity, they will take as much effort to find that shop, as they would have done for a long lost friend. Hence, this market is extremely quality conscious, and runs on one basic marketing axiom – Word of Mouth and first hand First Impressions. Generally, referred to as being sweet-natured people, a Bengali would necessarily be aware of the best of offing, in and around the city. Fast food here, traditionally is singara, dal puri, hing –er kachuri, kodai sutir kachuri, gilipi, and there is almost room for a mishti after that. Even today in a traditional Bengali home, any meal is incomplete without a sweet dish, on a daily basis. In the complete absence of a sandesh/rosogolla or likewise the immediate substitute is sugar, mishri, or even a bar of chocolate.

But if one has to sit down and list the sweet-treat on offer in the city, then one may choose to keep the rest of this document as a “Kolkata Guide to a Sweet Tooth.”

 

Bhim Nag (Bidhan Sarani, Bou Bajar) -er "Sandesh" 

Nabin Chandra Das - Central Avenue, Baghbajar. 

Santosh - Amherst Street, Opposite  to Hindu Academy.

Jugal's  - College Street. Opp to Indian Silk House.

Horidas Modak -  Shyambajar Crossing.)

Amrito (FoDiya Pukur ar Bidhan sarani'r junction,

Haatibagan/Jadab Dash -er   "Mishti   Doi" 

Sen Mahashay (FoDiya Pukur / Salt Lake) -er "Darbesh" and  "Knacha Golla" (second one is of course a winter specialty) 

Shoilo Sweets (near Lake Town Market) -er "Langcha" 

Ganguram (Amherst St, Vivekananda Road junction) -er "Mihidana"  and "Kheerer Chop"

Ghagen Ghosh (Manicktala Crossing) -er "Shar Bhaja" 

Tiwari Bros. (Kalakar St, BaDo Bajar) -er "Jilipi" 

Santosh -er "Seeta Bhog (Chhanar Polao)"

Nandalal Ghosh & Sons., Sukiya Street, Opposite  to Srimani Marekt.  Sandesh

KC Das           -Rosogolla & Chanar Payesh

Naban Krishna Guin er- Ratabi/Reosecream Sandesh & Chandan Kheer

Sharma – Rabri & Malai

Geetika Sukiya Street ("Prosiddho Dhakai Mishtanno Bhandar") "Bnode" - and their "KaDai Shuti'r   Kachuri" -   this  one again is a winter speciality.

 

By the way, if you have a taste for the nonta  delicacies too, I can suggest a few.

For Bengali/Hindustani/Continental Snacks: 

Pnutiram (College Square - Chop),

Anadi Cabin (S. N. Banerjee Rd,  Esplanade)and

A.D. Cabin (Sukiya St.) (Mughlai Parota),

Gunjan   (Lake Town - Chaat) 

Roadside Stalls at Beniyatola (MG Road, near Amherst St Crossing) 

(Tele  Bhaja)  Raj (M.G. Road, near College St. Crossing)

(Radha Ballabhi),   Basanta Cabin  (Bidhan Sarani, opp. to Medical College)

(Chop/Mughlai), Geetika  (Tele  Bhaja). 

Nandalal Ghosh (SingaDa),

Dilkhush (MG Road, near College St  Crossing)

[Editor’s Note: Two individuals who are best equipped to write this has written this guide. One is a non-resident whose foray into Calcutta memory is through the sweet-lane and another is a resident for last two decades with all taste-buds open. It was my long desire to map the hidden wealth of this city, which although not in her best of conditions is still full of surprises. We, the charmed ones are always ready to be charmed by a true charmer even though we always remember our willing suspension of disbelief. This work is a true work of digital and human connections. Dipanjan wrote this to me in an email a year back and Shomik was connected before few months. Apart from other dissimilarities in height, weight, looks and others, they both have a common trait, a rarity to mourn in Calcutta nowadays – aristocratic sensitivity or sensitive aristocracy]