So one of the many parts about travelling that I love is getting to experience so many amazing kinds of food! Whether it is hot pot in China, fried chicken in Cambodia, Thom Yum soup in Thailand, Bun Cha in a Southeast Asian country, or ethnic deliciousness in Central Asia, there is many a dish that I have eaten on this trip that makes my mouth water as I think about them. Drooling on my keyboard is probably an electrocution risk right? Not to mention unsanitary. Anyway, the point is that travel provides a great opportunity to not only open your mind to new persepctives and ideas, but to also open your pallette to new flavours, textures, smells, and sensations. I think that it is important for us to be searching for new foods and opportunities to experience dining in whatever culture we find ourselves in. Unlike most of North America, many countries observe eating in a sort of intimate way. A great deal of importance is placed on food. From preparation to consumption and every step in between. Sharing a meal with people can give you great insight into that culture, more so than most other activities. And as eating is a necessity to life you will be more likely to share a meal with them then let’s say get a traditional tribal tattoo or something of that nature. Being in Kolkata for a little over a month now I have been able to experience a lot of different foods and dining experiences. Some of them have been more enjoyable than others, but each tells a different story and holds a unique memory. So below I have compiled a list of the foods that I have enjoyed most!
1. CHICKEN KASSA AND RUMALI RUTI
So this was one of my first “Indian” meals in Kolkata. My friend, who is a local, took me to a place about a 10 minute walk from my hotel in a sort of strip mall style restaurant area. The chicken kassa is a typical chicken curry in West Bengal, it features pieces of chicken, bone included, stewed in a rich dark gravy made up of numerous spices and chilis, and left to cook for hours to allow the flavours time to deepen and intensify. It is a heavenly chorus of flavour that knows no competitior! Combine this with piping hot, freshly stretched rumali ruti, the chipati’s larger and thinner cousin, and you have got yourself a match that could be featured in a commercial for e-Harmony. It is truly that delightful of an experience! Fun fact: Rumal is the word for handkerchief in the local language, so rumali ruti is kind of like saying “hankie bread.” At least that’s what my friend told me.
Price: The most expensive meal on the list 100 INR – 150 INR depending on your portion size and number of Ruti
2. PANI PURI OR PUCHKAS
Ah, puchkas. All my instincts told me it was a risk and that I should probably pass on it. But, this time I told my instincts to get lost and I am thankful I did. Puchkas are a delicious little crispy potato chip-like shell with a filling made of potato, chickpeas, fresh cilantro, and various spices. Mixed by hand I should add. Maybe it’s the risk of food poisoning that adds to the experience. Anyway, the shell is broken by the street vendor and filled with potato and then dipped in a dark brown liquid that my local friend only called “sour water.” This process is repeated until you have had your fill and tell the man that you are finished. This may not sound like an appetizing street food however, I assure you that it is indeed delightful! There is nothing quite like standing on a street with horns honking behind you, stuffing your face with puchkas. True bliss!
Price: I think I paid 10 INR for 5 Puchkas or $0.20
3. KATI ROLLS
Kati rolls. Kolkata’s iconic street food, or so I have heard. Either way, they’re delicious! A piece of dough is flattened and rolled out. Then fried in hot oil on a giant griddle type pan. If you are lucky, this process will be a lot more visually enticing than it sounds. Some of Kolkata’s Kati roll providers are extremely skilled in the tossing and frying of dough as a performance art, it’s quite the spectacle. After the frying, the dough is filled with your choice of toppings, ranging from veggie, to egg and chicken. It is seriously one of the best street foods I have ever come across, and it is only available in the evening, at least as far as I know.
Price: 40 INR – 80 INR or $0.79 – $1.60
4. PARATHA AND POTATO CURRY
Another dish that features some type of bread. I could just write about the varieties of Indian bread available, but that is another post for another time. This is one of my favourite breakfast foods in the world! You can save your Corn Pops and your Eggo waffles, this is truly the most satisfying breakfast I have ever had. Three pieces of dough are flattened and fried, the same way as the beginning of the kati roll, these are the paratha, a common form of bread eaten here. These are accompanied by a insanely delicious potato curry that is made fresh each morning. They serve it on a sectional stainless steel plate garnished with fresh diced red onion and a seriously intense mustard sauce. As you try not to burn your fingers you rip off pieces of the bread and pinch the potato between them. It is truthfully one of the most enjoyable experiences this city has to offer. The best, and only spot I have found so far, is near a mall called Metropolis in Kolkata. It’s just a little shack with old bamboo poles supporting a less the waterproof tin roof, but man is it ever delicious!
Price: 17 INR – 35 INR or $0.33 – $0.70
5. LASSI (or LOSI)
One of the more famous Indian treats, and although technically not a food, it deserves a spot here. Let me first say that before I had a real Lassi I was quite skeptical because I did not particularly enjoy my Lassi experiences in Indian restaurants in Canada . However, since I have had a real Indian Lassi, I have been born again! My friend took me to a place that is famous in his neighbourhood for having the best Lassi in Kolkata. The old man at the shop combines a sort of room temeprature yogurt, (safe) ice cubes, and copius amounts of rock sugar, in an old fashioned blender that I’m sure has been around since the 40’s. After it is blended to his satisfaction he opens the spout and out comes a delicious dairy laden delight that I am convinced is a gift from the heavens. He tops the drink with a piece of what I can oly describe as crust, which souds far less appetizing than it really is, and hands you your prize. It is seriously the best thing after a hot curry, or really anytime. The best Lassi is said to be found at a shop in the Tagore Park area, or at Sonarpur Railway station. I preferred the shop in Tagore Park, but if you are ever in Kolkata you will have to try them for yourself!
Price: 20 INR or $0.40
Thank you all for reading! I hope you enjoyed hearing about he food at least half as much as I have enjoyed eating it! If there is any sort of cultural topic that you would like to read about I would be happy to do research and write about it! Leave a comment below if you have any suggestions!
Grace and peace,