The cultural capital of India, Kolkata boasts of super-delicious and diverse street cuisine — from phuchkas to jhaal muri and sweets galore from ras gulla to misti doi. Bringing some of these delicacies from the famous Russel Street of Kolkata is chef Vikram Ganpule, who has curated an exclusive festival at Spice Haat, Hyatt Regency.
The first thing that caught our eye at the festival was a live cart that had chefs skillfully preparing roadside favourites like jhaal muri (spiced puffed rice) and phuchka. For the uninitiated, it’s virtually impossible to miss a vendor selling phuchka in Kolkata. As we popped a phuchka into our mouth, the lip-smacking Bengali version of the ubiquitous paani puri , the tamarind water gushed out with a burst of tanginess and then we took a bite of the spicy mashed potatoes that are stuffed into the phuchkas . It was a melange of flavours that made us squirm with joy. We washed down this medley of flavours with a refreshing glass of aam pora shorbot (a version of aam panna from north) that’s made from clay oven-roasted raw mango. The smokey flavour of raw mango was absolutely divine and made us ask for more.
We hit the main course with a generous serving of rajnandini pulao that is prepared with dry fruits and mixed vegetables. It has a distinct yet not overpowering sweet taste and can be eaten on its own without any curry. The bhaja moong dal with its nutty aroma and very subtle flavour went well with the pulao. We also tried the laal saag (red amaranth leaves) cooked with onion, garlic and tempered with cumin seeds and whole red chilli. Red amaranth leaves are consumed in winters and the simplicity of the dish was its USP. With its delightful colour (it is actually red), garlic flavour and the pungent mustard oil just add an interesting dimension to the earthiness of the saag. We devoured it.
From the non-vegetarian section, we enjoyed the golda chingri cooked to perfection in fresh coconut milk-based gravy. It was mild, slightly sweet and rich in flavours. We also tried the kosha mangsho, a mutton dish that is traditionally prepared as part of the celebration of kali puja . The velvety curry with juicy pieces of mutton that had the moisture intact and cooked in hot spices, was rich in taste. We finished the main course with a helping of nawab barir murgh biryani . This Kolkata style chicken biryani was distinct in flavour from any other biry ani that you have had and stands out for the use of potato in biryani. The mildly spiced biryani was absolute delight and light on stomach as compared to any other version of the dish we have tried.
It was the dessert section that bore testimony to the authenticity of the festival. We started with a heavenly scoop of misti doi and the rest as they say is history. Set to artistic perfection in clay cups, the slightly sweet, slightly sour yogurt tickles your taste buds. We were also treated to the delicious and rich pan tua , that is a Bengali variant of the gulab jamun. No Bengali meal is complete without the rasgulla. The melt-in-the mouth sponge balls soaked in mild cardamom flavoured syrup made us forget the world. The festival is on till March 5 for lunch and dinner.
Treats from Russel Street festival, Spice Haat, Hyatt Regency, Teynampet
Must try: Kosha mangsho, golda chingri, laal saag and misti doi
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