By Indranil Halder
Recently, as I celebrated India’s 75 years as an independent nation with a huge crowd in Parramatta, Ram Kamal Mukerjee went on vacation to Indian city of Kolkata in the state of West Bengal from Mumbai. He enjoyed his moments with friends, gossips, street food and sweets.
Who is Ram Kamal Mukerjee?
Ram Kamal Mukherjee was born in Indian city of Kolkata and lives in Mumbai. He is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker, best selling biographer, film producer and former editor of Stardust and Mumbai Mirror. He wrote biographies of Hema Malini, Mitun Chakravorty and Sanjay Dutt. He made his debut as filmmaker with Cakewalk. Regarded as one of the best Indian short filmmaker by Times of India.
He was recently in Kolkata to annouce his magnum opus 1770, a multilingual film based on Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Bengali novel Anandamath as he enjoyed his Kolkata street food and sweets.
Kolkata Street Food and Sweets:
Ram Kamal visited Kolkata, when the city smelled of ‘Gondhoraj Lebu’(or Kaffir Lime) in ‘Ghugni’(chickpea curry), briyanis and pastry. With a touch of Gondhoraj Lebu, food tastes outstanding. The essence of Gandhoraj Lebu touches the taste buds like the primary note of a symphony that plays well with the authentic aromatic experience.
With smell of Gondhoraj Lebu in the air, Ram Kamal was in Kolkata suburb of Girish Park for Hing’er kochuri with Aloo’r tarkari ( potato curry),served with meetha and fried green chillies (on request), followed by Ganguram’s fried Shingara (Samosa is NOT Shingara) with tangy sweet chutney. And it’s one of the most popular item. Ram Kamal was surprised to learn that they still use desi ghee to fry the triangles! The Shingara taste better with chai especially ‘Ada Chai’ or Ginger Tea(adarkwali chai). Ginger tea is made twice a day, early morning for breakfast and for evening snacks. Ram Kamal was there at the right time to enjoy garam or warm Shingara with Ada Chai.
The following day, he made his way to Victoria Memorial near Maidan ( Central Park of Kolkata). For Ram Kamal, the hawkers at Victoria Memorial main gate makes the world’s best ‘Aloo Kabli’. It is basically a chat spicy as hell with anything and everything and includes potatoes that can make your mouth go watery! Standing next to the hawker, he politely mentioned, ‘Dada, ektu beshi jhal deben. (Dada, please make it a bit spicy!)
Next stop, Ghugni (chickpea in thick gravy)at Amherst Street in North Kolkata. The Ghugni probably gets the best texture, compared to other parts of Kolkata city. Adding Allo Tikki is optional. The Kabuli chana or chickpea is cooked in a way that gives Ram Kamal, the heavenly “sukh” or delight, he deserves. Of course one can customise it as per individual taste buds, but unless one has it with green chillies and extra imli paani, one is surely missing out on life!
Being in Kolkata, trying out the varieties of street food is a must. Millions love them across the globe. In 2021 MasterChef Australia, I remember Indian origin chef Depinder Chhibber who loved street food, cooked Kolkata kathi roll with inspiration from West Bengal. Just like Kolkata kathi roll, one cannot miss CHITTO BABUR DOKAN in 3, James Hickey Sarani (Dacres Lane), Kolkata for Chicken Stew. Ram Kamal says, “If you want to take home sole authentic local cuisine from Kolkata (inspired from the British Empire Cuisine), you cannot skip this eatery. Chicken Stew with crunchy milk bread can crack you up! The “moochmooche” or crunchy fries, with aptly coated golden brown bread crumbs served with soggy cucumber-onion salad dipped in Bengal mustard sauce will drives me crazy. Not fancy but perfect for foodie’s paradise.”
Yes!!! Don’t even try to argue with Ram Kamal on this one! Like million others, Kolkata Briyani is the best for him in this universe. And yes, its “always” Mutton. Not Chicken, Egg, Fish or Paneer!
Ram Kamal went to famous Dada Boudi Restaurant, Barrakpore. There was an hour long wait. He didn’t mind. He was blown away with flavourful rice and the mutton that melted before one could pronounce M! He even refused to miss on the local pronunciation of the word ‘restaurant’. The spelling of Restaurant should be Res-tu-rent as pronounced by Bongs or Bengalis. And he loves to hear the Bongs said it again and again.
Visiting Kolkata was incomplete without meeting his friends, Facebook followers and creative team members for ‘adda’(gossip session). So he spiced his Kolkata trip further with creative adda with his Cakewalk co-director Abhra Chakraborty, talented Priyanka Poddaar and actor JD Jeet at L’instant Café over some Kashmiri Kahwa and grilled chicken sandwich with sunny side up wrap topping. From cafe adda to evening adda. Ram Kamal caught up with local model Mohammed Iqbal, Amrit Halder, Sumana Kanjilal and fitness model Sounak Das amongst many.
For Ram Kamal, Kolkata trip was about trying Bengali sweets. His favourite was Natun Gurer Kolshi Pastry (with egg). It was not only unique, that gave an overall aroma of freshly baked pastry as base, with Nolen Gur being the primary ingredient. Followed by Patishapta (Bengali crepe roll), similar to pan cake batter rolled like a dosa. Stuffed with khoya kheer, dry fruits and jaggery. Ideally served with nolen gur dip. To top it all. Nolenguruer Icecream from Pabrai’s Fresh & Naturelle Ice Cream, Park Street, Kolkata can take anyone to heaven and back! Every bite consisted of crushed sandesh and super aromatic nolen gur or jaggery.
Blissful. Soulful. Sinful.
Yes, Bengali sweets are beyond “Roshugulla” and “OMG Shondesh”! In Kolkata sweet shops, Ram Kamal like millions of visitors was like a kid in a candy store. And as he, prepare for his flight back to Mumbai, he packed a bag full of gossip, memories of Kolkata street food and some delicious Natun Gurer Kolshi Pastry!
He is ready for his next film 1770.