Growing up in a Bengali family has its own perks especially when you are not living in Kolkata. I come from a Bengali family and due to my mother’s job, we had to leave Kolkata when I was three years old. We moved here and there within the periphery of the Indian subcontinent, but mostly in North India. Living in different places turned me into a person who could adapt anywhere regardless of languages, philosophies, cuisines. Indian life is full of colors and so is Indian food.
PROS AND ONLY PROS
India, being home to a population of almost 1.38 billion is not confined to a single stream of dishes. Indian food, like Indian people, are full of different colours and flavours. From rich and thick curries to different sorts of breads and millions of snacking dishes, India oozes with love. How can I not mention Chutneys (sweet, hot or tangy thick sauces made from fruits and veggies) and Achaars (condiments, also made from seasonal fruits and vegetables). These two can easily take one dish to another level. To be very honest, you don’t even need a curry/side dish for having a roti (Indian tortilla) or paratha (Indian flatbread). Just take one dollop of Chutney or a piece of Achaar and you’re good to go.
LET’S DIG UP SOME HISTORY, SHALL WE?
Indian cuisine is heavily influenced by different religious sects. India has seen multiple invasions among which the Mughal invasion was one of the prime ones. The mughals came with their own cuisine, mixed and matched, tried numerous combinations and gave birth to lip-smacking dishes, Samosa (baked or fried pastries with savory fillings) for example. India has gone through other European and Middle Eastern influences apart from the Mughals. But mostly, the Mughal cuisine plays the pivotal role especially in the cases of North Indian dishes. Were you aware of the fact that England’s national food was Chicken Tikka Masala (roasted marinated chicken chunks cooked in a spicy gravy)? Yes, Indian style of cooking has not only adapted other styles, but has also reached out to other countries only to become one of their favorite staples.
Well, one should understand from the very title what this section would be about. This one name, BIRYANI (semi-cooked basmati rice mixed with curried meat or vegetables), brings water to every Indian’s mouth, irrespective of religion, language, or region. Biryani has also become very popular in the foreign countries lately. This dish alone has eight different variants, namely, Lucknow or Awadhi biryani, Kolkata biryani, Hyderabadi biryani, Ambur biryani, Malabar biryani, Memoni biryani, Thalassery biryani and Dindigul biryani. There is also Tehari biryani which, according to the legend, was created for the Hindu bookkeepers who served in the Muslim courts. This kind is served without meat and with loads of vegetables like, carrots, potatoes, cauliflowers etc. I’m not a huge fan of the Tehari kind, but when I was in Noida, for work, I had the Tehari style of biryani. It was at one of the best restaurants in Noida and it was a beautiful experience.
AN ODE TO THE CITY CALLED CALCUTTA
Calcutta, now Kolkata, apart from being the cultural capital of India, has always offered joy through food. From authentic Bengali dishes to age old British originals, you can lay your hands on some good dishes if you’re around. From fine diners and expensive eateries to shabby shacks and of course, the Kolkata famous Cabins are exactly what you’ll look for when you’re in the city. The cabins not only serve the best dim-toast (egg toast) and out of the world cutlets, they are unimaginably pocket friendly, cheap in its true sense. This city is also home to some brilliant music, literature, architecture and whatnot.
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I can go on and on without a break when I revisit my holidays in Kolkata during the times of Navratri, or as in Kolkata – Durga Puja. This time of year is what every Bengali longs for. Durga Puja is worshiping and celebrating the victory of good over evil. Rituals aside, the goddess is offered Bhog (fruits and cooked vegetables with rice etc.), which is an absolute “die for” Bengali dish. Everyone comes home, meets and greets their friends and loved ones, keeping their love for food at the center. During this time, an unofficial food festival takes place. Every restaurant, every roadside dhaba, every shack and cabin and stall comes to life, as if they’re born again. Love for food is eternal and all pervading as food is more than just food here.