Kolkata is undoubtedly one of the greatest cultural centers in India, also known as the city of joy. The city is the home of contemporary Indian literary, artistic, and Indian nationalism, with unparalleled heritage. The craftsmanship and ideals of Bengalis are extraordinarily rich. The best thing? While in the city, people of all ages will be seen discussing opinions about cricket, movies, theatres, politics, and all that’s under the sun in their “addas” (chats, or moreover, intellectual trade of ideas). Kolkata has always been a prominent contributor to international literature, arts, and music which is obvious from leading names like Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore to their modern patrons. The city also houses scrumptious traditional Bengali food, which is not only appreciated by its people but throughout the world.
1. Shorshe Ilish
Shorshe Ilish is one of the main kinds of fish curry in traditional Bengali food. There is no better way to a Bengalis’ heart than this Hilsa-delicacy based on mustards, one of Kolkata’s many favorite meals. The Ilish is a vital component of the cultural legacy of Kolkata and is available in abundance during the monsoon. The fish is prepared in a thick mustard stew with slit green chilies and rich mustard oil. Ilish and mustard are a soul gratifying combo. The pungent and bold flavor of mustard oil and mustard paste tastes the fish to a different level altogether. It is not just the main diet, but a key dish during any Bengali occasion. Dig into Shorshe Ilish at Oh! Calcutta on Elgin road or at 6 Ballygunge Place.
2. Mutton Kosha
Mutton (or Mangsho) Kosha is a celebrated Bengali delicacy. The word kosha can be compared to bhuna, which gradually cooks a sauce over a low fire, over a very long time to achieve a rich dark brown color and melt in the mouth chunks of meat. Porota or polao may be offered on the plate. Even with simple white rice, it tastes wonderful. It is a relaxed preparation, which takes time and patience. With ginger-garlic, coriander, cumin seeds, turmeric, and red chilies and curd, the mutton is marinated overnight. At this time salt is not added, so that the marinade can mesh completely with the meat. The salt used would evaporate water and masala from meat, compromising the flavor. The mutton is then slow-cooked and brown in mustard oil, which adds its particular taste to this Bengali delicacy. Golbari at the Shyambazar junction in Kolkata may be the best-known business selling kosha-mangsho in this form.
3. Daab Chingri
Daab Chingri is as authentic as a Bengali cuisine gets as we term that mellow mix of slow, cooked prawns and coconut (daab) meat, cooked in a complete green coconut shell. It dates back several hundred pages or more. Cooking Daab chingri is discussed in the book “Thakurbarir Ranna” with ease and nonchalance. “Simply put it into the coconut, and place it in the oven,” types! Daab Chingri is sweet, savory, and made from fresh prawns, marinated in salt and turmeric powder sautéed with fine gravy, onions, garlic, ginger, chilies, poppy seeds, cashews, panch phoron, etc in mustard oil, added to the meal. After transferring gravy and prawns into a coconut shell, a sealed lid is made with wheat flour dough and cooked graciously. Due to it being served in the whole shell itself, restaurants often find an influx of guests trying to take pictures of this beautiful platter and posting it on social media before digging in.
4. Mushoor Daal
This hearty dal tastes phenomenal with nearly every bhaja (fried side dishes) or torkari (vegetable dishes). It doesn’t overshadow other foods, because it’s sparsely spicy. Rather, it steps back and lets its other mates shine brightly. It is the sweet savor of dry-roasted moong dal that will often transport you back to your childhood home and memories. It is one of the easiest and quickest dishes one can make. As the dal boils, put on some rice to cook. Throw a small potato (cut halfway) into the rice pot while you’re there. Then add a dash of panch phoron with the Bengali tempering to this protein-rich daal, which makes it irresistibly flavorful and easy to digest. Squeeze some lime over your plate. You now have a meal so comforting, it will have numbed all the stresses and pain in your life.
5. Potol er Dorma
Potoler Dorma is a healthful traditional Bengali food that can be eaten on almost all types of occasions depending on its preparation style. It is a delectable curry of parboiled pointed gourds filled with a range of mixes, shallow fried and cooked with a spicy, delicious gravy. Hot rice can also be offered with Potoler Dorma. The Bengali dorma is claimed to be a native development of the Dolma in the Middle East which is a part of Ottoman food. Armenian immigrants may have brought Dolma to Bengal. Dorma is possible with several vegetables, but the most popular among Bengali people is when it is created with potol or pointed gourd. The stuffing can vary greatly and generally contain dried fruits (and sometimes nuts). You can have a niramish version (without onion or garlic) with ground Bengal gram, or an aamish version (not vegetarian) with fish and prawns. Dried fish (shutki) or meat may be included in the non-vegetarian recipes, while vegetarian recipes may be created from chhana (cottage cheese), rice, or other vegetables.
6. Chingri Malaikari
Chingri malaikari is a classic, made with large tiger prawns (bagda chingri) or giant freshwater prawns (golda chingri) in an extremely subtle, creamy coconut milk sauce. Don’t be deceived by the sophisticated appearance of this cherished Bengali treat – chingri malaikari looks extremely complicated to cook, when in reality it is incredibly simple to make, even easier than a chicken or egg curry. The word Malaikari is essentially a local term of Malay Curry which means a curry from Malaysia. The principal elements are prawns and coconut milk, with ghee or mustard oil, onions, turmeric powder, diced green chili, garlic paste, and ginger paste accompanying and flavored with spices. The creamy and velvety texture imparts a rather royal and grand look to this dish. You can find this elegant dish at Kasturi restaurant in New Market or Satapdi in Hindustan Park.
7. Macher Matha diye Moog daal
This special dish prepared with the fish head holds the highest pedestal in Bengali cuisine among dals.
If you desire to wow your guests, this is the course to make. Thick, rich, aromatic Bengali style Moog Dal along with the dominant presence of the fish head has always found its place at dinner tables during festivities. Therefore understandably this dal is cooked at wedding lunches, first rice ceremonies, or while inviting visitors to an afternoon party at any time. One needs the freshest head of fish to create this dal and this can be achieved by buying live fish. You can use any big freshwater fish head, but a large Katla, a wonderful freshwater carp from Bengal, is the ideal choice. It is coupled with a roasted moong Dal (split green grams), which has been shallowly cooked in Mustard Oil, to a simple tempering of the onions, tomatoes, and Indian basic spices like cumin seeds, coriander powder, etc.
Bengalis and Rosogolla are synonymous with each other. Their utterly soft, unblemished texture, perfectly rounded shape, and sweet syrupy fluid inside are renowned all around the world. Being a healthier option than many other snacks or desserts out there (as it does not need frying in oil or ghee), makes it the favorite of aged and health-conscious beings. It is a milk-based sweet, made by curdling the milk, draining the whey, and then kneading the milk solids into balls. These spongy balls are cooked in hot sugar syrup till they are light and juicy. If one is looking for the most authentic flavor they must visit any of the branches of Balaram Mullick in the city.
9. Mishti Doi
Mishti Doi is a popular traditional Bengali food in the eastern parts of India, mostly West Bengal, where it is served with meals as a dessert. Mishti Doi is consumed on festive occasions and is considered an auspicious item to serve while starting for the journey or any important work. It is generally packaged and consumed in earthen pots which is an essential part of its presentation and taste. Mishti Doi is traditionally made from thickened milk, by introducing palm jaggery, cane jaggery, or sugar. Cane sugar is used in Misti Doi for sweetening the dish. The process is usually carried out in an earthen pot which finally imparts a characteristic earthy flavor to the product and also absorbs the extra whey. It is served chilled and known to be very nostalgic for the people of Bengal.
Langcha is a Bengali sweetmeat from West Bengal, India. Langcha consists of sweetened powdered milk and various cereal flours. Shaktigarh is home to several sweet stores providing this dish. Shaktigarh is a mandatory halt for travelers, approximately 91 kilometers from Kolkata, GT Road, or NH2-Durgapur Expressway. Busses, cars, and private cars from Asansol to Kolkata stop not only for a short rest but also for the passengers to enjoy Langcha to take home to their friends and family. It is almost as if people anticipate this more than their actual destination! The langcha has been believed to originated from a novice named Khudiram Dutta, who later established the Langcha Mahal. It is assumed that Langchas became famous when a British officer who had a disability in his leg declared his love for the sweet. A crippled man is called ‘langra’ in Bengali, that is why the sweet got its name Langcha. Today, the town has gotten quite a boost in tourists and visitors to this heavenly concoction. Get this at any of the roadside shops in Shaktigarh for a divine experience.
Kolkata is indeed a heaven for anyone with a sweet tooth or just foodies in particular. Much of Kolkata’s experience involves delving into its wonderful traditional Bengali food. The gastronomy and culture of the city both are testimony to it Hopefully, the next time you visit the city, this list will help you when you’re hungry!