Friday, September 19, 2008


If music be the food of love, eat on ...

Day 3
An evening of Appams & Ishtew at Abeer & Anna's

Appams by Anna. The music of fresh batter sizzling on a hot pan

Anna's Appams hot off the griddle. Whisper-soft riceflour pancakes,
slightly lacy around the edges. I followed them right from the kitchen
to the dining table.

With Appams on the plate, can Mutton Ishtew be far behind :
white mutton stew cooked in coconut milk and flavoured
( I think) with cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, peppercorn and cinnamon

And then just to take things to another level, the unique Pineapple curry.
Chunks of sweet pineapple in a sweet n sour coconut-based gravy.
Anna's mom's secret Malayalam recipe. All I can say is that it combined
the flavours and spices of South India, East India and
South-east Asia in one delightful concoction.

Day 2
Concert Tribute to Ustad Karamatullah Khan, the late
tabla maestro - the 32nd generation of an unbroken
lineage of the Farakkabad gharana, dating back to 1132.

Ustad Sultan Khan on Sarangi, Ustad Sabir Khan on Tabla
and Taufiq Qureshi on percussions.
Delightful jugalbandis and some enthusiastic sparring.
Classic ragas and Rajasthani folk songs.
Constantly, playfully blurring the boundaries of
classical and folk, traditional and fusion.

Day 1
Oh Calcutta ! restaurant, Forum, Elgin Road, Kolkata

Mary Memsahib-er fish finger: small, thin, crunchy cylinders of
fried breaded fish named after the ubiquitous "Madam Mary - ",
a nice tribute to the rich Anglo-Indian contribution to Calcutta
cuisine and Calcutta life. The strumming of guitars in the
back-lanes of Rippon Street, rum-soaked cakes at Christmas ...

Pic courtesy
Golbarir Kasha Mangsho:
A cover version of the rich, dark-as-sin,
dry mutton curry from Golbari in Shyambazar, North Calcutta.
Looks lethal. Tastes amazing. The stuff of legend.

Kumro pata-e aam aachar ilish: Boneless hilsa pieces marinated
in mango pickle and green chillies, wrapped in pumpkin leaves and
steamed to perfection. Innovative take on the Hilsa,
but rooted in Bengali cooking tradition. Sweet and tangy.

Daab Chingri: Prawns cooked with mustard, turmeric and green chillies,
steamed inside a green coconut , and served in the coconut shell.
Creamy and delicate. Even better while listening to Rabindrasangeet.

Day 6
Hilsa dinner at Mamu and Mamiya's

A 2 kg riverwater hilsa bought from the finest purveyor in Lansdowne Market. Unbelievably tasty, the flesh soft and sweet and pinkish white. Gives the Toro ( fatty tuna belly) a run for its money in my book.

Doi Ilish: The Hilsa being cooked in Mamiya's kitchen.
Mustard paste, yoghurt and green chillies. The holy trinity behind every great Hilsa curry.

Ilish Mach bhaja: Hilsa fried in mustard oil.
Crispy, slightly charred skin, sweet and firm flesh.
With fried, slightly salty roe that manages to be creamy
and firm at the same time. And that little yellow oil on
the plate - mixture of the natural oils of the fish and
the pungent mustard oil - to be scooped up with some
plain steamed rice. Enough to send any Bengali to the moon.

Finally the moment, a precious moment that comes
rarely to us non-resident Bengalis.
I broke off a bit of the fish, dipped it in the curry and
took a small bite. My eyes closed automatically, all my
senses started singing , and my soul leaped in joy.
The sweet fish, the velvety sauce, the kick of the
green chillies and mustard paste, softly tempered
by the yoghurt. It was pure. It was emotional. It was magnificent.

Day 4

Man of the Heart
A multi-media solo performance on the life and times of Lalon Phokir,
the 19th century Sufi mystic bard. Enacted through solo acting and
reading, video projections, live and recorded audio and minimalist props.
A stunning world-class performance for only forty rupees. Only in Calcutta.

Day 7
Mutton Biryani from Arsalan

Pic courtesy
Which is the best mutton biryani in Calcutta ?
Over the last two decades I have always vouched for Shiraz,
in Mullickbazar, Park Circus. This time I had to do a serious
rethink after tasting the biryani from Arsalan
( Park Circus 7 point crossing) .
Fragrant ( I can still smell it sitting thousands of miles away
in Hong Kong), every grain of rice flavourful, almost juicy,
a melt-in-the-mouth piece of mutton, a gigantic chunk of potato,
not overtly greasy ... what more can you ask for

Day 8
Sweet Finale

Mango Chomchom, Mango sandesh, Mango doi and Cappuccino sandesh from Balaram's.
La Dolce Vita, the mishti Bengali way. Till next time, Kolkata.