The food tours and workshops are listed right at the end. So if you want to get there directly, by passing the food ramblings (food is close to our soul), please scroll down.

The people of Bengal are mostly avowed gastronomes. Let us first start with the people of Bengal. Who are they? Here, when we talk of the people of Bengal, we are not limiting ourselves to Bengalis alone but are gladly and wholeheartedly including all those people who have made Bengal their home for generations but may not be Bengalis by the strict measure of ethnicity. So the people of Bengal, as we were saying earlier, are avowed gastronomes and have over a period, contributed to the immense culinary heritage of the region. Before you proceed any further, a cavaet. This page is meant for people with a keen interest on culinary heritage or those inclined similarly. For all others, do not blame me if you find it "ho hum".

Lets begin with the Raj Era food of Kolkata.

For the sake for clarity we take Raj Era food as that which we had till our independence from the British Raj. Some are still available in plenty.

Kolkata, or Calcutta if you will, was slowly evolved from a milieu of settlers among which are, apart from the British and native Bengali, a host of races and nationalities like the Chinese, Armenians, Bagdadee Jews, Portugese, Marwari, Sindhi, Punjabi, Gujrati, Bihari, Nepali and every Indian and neighbouring national that you could imagine. All these settlers earnestly tried to preserve / follow their cuisines although over a period of time, there came about irreversible changes due to local influence to account for palate change and ingredient availibility, economics, etc. Locally, cuisines varied from religious influences like Hindu and Muslim cuisine types and yet some entirely new cuisines were  born, married subaltern from the Anglo and Indian races who came together over time in the form of Anglo Indian Food.

Those were heady days for the well heeled and any food from the world was available. Shining restaurants in Firpo’s and Great Eastern Hotel could give a run for their money to many English and French Restaurants in the “Continent”. The newly recruited Rajahs had expensive taste and imported the very best Brandy and wine from Europe. So much so that Nobel Laureate Rabindranath had to write ” deshe onno joler holo ghor onoton…khao whiskey soda aar murgi moton” (loosely translated - since there is a paucity of food and water in the country, eat and drink your fill of lamb, chicken, whiskey and soda). Incidentally, we have been told that drinking Soda with one’s tipple was a completely Indian  custom by the Europeans as they were not sure of the quality of water to be had here.

The Bengalis  were not left behind and nurtured, evolved and refined their own cuisine. These were done to not only suit the palate but also to give a complete diet of essentials to the body as thought apt by the Kabiraji system of healthcare. The growing occidental influence can also be seen here.”Tahkur barir ranna” by Purnima Thakur (pub Ananda) can be a good insight. The menus are still available for you to try.

One of the major changes brought into the Raj Era food was by the Dutch who were masters of Milk based products. They, purportedly, introduced cottage cheese or Chhena, to our households. It may be noted that earlier, Sandesh given to Goddess Durga, used to be rough blocks of sugar lumps or mondas. Chhana based sandesh was not offered as it was “mlechha” or non hindu food. It took its own time to be an inevitable part of Pujo and proshad. In that sense Rosogolla, invented by Nabin Chandra Das (God bless him) was a very distinct Raj Era Food as are all the lovely Sondesh that you have at Nakur or Bhim Ch Nag or any of the great inventors of Channa based desserts that have made us proud (and egged our Diabetes). These are Raj Era food that are still available.

Then there are those Raj  Era food that are fighting a brave battle over pizzas and pastas. Two names that come to mind are 1) Breast cutlet and 2) Kabiraji Cutlet apart from the regular Fowl Cutlet ( Raj era name was Fowl and not chicken!) and Moton (mutton) Cutlet. A favourite of the Bengali Babu during adda, as a fuel after office or as a romantic add on behind closed curtains in Sanguvalleys of Kolkata for amorous souls. Breast Cutlet should not inspire in you either any erotic or horrible visage. It is just a case of phonetical morphing by the Bengali Ear and tongue. Just as the British tongue was loathe to say “Thakur” and could only manage Tagore, we on our part said “Breast” instead o “Braised” cutlet. To save it self from  the ignominy of crust ensconced deep  frying the braised cut of mutton renamed itself a Breast Cutlet for bangalies. Similarly, Kabiraji Cutlet is certainly not what the usual brhami shaag entrenched vegetarian Kabiraj Moshai would prescribe. The cutlet came with a covering of Egg batter and that Coverage cutlet became Kabiraji Cutlet. Raj Era food that are still available.

We invented other sweet desserts to honor our rulers. A sweet in honour of Lady Canning became Ledikeni.Raj Era food that is still available.

When, during the Raj Era, the great, versatile and colourful Nawab of Lucknow ; Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled in Calcutta, he brought in a lot more than dance, theatre and clothes. He brought in great food and the Calcutta food scene was never the same again. The famous Calcutta biryani started taking shape along with a lot of other food that are cooked on slow flame and have copious ingredients that give nirvana to the tongue and nightmare to the arteries.Raj Era Mughlai food that are still available.

The Chinese brought their own cuisine. The morning food bazaar in Italian Eduardo Tiretta ‘s erstwhile domain near Podder Court still bears testimony to that although the Cantonese eatery Nanking has closed decades ago. The Hakka community came , excelled in leather trade and also gave us the famous Chinese food which has seen many evolutions.

The Jewish bakery of Nahoums is still around with a lot of Raj Era relics, in New Market.

Flury’s is surely not its old Raj Era avatar but still gives some sudden glimpses of the Era through the patisserie products. Some people still  like the rum balls. The Continental food at Mocambos partially feels like a Raj Era left over, unlike much continental food you would find in Europe, I am told. Some swear by it and some at it. Raj Era food that are still available.

The indigenous sherbets at Paradise (near College Street) are definite Raj Era drinks and a lot of people still come down for the Dab Sharbat and Cocoa Malai. The North Kolkata telebhaja evoloved during this time and young Bile (Vivekananda later) used to have a few. You can have it even now.

The Anglo Indian community invented many a tasty dish ranging from the lentil based Mulligatwaney Soup, kedgeree to the Dak Bungalow Mutton Curry (which the rest house chowkidars excelled in). Raj Era food that are still available.

The above content is not complete and only a glimpse of the Raj Era food scenario that can still be had today. Many a point must have been missed by us and we would love to hear from you in case you can add value to this. Some points may be debatable as with every occurrence without an exhaustive documented past.

 

The Food Tour option 1- Street Food with the masses.

Every day, the office district has hundreds of thousands come into the city from the suburbs. These people have had an early start to travel long distances and reach thier workplaces. Their loved ones at home do not usually get time to prepare a lunch pack for them. Also, the long commute in packed transport in hot and humid climes mean that the food would not arrive fresh. We are also bereft of the astounding Dabbawallah culture that Mumbai nurtures. So, the street food vendors fill in the gap by providing food that is wholesome, nutritious, tasty yet super affordable. If they slip in desired quality or freshness, jack up the prices or be offhandish, the food vendor would lose patrons in what is a fiercely competitive scenario. 

As you walk with us, take deep breaths to smell the myriad smells of cooked curries and spices. Jostling for space on the sidewalk stalls you will find Rice & Curry combos, Naan and Tikka Masala, Noodles and Hot Garlic Chicken, Pasta in white sauce, Thai Red Curry, Roti and Sabji, Masala Muri, Chai and Coffee, Lassi and plain yougurt, Toasts, sandwiches and masala omlettes, Bengali Deserts, South Indian Delicasies, Biryani, fresh pressed juices and what not. You could try some of the food, interact via us with the sellers and patrons and generally soak in the buzz.

This tour starts around or after 10.30 am and is of 1.5 hours duration. 

You may also want to complement this tour experience with a visit to a bazaar to understand how the trade in the raw food items take place which is a different experinece. If you do, you need to start very early in the morning. We will have breakfast with the locals. Total time if you combine both tours will be around 4 hours.

 

The Food Tour option 2- Iconic Food of Kolkata at famous eateries.

We take you to celebrated haunts, point out the famous dishes, explain the nuances of the food and most importantly savour the food. There is a pre condition - no weight watching today.

Jhalmuri, Phuchka, Kati Roll, Egg Devil, Fish Diamond Fry, Chicken Kabiraji, Breast Cutlets, Daab Sherbats, Sandesh, Rosogolla, Mishti Doi are few of the intrigue inspiring names that you will get introduced to. Since we will travel to the places which are famous,they are not huddled together and we will travel from location to location. That should give us time between two dishes too! Beware, these are places that usually cater to locals who have been haunting these places for many decades, sometimes over a century and so the decor takes a distinct back seat. Vegans, sorry we have little to offer you in this version of food tour.

This tour starts late afternoons / early evenings. 

 

The Food Tour option 3- Pubbing and Dining

A simple affair. Why you would want us to be with you in this tour, we can't fathom but so many guests insist. We explain the eatery and it's quirkiness to you, point out the popular items of the menu and explain the food when it arrives. Ease you into the eating techniques and fill you in with pertinent stories. Make you feel safe.  But, once again, you could do these easily, all by yourself! Feel free to pick our brains when you plan a tour, no obligations at all.

 

For Vegans - Bengali cuisine offers you a lot of choice. We are not about fish and curry and mishti. We have uncountable dishes that do not use milk or any other non vegeteranian ingrediants. Pumpkin Curry, Banana Flower Curry, Lentil Cake Curries, Bottle gourd leaf curry, Bottle gourd with vadi, more than 10 vatieties of daals, 10 types of Saags, etc. More than 100 dishes we could recount. They have strange name types like Ghonto, Bharta, Paturi, Dolma, Chochori, Shukto, Pora, Makha, Bhaja, Postos, Labra, Jhal, Jhol, Ambal. These are types of dishes and can be made in many combinations. We think they taste super. Unfortunately, most of these are usually not found in their truest forms in restaurants, if at all. The trick to savouring these is simple. You need to wrestle an invitation to a Bengali house and one where they have kept traditional cooking alive! Or maybe, attend a cooking workshop.

 

Cooking Workshops

All Indian cooking is NOT difficult! At least, a lot of it. 

That is the first thing we want to mention and of course, mostly we agree they are wonderful on our palates! Now, the term Indian Cooking is too generic! The food we cook and consume in India or rather the subcontinent is so diverse and different that we do not know where to start. The different daals, cooking oils, seasoning spices, etc are varied by a wide margin. Yet, together, they all constitute Indian cooking. 

For the beginner, we will still recommend that you head to your favourite restaurant for the kebab and naan unless you want to keep a tandoor oven at home or make compromises like a typical show on YouTube - " Tandoori Chicken without tandoor".

We specialise in Bengali Cuisine workshops but also do a reasonably good job of Daals, Rajmas, Palak paneers, Idlis and Tikka Masala which are from neighboring places in our country. We invite you to a Bengali Home (which also gives you a real and non touristy insight into how we live). Here the family members greet you with a cup of Darjeeling Tea or Nimbu Pani mocktail. You are introduced first hand into the spices and condiments that go into making some of the dishes that will be cooked and eaten. You see the vegetables and other raw materials, get a demonstration of the cutting / marination techiniques. Hygiene and cleanliness is paramount. Then we show you how to cook some of the food, first hand, in the kitchen. We welcome you to try your hand on the wok too. As the heady Indian spices engulf you, you grow in confidence and when you actually eat what you helped cook, you will understand that it is but a process to be followed with adequate planning, sourcing and patience, seasoned with passion and love. We will share the cooking processes of the dishes savoured, in writing, so you can show how much of a wonderchef you are when you go back home.

This workshop happens usually in the evenings (lunch workshops are possible too) and is a private workshop folllowed by a four/ five course Bengali Dinner. Join us for one.