February 2008

On the fourth floor of The Forum shopping mall…


…is Oh Calcutta!, a restaurant I dined at on three occasions.  It’s a high-end joint, with a comfortable atmosphere and great service.  They play hideous muzak from hell, but the food more than makes up for it.  I thought it was one of the best places I got to try on my trip.

These little morsels were outstanding, I thought:



Steamed in banana leaves, the first is a delicate fish forcemeat and the second a sweet mouthful of onions and fresh chhena, a sort of moist paneer.  This begs for comparison with amuses-bouche and would be both familiar and prized in an American restaurant.  Everyone (all Americans) at the table relished these.

They were preceded by:


Some puffed, mildly spiced lotus seeds.  The rest of the table liked these more than I did (a lot), somehow they always taste a little old to me.  The cocktail was terrific.  It’s green roasted mango pulp with vodka and a sulfurous pinch of black salt, just delicious.

This is sort of a silly picture to include, but why not?  A condiment convention that seemed unique to Kolkata, the chilli on a toothpick:


I suffered from bravado one evening with these at the Taj Bengal and had to order through a waterfall of tears.

Here’s a plate of Oh Calcutta!’s terrific white luchis, a cousin to the more familiar puri:


While I was in Kolkata, OC! was promoting a chilli festival.  Here are a few dishes from that menu:


On the plate, a silky bit of chicken, some pulao, a dish of squash and poppy seeds and kosha mangsho, a relatively dry-cooked dish of mutton.  I enjoyed the kosha mangsho here so much I ordered it again, on a second visit.

An order of sauteed chhena with green chillis, a simple dish of balanced, nuanced flavors:


I loved it.

On my second visit, I started with a small plate of spicy chicken:


I gobbled up almost this entire plate of freshwater crab:


Then I ordered this fish jhol, a thinnish curry.


I was stuffed, but I ate on.  Here it is on the plate:


For dessert, a malpua, flecked with a bit of fennel seed. 


And a couple dishes from my last visit…Oh Calcutta’s lovely mochar chop (banana flower fritter.)  The filling was delicately spiced with a kind of garam masala, I think.


And this is their lovely prawn cutlet, finished in a lacy egg batter:


When will I get to eat here again?  Soon, I hope.


Gautam was often making great suggestions of neat stuff for me to buy, taste and play around with.  Here’s some more odds and ends I found, most of it with his guidance.

In Bangalore, I posted a snapshot of the sour-salty-sweet-hot treats called churan.  On the left is another, looks like a bottle of pills but they’re actually snacks.  This was tamarind flavor, available even in farflung Portland.  Also, lemon drops.  I wonder what the fore-runners of these treats might have been, if any…


And this is a variety of parsley unique to the area, called Kolkata Parsley I believe. 


I couldn’t resist these plump stuffed-chili pickles. 


I got this snack mix, a chivda, at a namkeen shop, cool place offering all sort of fried treats. 


I bought these flowers from a produce stall not knowing what they were.  Gautam eventually translated for me:  white egret flowers.  We fried them up into light pakoras, just a touch bitter.   You just have to remove the stamens first.


I bought these, too, not knowing what they were:


A friend of Sam’s eventually told us:  kokum.  This fruit is pretty common down South of Mumbai, used for its sourness to compliment fish.  I followed Sam’s friend’s simple recipe: peel and use the outer layer only, pop mustard seeds in oil, toss in some jaggery, melt, then lightly simmer the peels.  Made a very tasty chutney:


Eaten with Bengali-style mashed potatoes, this was hybrid Thanksgiving food! 

Jefferson took this photo of banana stems at Jagu Babu bazaar.  I guess I’m including it just because it’s a great photo.


Here’s a local lime, the gandharaj, fragrant as Thai limes, not very juicy.  I loved these.  I squeezed their juice on all sorts of food a Bengali probably wouldn’t:


I went to Koley market in front of the busy Sealdah train station to buy fish.  I bought a bag of mourala, like whitebait:


Fried ’em up crisp:


At New Market I bought some mutton patties and a warm loaf of plain cake.


Insided the puff pastry turnovers was simple, delicious minced mutton.  The plain cake came from a famous shop, Nahoum’s.

In the middle of town is a great sweet shop, Bhim Nag.  Next door, I bought these cauliflower-stuffed samosas.  I can’t help but wonder if these snacks didn’t know better days. 


Another fruit I’d never eaten previously, the sada jamun.  Mildly sweet, somewhat plain.


And lastly, a couple kachoris, stuffed savory pastry snacks: