With love, from Kolkata
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With love, from Kolkata

Restaurateur Siddhartha Bose on how he turned a flagging Bhojohori Manna into a fast growing Bengali food chain.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2012 01:59 IST
Hindustan Times
Bhojohori Manna,Kolkata,Bengali food chain

Restaurateur Siddhartha Bose on how he turned a flagging Bhojohori Manna into a fast growing Bengali food chain .When Siddhartha Bose opened a Bhojohori Manna in Mumbai, the guy who sold Kolkata style rolls in a shop opposite the place turned to selling milk, chickening out from competition. “I was astonished, and think it was silly on his part,” says a modest Bose, who runs 12 outlets of Kolkata’s fastest growing Bengali food chain.

The history of Bhojohori Manna — which is currently training Hyatt Regency chefs how to make home-style Bengali food — is as inspiring as the story of the person who conceptualised it. Bose worked for Tata Steel as an administration head. He put in his paper on the April Fool’s Day, 1999 as the monotony of a corporate job got the better of him.

“After 17 years, I found no excitement in my work. But it wasn’t easy to trade my job securities for my dream,” says Bose. And some 13 years and two restaurant shut-downs later, he knows he did not fool himself, as he runs the phenomenally successful food chain. His first two food ventures did not survive — the court ordered the first to shut down as it was a disputed property, and the second closed because the government built a flyover opposite it. But Bose didn’t give up.

In 2003, Bose and his four friends including filmmaker Goutam Gosh, and capital market analyst Siddhartha Chatterjee, who played the role of Topshe, in Satyajit Ray’s films Joi Baba Felunath: The Elephant God (1979) — invested Rs 25,000 each to start Bhojohori Manna. They named it after the ’s70 Manna Dey song about a magical cook with unique culinary skills.

The restaurant made a modest start in a 180 sq feet place in Ekdalia Road, Kolkata, selling cutlets and fried fish. It refused to take off, as Bose would find parents sitting inside the restaurant eating from their tiffin boxes after dropping kids at the nearby school. Bose fixed up the problem by serving home-cooked full meals. He sent out a cook everyday in the morning to the market to find what’s available. The chef would then come back and work out the menu.

“That’s how we work even now. Our menu is seasonal. We jot down the dishes of the day on the white board everyday,” he says. And the culinary surprises come at unbelievably low rates —a hearty meal would cost you R350! Some of the restaurant’s famed recipes such as the kosha mangsho, have recently been introduced at Café, Hyatt Regency.

“Delhi will soon have a Bhojohori Manna too. I am looking for the guy who has the fire in his belly to manage it,” says Bose.

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About bong food

It’s said that Bongs live to eat and not vice versa. Food is the most important part of celebrations in any Bengali household. Bengali cuisine is marked by spicy, fragrant flavours and richness of textures. Rice is the staple, and so is fish. Fish such as rohu, hilsa, koi pabda, katla, and ilish are popular, along with chingri(prawn) and all its varieties such as kucho (shrimp), bagda (tiger prawns) or galda (scampi). Bengalis primarily use mustard oil for cooking. Ingredients that are most often used are mustard, turmeric, poppy seed, coriander, and coconut, and paanch poron — a spice mix used for a variety of veg and non veg preparations.

Ilish Barishali

1kg hilsa
150ml mustard oil
25gm turmeric powder
25gm green chilli Salt
5gm kalonji (black seed)
200gm yogurt
75gm mustard seeds
1kg cashew
1 coconut
10gm green chilli paste

Marinate fish with salt and turmeric powder. Add to the marination half of the mustard paste, coconut and cashew paste. Pour oil in a kadhai, add green chilli and kalongi for tempering.
Add turmeric powder, green chilli paste and yogurt. Cook for three minutes, add the other half of the mustard paste, add water and salt and cook for five minutes. Now add fish and cook for 10 minute. Add three tbs of mustard oil and whole green chilli. Cover and cook for two minute.

Kosha Mangsho

1kg lamb with bone
300gm onion
50gm ginger
25gm garlic
150gm tomato
100gm curd
2gm cinnamon
2gm cardamom
25gm turmeric powder
25gm red chilli powder
50ml ghee
Salt to taste
100ml mustard oil

Make a paste with ginger, garlic, and onion. Pour mustard oil in a kadhai, add cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaf. Add ginger, garlic and onion paste, fry till golden brown. Add chopped tomatoes and yogurt. Add lamb and cook for 10 min. Add water and cook on low heat for until the lamb is tender. Garnish with chopped coriander and garam masala.

First Published: Mar 01, 2012 18:52 IST