Kolkata is one of those places that are identified more by its taste than by its architecture, location, climate, or people. I mean, mention the name of the city to a non-Calcuttan and they will immediately go “O Kolkata…Rosogolla”, or “O Kolkata…Phuchka”, or “O Kolkata…Macher jhol”. They will hardly ever say “O Kolkata…Howrah Bridge” or “O Kolkata…Victoria Memorial”. Anyway, you get the idea. It is the individuality and character of Kolkata’s food that defines the city. It’s what gives you a genuine feel of the city whether you are a guest or a Calcuttan. The reputation of our food precedes everything else.
Keeping track of the best eats in the city, however, can be extremely difficult given the variety the city has to offer. So, on my last visit to the city I revisited some of my personal favorites, as well as the most popular food joints in Kolkata, took copious notes and compared them to come up with a comprehensive list of some absolutely indispensable delicacies in the city. The following list is primarily meant to guide visitors to the city; but if you are a Calcuttan and find that you have not yet visited one or more of these joints then waste no more time.
Chicken kati rolls at Nizam house
Beef rolls at Free School Street
Fried kebab parantha at Zakaria Street
Kosha mangsho at Golbari
Mutton biriyani at Arselan
Chicken chanp at Shiraz
Mutton rezala at Aminia
Chicken bharta and chicken tandoori at Ballygunj Dhaba
Chelo kebab at Peter Cat
Pan fired momo at Grub club
Dry chili chicken at China town
Thukpa at Sikkim House
Telebhaja (Veg fritters) at Kalika
Kabiraji cutlet at Bhojohori Manna
Mutton chop at Mitra cafe
Puri sabzi at Sharma’s
Pav-bhaji at Princep Ghaat
Phuchka at Dakshinapan
Papdi chaat at Golpark
French fries at Scoop
Kulfi faluda at Esplanade
Mango lassi at Shyambazaar
Baked rosogolla and aam doi (mango yogurt) at Balaram Mallik
Misti doi at VIP sweets
Cheese puffs and fruit cakes at Nahoum’s
Pastries at Kookie Jar
Coffee at Flury’s
Tea at Balwant Sing’s dhaba
Iced tea at Dolly’s Tea Shop
My personal favorite is Golbari’s kosha mutton. This old, historic, unassuming place, situated at the 5 point crossing of Shyambazaar hardly offers a place to sit. What I love and remember most about this place is how they used to pack the kosha mangsho in clay pots covered with news papers that were then tightly secured with coconut ropes. They have now, lamentably, upgraded to plastic packages, so I carry my own stainless steel containers every time I visit this place. Eating here is not easy, because the preparation is so rich and spicy that it can disagree even with the most Bengali of stomachs, but stomach this delicacy you must at least once in your life time. A few tastes of this preparation during my last visit to Kolkata, and frequent experiments with my dad in our kitchen to recreate this gem of a recipe yielded something that is very close to the Golbarir Kosha mangsho, but a lot less unhealthy than the store version. Recipe follows.
Bengali Mutton Kosha Recipe
Level: Average difficulty Prep time: 12 hrs Cook time: 3 hrs Total time: 15 hrs Serves: 6
1 kg goat meat cut into chunky pieces
3 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
For the marinade:
1/2 cup of hung yogurt or Greek yogurt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp mustard oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala powder
4 tbsp mustard oil
6 green cardamoms
1 black cardamom
1 bay leaf
1 inch stick of cinnamon
3 dry red chilies
500 grams of onions made into a paste
2 tsp of ginger paste
1 tsp of garlic paste
3 medium tomatoes, pureed
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chili powder
2 cups water
salt to taste
1 tsp garam masala powder
Mix all the marinating ingredients in a bowl and add the mutton pieces to it. Mix well and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Do not add salt to the marinade.
When the mutton has marinated for long enough, take a pressure cooker and heat the remaining mustard oil in it.
Temper the oil with the whole spices (about 30 seconds) and add the onion paste.
When the onion turns slightly brown add the ginger and garlic paste.
Saute over medium heat for 4-5 minutes and then add the tomato puree. Cook until the tomato has turned a darker red.
Add the cumin and coriander powder and cook for 2 more minutes.
Now add potatoes and the mutton pieces with the marinade.
Mix well before adding the water.
When it comes to a boil, cover with the lid and pressure cook until the meat is soft (takes about 20-35 minutes depending on the cooker).
When the steam has escaped, open the lid and let the meat slow cook for at least 90 minutes, stirring ocassionaly. You may want to take out the potatoes to prevent over cooking.
Sprinkle the garam masala powder just before turning off the heat.
Serve with steamed rice or roti.
PS: Sorry about the poorly lit pictures. For some curious reason Calcutta restaurants are ominously dark even during the day.
If you live outside of Kolkata and would like to send Golbarir kosha Mangsho to your loved ones then visit Best Gifts to Kolkata.