Durga Puja is as much about pandal hopping as it is about digging into popular Bengali delicacies such as bhuni khichudi, beguni (eggplant fritters), phuchka (pani puri), kathi rolls or lavish spreads of chingri malai curry (prawns in coconut gravy), kosha mangsho (mutton curry), and luchi (maida puri). While a host of restaurants do serve Bengali food round the year, this is the time when they come up with special menus, created for their biggest festival of the year. Whether you are a Bengali or not, you will love to dig into them. Here’s a quick sneak peek:
If you love prawns, then head to City of Joy in Alaknanda, CR Park, which is serving a scrumptious Chingri Paturi (prawns steamed in banana leaf), especially for Durga Puja. Apart from this, they also have Bhapa Ilish (steamed hilsa), and kosha mangsho. “We are also serving the favourite sandesh and payesh (rice kheer) for Durga Puja,” says owner Debojyoti Roy. Meal for two here would cost about RS 1,000 with taxes.
Fish is what a true blue Bengali swears by. For a serious dollop of a fishy meal, head to Oh! Calcutta, Nehru Place, which is serving a variety of favourites including Chithol Macher Mutha and Topse Fry in their specially-created Durga Pujo menu. Meal for two is about RS 2,000 plus taxes here.
Looking for some easy bingeing as you pandal hop? Head to Ki Hangla, Gurgaon, which offers all the favourite Kolkata street food items, right from phuchka, rolls, mutton ghugni and dimer devil to combo meals such as Radhaballavi with cholar dal, and Moglai and aloor dum, priced at RS 120. If you stay in Noida, and are feeling too lazy to head out after some hectic pandal hopping, you can get goodies such as chicken kabiraji, chicken cutlet, or some kosha mangsho with polao or Kolkata biryani home-delivered from Kitchen Calcutta at Sector 63, Noida. “From our chefs to ingredients, everything is homeflown and authentic,” claims owner Indrajit Sen.
A royal affair
Kolkata biryanis have a flavour of their own, drawing inspiration from the kitchens of the nawabs of Bengal. Specialising in biryani this year is Poribeshon at SPS Residency Market, Indirapuram. From mutton biryani to chicken and egg biryani, you’ll get them all at just Rs 100.
A wholesome visit
For a wholesome experience of Durga Puja in the Capital, the best place to head to is Chittaranjan Park, where you can spot a pandal almost in every block or alley. The best thing about the place is that all these pujas serve a lavish bhog (food offered to the Goddess) to the guests, free of cost. The bhog consists of the lip-smacking bhuni khichudi, labra (an aromatic mixed vegetable), beguni, tomato and dates chutney and (payesh) rice kheer. Most of these pandals, including the CR Park Kalimandir, near Market 1, also host extravagant cultural functions, and houses stalls selling Bengali delicacies, so don’t miss the action!
Bhuni Khichudi - a must-have!
1 cup of yellow moong dal, 1 cup basmati or gobindobhog rice, 2 tbsp of cashew nuts, 2 onions, chopped, 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 tomato, pureed, 1/2 cup of green peas, 2 potatoes, 1 cauliflower, diced, 1/4 tbsp turmeric, 2 tbsp of golden raisins, 1 tbsp ghee, 1 tbsp sugar.
For dry roasting: 3 dry red chilies, 4 green cardamoms, 4 cloves, 1 big black cardamom, 2” stick of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of paanch phoron (fennel, cumins and methi), 1 tbsp of coriander seeds , a pinch of hing.
For tempering: 2 small bay leaves, 2 small green cardamoms, 2 cloves, 1” thin stick of cinnamon, 1-2 dry red chilies
Grind the ingredients for dry roasting to fine powder. Dry roast the moong dal till you get a nutty smell and some of the lentil is light brown in colour. Be careful, don’t burn the lentils. Wash the rice and keep aside. Roast the cashew in little oil and keep it aside. Temper the oil with the bay leaves, chilli, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. When the spices sputter, add two tablespoons of finely chopped onion. Fry the onion till it is brown at the edges. Add the ginger-garlic paste, and fry for a minute. Add tomato puree and fry. Add peas, potatoes and cauliflowers. Fry for two more minutes. Add the roasted dal followed with the rice. Add turmeric powder and the dry spice powder. Add the raisins. Now fry everything for three to four minutes. Add about four cups of warm water, salt and about 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix everything. Add one tsp of Ghee. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for four minutes at full pressure. When you open the lid of the cooker, add a tsp more of ghee and roasted cashews nuts. Serve piping hot with papads, chutney, fried Hilsa, begun bhaja or any meat dish. Bhuni khichuri is supposed to be dry and not runny or liquidy like the regular khichdi.
By Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta, blogger. www.bongcookbook.com