I'm not joking when I say that I mainly stayed in India for the food. As much as I love the States cheesy-perfect pizza slices and mouth-watering burgers, Kolkata's food is a different league altogether. In Calcutta( which I personally like to call it), food isn't just a business or necessity-it's a warm art-form. The cooks,in the street stalls and five star hotels, twist
Chinese,Italian, Indian, Russian, Tibetan,Thai-every cuisine you can name at the top of your tongue, it's there.
Now if you were to tell me a must have item, it would be biryani. For those of you who don't know ( and I pity you if you sincerely don't), biryani is an authentic, Mulgudi dish consisting of sunflower-yellow rice, Chicken and potatoes, exclusive to Kolkata. The lentils slip into your mouth as the spices expose give your tongue a rollar-coaster the best of traditional Indian flavors. Not too spicy, not too bland, just 100% delicious. Tangri kebabs, red, tender charcoal-grilled chunks of chicken, literally melts in your mouth. Wraps, a crunchy paratha embezzled with fresh onions, chilies, chicken, egg, and cheese and/or potato if you're vegetarian, are Calcutta's pride and joy. These home-grown spices don't only treat your taste-buds to an insane delight, but tell you a story. They speak of a nation, once ruled by the oppressive British empire, allowed to finally express themselves in their food and culture, after years of struggle. Dhabas, shabby stores as ancient as my grandmother, serve these delicacies, using their secret recipe that survived the sands of time. Don't let their rickety chairs, chipped walls and tacky tableware fool you : their dishes are top-notch, sometimes even better the so called 'seven' star restaurants.
However I'm telling you to have lunch at any sordid, shady restaurant. The more people there are, the safer it is. And I think that can be applied to whenever you're trying to find a hygienic, yet delicious eatery.
But we can't forget continental, no can we? Risotto, the color of saffron, that could make even the master of self-control, lose his wits can be found in niche, trendy cafes. Flat-breads, dripping with mozzarella, are packed full of crunchy vegetables and any meat your tongue craves. Speaking of cheesy cravings, there are plenty of culinary professionals in Calcutta, that studied abroad, and used their teachings to conjure scrumptious delights. Paris pastries, creamy eclairs, drool-inducing pasta, delectable salads, lovely lasagna, fluff croissants -anything you can name at the tip of the of your tongue and they can whip it up. Their dedication and love for their craft and their Mother-country can be found in every bite.
If you're a vegetarian, then Calcutta, is paradise. Starchy dosas are crispy brown with a savory potato filling, with a steaming bowl of hearty, healthy sombar, a South Indian soup that speaks volumes about their colorful culture and assorted spices, so different compared to the North. Yet undeniably and distinctively, tastes like Indian. There's vegetarian options in every eatery, more varied than your Youtube recommendations.
Calcutta's charm also lies in its street-food. Puchka are ball-shaped, that fit into your palms, served in pale green leaf plates are tortilla chip, stuffed with smashed potato mixed with spices, coriander and chick-peas. Pav bagi is orange cumin concoction of onion, tomato, potato and spices served with a a soft, buttery roll. Street food is perfect for the bustling civilians, always on their feet, yet craving for some quality food.
It would be a sin, if I didn't mention about the Chinese food. Hundreds of Chinese families migrated to Calcutta and spread the classic recipes of their Motherland. Their mouth-watering hakka noodles, chili chicken and golden fried prawns are a beautiful result of the fusion and merging of two different culture, India and China. Their oriental flavor with an Indian twist, shows us that two countries can combine to make something worthwhile: love.
We live to eat, but I think that we've forgotten about that. But in Calcutta, a melting pot of love and culture, from around the world, I think we can remember.