Bengali by nature
Last Byte/Ravi V.Chhabra
The Paatra restaurant (known for the recurring Indian regional food festivals) at Jaypee Vasant Continental Hotel, New Delhi, this time round had a brush with Bengal's specialty cuisine, keeping in sync with the onset of pre-Durga Puja festivities.
The decor, infused with hues of red and white represented the much-loved colours by the people of Bengal. The cuisine, straight from the kitchen of one of Kolkatta's better-known restaurants at Chowringhee brings an assortment of traditional Bengali vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, coolers and sweetmeats.
The recipes done by Chef Pallavi Thakur Bose of Chowringhee were a sure winner for their subtle flavours. Aam Pora'r Sorbet (raw mango chiller) in the beverage category and starters like Mocha'r Chop (minced banana flower cutlets) for the vegetarian and Chingri'r (prawn) cutlet served with mustard sauce were crisp and had perfect filling. The main course took off with a huge slab of Smoked Hilsa followed by steamed rice and Dal. Though the fishes airlifted from the East coast lacked in freshness and had lost some of its flavour - for obvious reason.
"Cuisines from across India have been promoted on several occasions, but Bengali cuisine never got a fair chance to reach a larger section. Mindful of this, we came up with the concept of celebrating Raj Bhog just before the commencement of Durga Puja," said Master Chef, Ashish Joshi who has assisted Pallavi's team from Kolkata in blending the authentic fare.
For restaurateur Pallavi Thakur Bose, Bengali cuisine is as rich as the culture of the state. "It is one of the most evolved yet subtle cuisines across the continent. It is one of the only styles of cooking that incorporates varied flavours - sweet, sour, chilli... every flavour can be discovered in a single dish. Ranging from seafood, fresh water fish to lamb and the humble pumpkin, Bengali recipes can do wonder with just about anything edible. The concept of Paanchforon, the kalonji and not to miss out on mustard - every ingredient has ayurvedic importance to it. Both health and taste are balanced just perfectly in a Bengali kitchen," she said.
While some other dishes being the highlight of our dining experience and served in a perfect manner included, Chingri'r Malay Curry, Maach'er KaaliaRohu -- a fish curry from the kitchen of famous artist Jamini Roy to Kobiraaji Cutlet, mutton cutlets from the streets of Old Calcutta to Ghonto and Aloo posto for vegetarians.
The most savoury of all was the Iilish Maache'r Paturi (Hilsa coated with mustard, baked with plantain leaves), it is a recipe from the old culinary schools of Bengal. Sorshe Maach (Rohu fish in fiery mustard sauce) with steamed rice was satisfactory, but could have been done with some flavour.
The fish preparations followed by Dhania Meat cooked in coriander-flavoured curry was tender and flawless. No doubt that Delhi is low on experimenting with traditional regional foods of India and an exposure like this should bring about an insight of sorts. Neither is the Capital a bastion for fish-eaters, who would rather go for the northern version of fish tikka masaala or Amritsari fish fry.
The meal concluded with toothsome Mishti Doi (sweetened curd) and Rosogolla garnished with flakes of Pista for dessert. Indeed, a sweet finale to a bellyful experience of one of the lesser-known regions of India “in terms of its myriad food offerings. Acquired taste-buds? Perhaps!