From Cha to Lyangcha: Dishes from 23 iconic food joints that define Calcutta
If you’ve already ticked off the places on this list, you can call yourself a Calcuttan. If you haven’t, however, here’s your chance to make amends.
Seriously. You can’t be in Calcutta and call yourself a foodie if you haven’t eaten at each of these absolutely iconic haunts.
And why 23? Well, the greatest Bengali ever to have graced this planet happened to be born on a 23. No, we’re not talking about Kumar Sanu, but about Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who was born on January 23.
So, without further ado, presenting the food itinerary of the true-blue resident of the City of Joy…
1. Bharer Cha at the Maidan
You’ve just finished a game of football (or cricket, if you will) in the backdrop of Chatterjee International. What’s better than to huddle around a thela-gaari (push cart), debating Didi and Dada over fresh tea and biscuit?
2. Radhabollobi at Mrityunjoy
Housed in an old, crumbling building near Lansdowne Market, Mrityunjoy is not all appealing to the eye. However, the food will keep you coming back, again and again, especially the soft, yet crisp, radhabollobi, which is served with sweet and spicy aloo dum or the quintessential chholar daal. Check out the high ceilings and the ancient display cases. Best time to visit: 4.30pm, when the radhabollobis just come off the fryer.
Also, don’t miss their out-of-this-world winter delicacy – the much-sought-after-but-always-out-of-stock phoolkopir singhara (cauliflower samosa).
3. Baked beans on toast at Flurys
Toasted and buttered slice of toast submerged in the best baked beans money can buy, with chopped onion and green chilies sprinkled over – the baked beans on toast at Flurys is nothing short of legendary.
Watch the world go by from behind its glass façade, while you take languid bites at the confectionary that is synonymous with Calcutta.
4. Mutton Kabiraji at Coffee House
Did you know: ‘Kabiraji’ comes from the English word ‘coverage’, which quite accurately portrays the enormous cutlet as it appears on a plate. On the other hand, some say the word comes from how the cutlet looks like Kabiraj Rabindranath Tagore’s beard. Hence, kabiraji.
But, then again, as the Bard said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a Coffee House Mutton Kabiraji by any other name would taste as delicious.”
5. Fish Orley at Bijoli Grill
Filets of bhetki lightly floured and butter fried to a golden crisp, served with a generous dollop of tartar sauce. Instant food heaven.
What was once a tiny eatery behind the now defunct Bijoli Cinema, once called ‘Dipti Cabin’, Bijoli Grill has been Calcutta’s pride since 1947.
They serve everything under the sun – from luchi to chicken korma – but it’s their treatment of fish that will leave you with lifelong memories.
6. Double Chicken Roll at Kusum
As you walk down Park Street towards Mullickbazaar, just as you pass Oxford Book Store, a heavenly aroma hits your nostrils – it’s the unmistakable scent of spiced chicken – and that can mean only one thing: Kusum’s rolls.
Choose chicken or mutton, add an egg or two, double (or triple) your dose of meat – the options at Kusum are endless. Oh, and don’t forget to ask for mustard sauce.
7. Kachori and Lassi at Sharma Sweets
If you’re in the Deshapriya Park area, or even in Northern Park off Elgin Road, don’t miss Sharma Sweets. The Hing Kachoris come with a lip-smacking aloo curry with pickled green chillies and a sweet-spicy chutney on the side, and makes for a perfect quick breakfast.
Once you’re done, wash everything down with a generous helping of lassi that comes with a dollop of malai on top.
8. Kasha Mangsho at Golbari
92 years ago, Ratan Arora opened the New Punjabi Restaurant in a building that had a semi-circular façade. Today, very few people remember the original name – they only know Golbari, and its delectable Kosha Mangsho.
A spicy (and how!) mutton curry slow cooked in typical Bengali style, Kosha Mangsho has been a crowd favourite for decades.
9. Murighonto at Suruchi
Take a rohu fish muri (head), add some spices, mix with rice grains, pour in some water, and cook till rice is done. It’s amazing how something so simple can taste so good!
Some say eating murighonto is an acquired taste. To them, I say, you can acquire a new place to stay. Calcutta does not love you.
10. Daab Chingri at Kewpie’s
Daab chingri is as elaborate as it looks. It takes a long time to prepare, but, in the end, you just can’t have enough of it. (Beware, though, or you’ll burn a hole in your pocket big enough for a tiger prawn to slip through, with the daab in tow.)
If you’re a daab chingri purist, a word of caution: Kewpie’s adds onions, ginger and garlic. However, if you’re a newbie, just head to Kewpie’s, already.
11. Mughlai Paratha at Anadi Cabin
The ‘Moglai’, as we call it, is perhaps the Calcuttan’s go-to meal when he has little to spend. Every foodie you talk to will have a favourite place to buy these meat- and egg- stuffed parathas. However, one name keeps cropping up in every conversation – Anadi Cabin on Jawaharlal Nehru Road, opposite the Metropolitan Building.
Anadi, the century-old eatery, which has changed neither its décor nor its recipe, makes its Moglais with duck eggs spread evenly over a super-thin paratha, sprinkled with garlic, green chilies and chopped onions. Yum!
12. Chelo Kabab at Peter Cat
With relentless dedicated Facebook posts, Tweets and blogs, you would think Peter Cat would have fallen victim to hype. But no, the Park Street restaurant and its Chelo Kabab remain Calcutta’s favourite.
Really, you can’t go wrong with herbed, buttered rice with a poached egg on top, and minced mutton kababs and chicken skewers on the side.
And it tastes exactly as delicious as it looks!
13. Beef Steak at Olypub
After a hard day’s work, head over to Oly in Park Street. Order the house special beef steak, a pitcher of beer (at the lowest prices you’ll find in India, guaranteed), lean back, and listen to the musicians (yes, live music) playing anything from Baul to Bollywood.
It just doesn’t get better than this.
14. Mutton Curry at Aminia
One mutton piece, one onion, one tomato, one egg, one potato, one bowl of curry. One spectacular dish.
Aminia is a massive restaurant near New Market that began operations the day India got independence, and has been enthralling office-goers and college students, brokering peace between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, and serving Sachin Tendulkar ever since.
15. Mutton Rezala at Shiraz
Some say the rezala is a glorified mutton stew. Those people are wrong.
This Awadhi preparation – made with yoghurt, ghee, mild spices, and mutton – will guarantee love at first bite.
Enjoy it best with Shiraz’s signature pulao.
16. Mishti Doi at Mithai
Non-Bengalis learn to speak the language with two phrases – ‘Ami tomake bhalobashi’ and ‘mishti doi’. Eat a bowlful of the latter at Mithai and you’ll say the former to it in no time.
Traditionally, mishti doi (sweet curd/yoghurt) comes in a luxurious pink hue. But Mithai’s speciality is a white yoghurt with a hint of sourness. It’s perfect, let me assure you.
17. Sandesh at Balaram
‘Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick’ has been around in Calcutta for more than a hundred years now. Its impressive arsenal includes a wide variety of sugary treats – sorrabri, sor bhaja, kachagolla, mihidana, sitabhog, patisapta, lal misti doi, rosomalai – but what really brings the customers in is the aptly named ‘abarkhabo sandesh’ range.
Century-old recipes handed down generations combine with traditional utensils to tickle the Bengali sweet tooth every day, year after year.
Don’t forget to try out their ice-cream sandesh and the plethora of chocolate-based sandesh on offer.
18. Indrani at Ganguram
Yet another century-old joint in Calcutta that has aficionados pouring in all day, 365 days a year. The most popular, nay iconic, item on the menu is the Indrani, Ganguram’s self-styled rasmalai.
However, just Ganguram’s is moving with the times, too. Try the Chocolate Kalaveri D!
19. Darbesh at Sen Mahasay
At first glance, a darbesh looks like a laddoo. At first bite, it blows your mind.
The darbesh is an amalgamation of bonde, ghee and nuts that is simply impossible to resist.
True story: The guys who came up with the Lay’s chips slogan, “No one can eat just one”, had actually gobbled up a dozen darbeshs just moments before. (OK, maybe that’s not a true story.)
20. Patishapta at Putiram
Move over, Les Français, we Bengalis make the better crêpe. Paper thin sooji-maida crêpes stuffed with caramelized coconut and/or kheer, fried in ghee to crispy, yet soft, perfection. Putiram makes the best patishapta in Calcutta.
(Not better than your grandmother, though.)
What more do you want from life?
21. Daber Sarbat at Paramount
After a long day in the sun hunting for books on College Street, nothing can replenish your energy more than a daab sharbat (tender coconut juice) at Paramount.
As long as you’re there, try the coco-malai sharbat and the green mango syrup.
22. Anything at Nahoum’s
One of the last vestiges of the Jewish community in Calcutta, Nahoum’s holds a special place in the city’s heart.
Founded in 1902, Nahoum’s stocks the best lemon tarts, custard rolls, éclairs, rum balls, sweet buns and chocolates in Calcutta. And in winter, you just cannot miss their plum cake.
23. Lyangcha at Sri Hari Sweets
Normally, people challenge each other to eat a lyangcha at one go. If you’re at Sri Hari, and value your life, we suggest you don’t.
Sri Hari’s lyangcha is better than you – and, at 8 inches, it’s bigger than you.
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