As part of the Durga Puja celebrations in the city, Joyadrita, who specialises in Bengali cuisine has collaborated with Novotel Chennai for a food festival called An Evening in Kolkata. The home chef has curated a diverse selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian street food, appetisers, main courses and desserts.
“One of the specialties of Bengali cuisine is the influence of both East and West Bengal food. East Bengal cuisine is generally spicy, whereas dishes from West Bengal have a lot of jaggery and sugar in them. But we make sure that sweet and spicy flavours are perfectly blended in our food. The exquisite identity of Bengali food is gained from adding panch phoron (meaning five spices). It is a spice blend commonly used in Eastern India and Bangladesh and consists of cumin, brown mustard, fenugreek, nigella and fennel. Panch phoron is generally used to temper/season the food,” says Joyadrita.
The home chef informs us that Durga Puja celebrations are incomplete without a vast spread of authentic Bengali dishes. “Unlike other cultures, we prepare non-vegetarian dishes during the festival. Apart from the bhog platter comprising of khichuri, bhaja, chutney and payesh or rice kheer, I have curated Kolkata street food specials and biryanis. Our Durga Puja is incomplete without biryanis — the dinner buffet will have different types of biryanis each day. Potato is an indispensable ingredient in any Kolkata biryani — potatoes give a nice texture and flavour to the dish. The street food specials include phuchka, jhalmuri, papdi chat and kathi rolls. A few signature dishes from Bengal that would be served at the festival include mangsher chop (mutton croquettes), kumro phuler bora (pumpkin flower fritters), bhaja moong dal shobji diye (moong dal with seasonal vegetables), prawn fritters, Kolkata chicken cutlets, dhone patar bora and more.”
Joyadrita, who was working as a communication skills trainer, serves Bengali food through her home venture Food of Joy - Flavours of Bengal. “On Ashtami, also known as Durgashtami, that is celebrated on October 13, we prepare a bhog platter beside the regular menu. Devotees of Goddess Durga worship her and observe a day-long fast and they break the fast with bhog. Another specialty of Bengali cuisine is that we don’t add garlic or onion in any of the vegetarian dishes,” she shares.
The food festival is open for dinner until October 16 and for a special Sunday brunch on October 17 at Food Exchange, Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road.