Kolkata’s biggest and most exciting carnival, Durga Puja, is all about the food we eat. Unlike other parts of India, where communities practice a vegetarian diet, we, Bengalis, devour non-vegetarian delicacies. Kosha mangsho, chicken biryani, maacher jhol and daab chingri are our favourites.
Apart main course, we invest a lot of time on the street snacking. It would be safe to say that food plays a vital role in our Durga Puja festivities.
Since our staples remain unchanged, we head out to our favourite corners (most of them feed on nostalgia than our appetite!) for meals and bites. Rolls stuffed with chunky chicken or mutton, or spicy omelette, wrapped in flaky paranthas and saucy noodles being tossed on oily pans are a common sight on the streets during the festival. Egg rolls from GD Block in Salt Lake are widely loved. Some in Bhawanipur have potato stuffing, which is somewhat bizarre. I suppose there is an audience for those rolls too.
Also Read: Five must-dos during Durga Puja in Kolkata
We munch on endless puchkas. Puchkawalas from their famed hotspots like Vardaan Market on Camac Street relocate to the closest pandals for easy accessibility and increased business.
Of course there is the deep-fried chop, which can be compared to cutlets or croquettes. These Kolkata-styled bread-crumbed bites are generously filled with potato, accompanied by banana flowers, vegetables (beetroot, carrots), minced mutton or diced fish. Irrespective of time in the day, a chop served with kasundi (mustard) is always well-complemented with chai.
Saptami and Navami nights are especially focussed on dining in. We gather our family and friends and head out to restaurants which prepare the best of Bengali culinary delights. The kitchen at home remains closed for most parts during Durga Puja.
On JW Marriott Kolkata’s second Durga Puja in the city, they plan on having an extensive choice of Bengali buffet at their all-day dining, JW Kitchen. While lunch and dinner buffets (₹1525 and ₹1695 respectively, per person plus taxes) include an interesting mix of dishes—aam kasundi paneer, posto murgi and hilsa biryani, the midnight buffet (₹1270 per person plus taxes)—with bhaja moong dal, mochar ghonto and shorshe maach—will be particularly laid out for late night pandal-hoppers.
Sonar Tori is popular among many locals for its flavoursome and traditional Bengali food. This festival they do nothing exceptional but invite their guests to feast in on unlimited vegetarian or non-vegetarian thalis, only for ₹1049 and ₹1249 respectively. The vegetarian spread includes shorshe chana tikki, bhuttar ghugni, posto dharosh bhaja, thakurbarir kofta, kaju kismis pulao and more. On the other hand, the non-vegetarian spread has unique dishes like murgir dimer devil and pomfret shorshe, amongst others. Both thalis conclude with typical Bengali sweets like mihidana, komala bhog and payesh.
The Westin Kolkata’s all-day dining, Seasonal Tastes, will usher in its first Durga Puja with a grand Pujor Mahabhoj. The buffet includes Kolkata’s favourites with diverse fish preparations like macher paturi, shorshe maach made by fish varieties like chittol, bagda and golda chingri. The highlight of this Mahabhoj has to be the desserts where unique names like chhena jalebi, pantua and sitabhog feature.
Since I want a mix of Kolkata’s street food and homemade comfort, I will head to Monkey Bar to try their festival special, Next Stop Kolkata. They have created a rather unique menu which has been sourced authentically from Kolkata’s iconic lanes. These include Chitpur Road’s chicken rezala, Girish Park’s shoitan deem, Esplanade’s mouth-watering Mughlai porota (also a favourite), the famous prawn dumplings from Tiretti Bazaar and Vivekanand Park’s ghugni.
Four days of this annual food fiesta in Kolkata seems too less for anyone to gobble up all these comestible memories.