Ahh, the Smell, Mmm, the Taste: Foods of Calcutta (Kolkata)

On a wet, lonely and hungry evening, I find nothing more fascinating than dreaming about the wonderful food of my city, Calcutta (or Kolkata). The city only always thought to be a haven for sweets is, of course a perfect destination for that, but the spices rule too, along with the city’s personal rendition of different food and cuisines. 
Take the the Chinese cuisine, for example. The biggie restaurants not withstanding, every road-side make-shift food-stalls or the small food joints are more likely to have Fried Rice with Chili Chicken/Paneer in their menus more often than the Pulao, made the Bengali style. 
It’s my personal pride that Calcutta, though is a city in Bengal, it boasts of Calcuttans rather than only Bengalis. The city’s perfect combination and mixture of people and cultures from every part of India has their profound and fortifying effects on Calcutta cuisine too. Every connoisseur of food, and Calcuttans are big on food, can get a taste of exemplary North and South Indian cuisines along with Moghlai, Tandoori, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Continental, French and the famous junk food among others.

But there are some specialities we have here, that really shouldn’t be missed if you are in Calcutta. This is a list of a few true rude food in Calcutta, not really restaurants (except one) but stuffs that are worth tasting!

Chicken Roll

This one is a regular snacking item in our city, improvised by the city itself, by Nizam’s to be specific. Nizam is a Biriyani joint (amongst several famous ones in Calcutta) in New Market where the story of Chicken Roll originates. A man returning home from office had ordered kebabs and paranthas, and asked to be served quickly as he was in a hurry. Seeing that he was late, he asked them to just roll the kebabs in the paranthas, that he would be able to munch on while traveling. Hence the advent of the famous fast food of Calcutta, the chicken roll. Nowadays you have mutton roll, egg roll (the parantha is made with egg), paneer roll, even vegetable roll amongst other improvisations.


Now you call it Panipuri or Golgappa, we will always only call it phuchka! Of course, it doesn’t differ that much from city to city or state to state. But the taste of the water in Calcutta adds an entirely different, forbidden taste to it that I am sure is unavailable in any of the other cities. The phuchkas from mainly Chetla, with its characteristic tamarind water with amazing mixture of spices that beguile your tongue and literally can blind your senses (more sour, the better!) are special. The idea of where the best phuchka in the city is found differs with the locality of the connoisseurs who go far and wide across to just judge that. Phuchka-walahs in Vivekanada Park, Ballygunge Phari, College Street, Purna Cinema, Jodhpur park etc are famous. A note to people out of India, from cleaner countries (hence, weaker immune system) are advised not to try them out. If you want a more ‘hygienic’ version (phuchkas with mineral water!) try Haldiram’s (joints across town), Junior Brothers (in Gariahat), they are good even if a subtle impersonation. And for those who abhor the water mix, you can try the drier version of phuchka crumbled with mashed potatoes (inclusive of tongue-tingling spices) that is lovingly called churmur.

Chelo Kebabs

An amazing improvisation of our pet famous restaurant Peter Cat in Park Street, it is a serve-one-only platter that is a favourite with the city-dwellers and every one of those who happen by. A platter of rice with butter, fried eggs (sunny-side up), with mutton sheekh kebabs, a skewer-long chicken rashmi kebabs (better than many other tandoors) with salads and roasted veggies, tandoori style, the traditional Chelo Kebabs is one filling dish and impossible to not enjoy! Very reasonably priced, at less than 200 INR, it is a must have. Teem it up with a prawn cocktail as an appetizer, you will be surprised how filled and satisfied you are after the meal. There are also other versions  of the chelo like mutton, for vegetarian. The sizzlers are also another speciality in here. Just go out there with a little time in hand, because any day, any time of the week, there is at least a 15 minutes waiting! Need the perfect food, Chelo Kebab will never fail you!

Breakfast at Flury’s

A tourist haunt, but a traditional favourite with fellow Kolkatans too, Flury’s pastries, breakfasts are to rave about. The decor, the ambiance along with the food with a tad elitist’s touch makes it a regular haunt with people of every age.

Chocolates at Kookie Jar

If you are a worshipper of Chocolate, you reach Heavens when you enter Kookie Jar. Besides the usual patties, shwarma wraps, freshly baked breads, and other nonta (salty) quick foods, the confectionery is a haven of home-made cookies (iced, plain and other types), home-made chocolates and pastries. If you like Lemon tart, once from Kookie Jar will never be enough. But if you love chocolate, you’ll fall in love with the variety of cakes (no just pastries, they don’t seem enough!). Truffle, Walnut, Hot Fudge, Black Forest, even the plain Chocolate cakes are not just tempting but addicting! And add to that, they have the designer cakes that are down-right sinful! The first Rawdon Street Kookie Jar by the force of sheer popularity now have joints at Alipore, City Center, South City etc. Of course, venturing into Kookie Jar might burn a hole in your pocket but that’s not just because of the prices but the aroma, and you succumbing to temptation. And every Calcuttan always swears by Kookie Jar!

Confections at Nahum’s

The famous outlet at New Market that has been there for several generations (my grandfather used to go there with his grandfather) is probably the first-of-its-kind confectionery. The simple but fascinating tastes, Nahum’s caters to the nostalgic and the old times. The old feel and immutable taste of the place makes it a favourite with the regulars that span generations. It’s not just confection, Nahum’s is actually a tradition.

The food in Calcutta, its history, its tastes and flavours are endless for the food-lover. The Calcuttan loves to eat (and  thus, loves to share too) and eat well! These were a few specials that are really popular. Be sure to try them when you land in Calcutta. For the probashi Bangali, do conjure up the sweet and beguiling tastes and smell of our delicacies ever imprinted in your memory…

In near future I hope to do another post on Bengali, really authentic Bengali food… think, kosha mangsholuchi, ilish machher-r sorshe jhaal, bhetki paturichingri machher malaikari…  And some other time, the rosogolla and the sondesh.

Hope you are as hungry as I am  after reading this… Meaning, I hope you enjoyed!! :))

About Guria

An Artist in Science: A Misfit 'cause I choose to be one. "Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform" And a Maverick, because, I'm... umm... brilliant?
This entry was posted in Calcutta and Bengali, India, Observer. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Ahh, the Smell, Mmm, the Taste: Foods of Calcutta (Kolkata)

  1. Rajlakshmi says:

    Gal you have made me so hungry now… I remember having puchka every day when I was in Kolkata… I still relish the taste… and kebabs k tou kiya kehne 😀 haiii i am missing that so much now…


  2. ahhh!!! i've always loved panipuri! 🙂 im coming to WB this oct. for an excursion and i plan to check out all the foodies in calcutta! and btw, you forgot about kolkatta's famous Rasgolas! [ i love emm!!!]


  3. Neha says:

    thank god it's dinner time for me here..such a yummazing post..you know the irony? I am allergic to mint..so I cannot have paani puri at all!! when i was a non vegetarian, i used to hog on chicken rolls and frankies at churchgate station..here, you get amazing biryani at Dehli Darbar, Lucky etc places..let me not write a post here..there are so many of my favourite places in Mumbai..


  4. Meghpeon says:

    Guria, amazing post! You made me crave for phuchka like anything..and also chello kabab.. The true Calcuttan always gets high on good food. 😀


  5. RGB says:

    My stomach is growling, and my mouth watering. I should remember to look this up if I get a chance to go to Calcutta. And Rasgullas are my favourite sweet…yum-scrum!


  6. Looks like someone's sad about missing all these yummy food 🙂 Hehe nice yummyyy post G 🙂 Now I know where to eat when I visit Calcutta next time!!


  7. Purba says:

    I love having bong food in Kol…6 Ballygunj is one of my favourites. Could never get the hang of the famed phuchkas. Too sour, too big and invariably collapses in my dona.

    The mishtees are to die for, the chop,the bhajas…..
    I'll spend the rest of the day drooling now.


  8. BK Chowla, says:

    I remember, flury's-nizams kababs and snadesh


  9. Yummmmyyyyyy……… true mouth watery post, I'm feelin hungry right now……


  10. Gyanban © says:

    nothing can beat – the taste of transfat filled, recycled oiled, burnt frying pan and probably a drop of sweat into the double egg double chicken roll – and it just melts. Kobiraji cutlet, moghlai porota are something people remember long after they are consumed.

    other notables are Lemon tea, near lake open theater.
    maharani kochuri on southern avenue.
    Aaliya Biryani.Bedwin Biryani.
    mocambo Prawn cocktail.
    Even the burrabazar lassi.

    miss Kolkata so much, if only I could get a job there – I would leave everything.! With all it s imperfections, it is the best place in the whole wide world.!


  11. The NRI says:

    When I visit India, Cal is one of my favourite places for food. Highlights of last trip were:

    Mutton Egg Roll from Badshah
    Great Paan on Park St
    Feast at Oh Calcutta
    Best Chinese food in India at Tangra
    Delicious tandoori at Punjab Club
    Best chai in India at Balwant's Dhaba

    There was also this great fruit ice cream roadside place but forgot the name.


  12. Shas says:

    I bet phuchkas tastes better in those areas. In Delhi the tamarind water is replaced with jaljeera n there is one sad looking piece of boiled potato or kabuli chana in the puri.
    Yummm….thanks for such a mouth watering post and you made me nostalgic about it.


  13. Chetan says:

    i have friends from Calcutta, who keeps talking about delicios food there..
    I am sure I 'd love it all, when I'll go there


  14. Harini says:

    My cousin bro who visits kolkata a lot raves about the food their and especially sweets. One time he did manage to get home some of them and i must tell u… they were yummy.

    Your post made me hungry :P.


  15. Dhiman says:

    Orey na… a post about chicken rolls, Phuchka, chelo kabab ….
    aar tele bhajas, fuluri, chop and yes we used call the noodles as chow mein chorchori lovingly 😛 ….
    anyway will be going to Calcutta soon so not feeling nostalgic :D….


  16. Disha says:

    in Cookie Jar world – those little sins make going to hell a joyful experience !! : )))

    Love the pastries… : ))
    check mumbai places that equally rock on my blog. http://www.disha-doshi.blogspot.com


  17. reetam says:

    i've had both golgappas and panipuris. mumbai, pune, chennai, pondicherry. nothing, nothing beats a phuchka. as you said, its the water which makes the diference. half the country has it sweet, or at best sour. nobody has it as spicy and deadly as us! all hil the phuchka!


  18. rimz says:

    its nahoum's dear.
    tk cre.
    was jsu goin thru, suddenly saw it.:)


  19. Anonymous says:

    Damn I'm starving after reading this! It should be a sin to remind deprived people (us) of these things! Rolls- i thought Bedwin (Gariahat) had quite reputation. And fabulous biriyani's by Arsalan at Park Circus. And how oh how could you leave “Ghugni” the chick pea stir fry served with cruncy onions out of this list – well come to think of it – leaving anything out would be a heinous crime – oh what for those Calcutta Jhal Muri's !


  20. NS says:

    I have been just back to Calcutta and food was the top most thing on our agenda. I did have chicken roll at Bedwin & Boudwin and it was fantastic. We missed Chelo Kebab, Flurry's and Kookie Jar because of my poor health. A reason for me to visit there next time!!


  21. Suchi says:

    Oh you had me drooling, a fellow Kolkatan, now an expat 🙂


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