With a medley of spices, seasonal produce, milk-based desserts, and stories interwoven with each recipe, dining in West Bengalʼs capital will undoubtedly have you saying ʻabar khaboʼ or ʻI want more!ʼ
By RIYANKA ROY
From the Chinese to the Portuguese, a host of communities have woven their culinary tales into Kolkata’s vibrantly delicious gourmet tapestry. With a wealth of delicacies waiting to tickle your palate, it’s no wonder this bustling metropolis has been termed ʻThe City of Joy’. After all, one can find pure happiness in a mouth-watering meal bursting with flavours! Read on to know how you can partake of this lip-smacking heritage in one of India’s most culturally rich cities.
While it might look similar to Mumbai’s pani puri and Delhi’s gol gappa, Kolkata’s phuchka has its own unique qualities! Larger than its peers, it cradles a blend of spices, chillies, black chickpeas, and mashed potatoes. But the true magic unfolds in the tamarind water—a concoction infused with dry-roasted spices, fresh coriander leaves, and a hint of the aromatic gondhoraj lemon. Served in bowls made of Sal leaves, phuchka isn’t just a street-side snack, it’s an emotion that tugs at the heartstrings of every Bengali.
Try it at: Rajendra Phuchka Stall outside Dakshinapan.
From shukto (milk-based vegetable curry) and bhetki paturi (local fish wrapped in banana leaves) to mishti pulau (sweetened rice), daab chingri (prawns cooked with tender coconut), and kosha mangsho (mutton curry), this spread only gets better with each dish. On the sweet front, there’s roshogolla (sweetened cottage cheese dumplings), followed by mishti doi—yoghurt kissed with jaggery or caramelised sugar, for the most luscious and velvety climax to this grand meal.
Try it at: 6 Ballygunge Place, which serves an authentic Bengali thali.
This crumb-fried cutlet traces its origins back to the Portuguese dish ‘Peixe Frito de Escabeche.’ But in British-ruled Bengal, the kobiraji took on a different form—an egg was beaten and draped over it to create a lacy web of crunch. The term kobiraji is a local twist on the word ‘coverage’, encapsulating the essence of the dish: a crispy, golden cover enfolding a juicy, meaty core. Best eaten with kashundi (mustard relish) and slices of onion.
Try it at: Mitra Cafe at 47, Jatindra Mohan Avenue, Shovabajar.
Kung Pao Shrimp
Over two centuries have passed since Tong Ah Chew, India’s pioneering Chinese immigrant, roamed the vibrant streets of (then) Calcutta. The impact of that pivotal moment in history still reverberates through the city’s culinary landscape—notably, in India’s sole Chinatown, Tangra, which thrives in the heart of Kolkata. Although hakka chow mein and chilli chicken are the best-selling dishes, Kung Pao shrimp holds a special place in the hearts of the local populace that loves seafood. This dish is a symphony of flavours, where succulent, tender shrimps take centre stage, complemented by the satisfying crunch of peanuts and the fiery kick of Sichuan peppercorns and dried red chilies. Redolent goodness!
Try it at: Kim Li Restaurant, Big Boss, and Golden Joy—all three tucked in Tangra.
No Bengali meal is truly complete without mishti (something sweet). Now, imagine a dessert comprising a luscious malai (thick cream) coating filled with a blend of chhena (cottage cheese), kheer (caramelised, thickened milk), and nuts. Nothing short of a dream, isn’t it? The malai roll has a storied history spanning centuries, adapting and evolving with the passage of time. The rendition you will savour today is delicately sweet, making it a treat that you can easily gulp down in one deliciously decadent bite!
Try it at: Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy at Ramdulal Sarkar Street.
Koraishuti’r Kochuri & Aloo’r Dum
As winter descends upon Kolkata, the city awakens to a bounty of seasonal vegetables, with peas reigning supreme. Among the myriad culinary delights in the Bengali repertoire, koraishuti’r kochuri—a deep-fried flatbread generously stuffed with a spicy green pea filling —takes the crown. While this delicacy can be relished year-round using frozen peas, the true celestial experience unfolds when prepared with fresh, plump peas. And when eaten with aloo’r dum (a spicy potato curry), it transforms into a classic, indulgent combination that’s simply irresistible and warrants second helpings.
Try it at: Tasty Corner in Ekdalia makes what some consider the best koraishuti’r kochuri in all of Kolkata.
A drink that will not just quench your thirst but absolutely satiate your soul, daab shorbot (tender coconut juice) was created, and its recipe penned down, by the ‘Father of Indian Chemistry’, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, back in 1916. It’s a refreshing beverage made from the clear water of young coconuts, the tender and sweet pulp nestled within the fruit, and a closely guarded secret essence used by Paramount, the century-old juice centre in central Kolkata. Remarkably, the recipe has remained unchanged since its inception!
Try it at: Paramount Sherbats & Syrups, College Street.