Tag Archives: CALCUTTA

Bengali New Year at La Porte Des Indes

My mother is a Michelin-star chef; in my head. All these years, she made me and my father, food that was quintessentially Bengali and that tasted just as good, for years together. My friends from school and uni, colleagues, girlfriends, cousins, wider family have sworn by her kitchen. About 90% Bengalis would want to copy that first statement of mine and paste it up as their ode to their mum’s cooking. Now you’d know that it would be difficult to please a Bengali with Bengali food.

The Bengali New Year Menu at La Porte Des Indes was a short, one-week affair with head chef Vishal Rane preparing a set Bengali meal, on till 18 April. While the old ad-agency visualizer in me felt that the Bengali menu (with a typo) looked like a cyclo-styled insert in a newspaper, I told myself to wait for the food. And it did not disappoint me.

L to R: Fish Fry, Prawn Croquet, Brinjal Fry and Banana Flower Croquet.
L to R: Fish Fry, Prawn Croquet, Brinjal Fry and Banana Flower Croquet.

The story begins with a plate of mixed fritters, something any Bong would consume even on a weak stomach! I tucked into the fish fry Calcutta style; said a warm hello to the Chingri Chop or prawn croquet; paid my respect to the fried egg-plant or Begun Bhaja and was civil to the Mochar Chop (banana flower croquet). Also on the table was a chicken stir fry with green chillies that I found to be an illegal immigrant on the table.

The main course appeared on the table in a jiffy. And then it was a concert on the plate! Flowery basmati rice with a hint of clarified butter (Ghee Bhaat) and Bengali gram dal with coconut (Chholar Dal) were definitely the couple of the evening. The lentil was cooked to perfection, with the right amount of sweetness and coconut slivers added to the taste. Certainly took me back to the streets of Bagbazar where my cousins and I would gobble down many a ‘kachauri’ or deep-fried fluffed Indian flatbread with ‘chholar dal’. The other memorable dishes were the home-style ‘Aloo Kopi’r Dalna’ and the rich ‘Kosha Mangsho’ or Indian mutton curry with velvety thick gravy. There was a chicken variety of the same for those that are not fond of mutton or lamb. They went best with the fluffy as Snowbell ‘Luchi’ or refined flour deep-fried flatbread. I shameless asked for 2 ‘Luchis’ more as I usually do at home. The other Bengali favourite was the ‘Chingri Machcher Malai Curry’ or prawns prepared in a coconut curry. I found the curry to be a tad high on salt that did not balance out the dish.

While we gave the main course some time to settle down a bit, I managed to catch up with the chef who was posted in Kolkata for a brief bit. He elaborated on plans of doing an exhaustive Bengali menu for this year’s Durga Puja. Now that said, most would be putting down La Porte Des Indes as the ‘must-visit’ during pujas.

Dessert plate: Rabri, Kheer Chamcham and Rossogolla
Dessert plate: Rabri, Kheer Chamcham and Rossogolla

Dessert consisted of rabri, kheer chamcham and rasogolla. It would be a travesty to translate and foster a sense of taste through words; so I shall let it be. It would have been worthwhile, however, to have tasted the menu or wait for the next Bong outing this year around October.

3 Likes:

  • The Calcutta style fish fry!
  • The Chholar Dal – hits the sweet spot
  • The Kheer Chamcham – makes you want to ask for more.

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LA PORTE DES INDES DUBAI LOCATION:
The Address Dubai Mall
GPS Location: 25.199777,55.27732
T:+971 4 438 8610
E: contactus@laportedesindes.ae

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Ode to the Humble Kathi Roll

Most South Asians, especially from the sub-continent, will know the pleasure of sinking their teeth into a hot and juicy ‘kathi’ roll! It is a unique preparation that is something in the middle of a starter and main course. And while on the subject, this needs to stated that the best ‘kathi’ rolls are the ones that are made by the street-side vendors.

Let me into the simplicity of this humble ‘kathi’ roll. A toasted flatbread is the base. No inter-continental cousins like burritos can substitute the flatbread. In India and Pakistan, it is called ‘parantha’. So, while the flatbread is being toasted, an egg is beaten well with some salt and chilly. A splash of oil, throw in the egg emulsion and as soon as you see the egg firming up like an omelette, place the flatbread on the semi-liquid egg. Flip it over, a couple of times and take it off the heat. Chopped onions, salt, pepper, squeeze of lemon and chilly sauce rolled into the egg ‘kathi’ roll. That, my friend, is the quintessential ‘kathi’ roll.

Varieties are also available. Egg. Mutton. Chicken. Egg Mutton. Egg Chicken. Double Egg. Double Egg Chicken. Double Egg Mutton. Here, take the tissue and wipe that drool off. Oh, I haven’t mentioned any vegetarian options as they just simply don’t qualify as a ‘kathi’roll. Apologies, veggies.

I have seen enough of those being made. I can visually tell if a certain roll will be carry the right DNA of a Calcutta ‘kathi’ roll. I have tasted some delectable rolls on the roadsides of Kolkata and Delhi. I know the imposters as well. They never will see me as a repeat customer.

My search for that delicious ‘kathi’ roll took me to Shiraz Golden Restaurant. The name can be a little misleading – it has nothing to do with the Iranian city, or wine. Shiraz in Bur Dubai serves Awadhi food – food that was native to the royal kitchens of the Nawabs of Awadh or Oudh during the British Raj in India, specially during the life and times of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.  Well, the man certainly had good taste in food. No wonder that those recipes are now a hand-me-down reality for food buffs like me. Shiraz originally opened up in Calcutta, India’s gourmet capital. This is their second and first international outlet.

I need to clarify, that I work on a simple principle when it comes to food. If the simple can me made in a lip-smacking way then the exotic dishes are worthy of a try. And a Kolkata food joint needs to be taste-tested by asking for the ‘kathi’ roll.

As I hungrily tore off the tissue, I could tell that this ‘kathi’ certainly was rich with promise. The first bite in it certified that it was a thorough-bred ‘kathi’ roll. Ah! The pleasure of the crumbly exterior that holds a fluffy egg; wafting with the smell of the green chilly and chilly sauce.

Shiraz certainly passed the ‘kathi’ roll test. And now, for over a year, I have been a regular and a loyal customer; using it as a venue to catch up with friends. And whatever be ordered from the menu – be it the Awadhi biryani, or chicken chaap or the mutton rezala, it all starts with the ‘kathi’ roll!

5 burps on the Burp-o-meter!

Bengali Warewolf in Dubai

I am a bit of an honorary Bengali. Don’t feel much Bengali, save 5 days out of 365; and that is during Durga Puja! And I am just about feeling the first winds of change in me. Like a handsome man turns into a werewolf – the ears elongate, the sinews stand out, canines turn to fangs, hair grows all around – I was feeling a similar change reside in me.

I have been excited about the sweets my wife got me from Delhi! I am listening to the audio CD of Sukumar Ray‘s ‘Abol Tabol‘ – Bengali limericks he wrote for ‘Sondesh’. Remember a few, still! Yes, I don’t believe myself, right now!!

Despite the disguise, I secretly feel very proud when people say that Bengalis can hold on to a tune and that they know their music. I was proudly nodding my head as one of my non-Bong students was appreciating Bengali hospitality and also reminiscing the lusciousness of her first ‘rosho-golla’. It was happening to me for sure.

And tonight we went to a brand new Bengali (not Bangladeshi) restaurant in Sharjah. Wifey found about Calcutta Fast Food near Al Tawuun Mall. Not the best creative name one would expect from a Bong, but then the real test is only in the taste. I called the restaurant and was greeted by the most warm and elderly voice of a typical Bengali ‘Bhadralok‘ who gave me directions like my garrulous uncle would have. I was grinning as I indulged him!

courtesy Calcutta Fast Food
courtesy Calcutta Fast Food

When there, that slice of a restaurant appealed to me. I really must be ill! What riveted my attention was a wall of classy black and white photographs. Uttam-Suchitra from ‘Shoptopodi’ bang in the centre! There – can you hear Hemanta Mukherjee faintly? “Ayi poth jodi na shesh hoye, tobey kemon hoto, tumi bolo toi?” Tumiyi bolo!

Howrah Bridge, Vidyasagar SetuVictoria Memorial, dhoti-clad babu hanging from a tram like an orang-utan in a zoo and oh! They have egg role! You can’t beat the taste of that one. I ordered one and it didn’t disappoint me a bit. Mmmm! Perfect!

What followed next was a tastefully made Chicken Chaap in a thick, consistent gravy with a distinct aroma of saffron. A healthy piece of chicken breast was well wrapped in the saffron gravy. Gastro-erotica!!! Crispy porotha on the side. Meshomoshai (the Bong Uncle I spoke to) suggested we try that! It was fab! My wife was in raptures, going back to her ‘Bedouin days’ in Calcutta!

I loved watching the father-son duo running the joint. Son took the delivery orders. Dad handled the restaurant floor orders. They opened the restaurant end August. He is the only son. Was in banking earlier. Dad keeps visiting them from Kolkata. Gathering so much information was just not my style. What was wrong with me?

I was surrounding myself with everything Bengali. Oh! And the crispy, crumbly fish fry was ‘darun’. I suggest that the Bengali expression ‘darun’ be included into the English lexicon. And I could arrange a ‘michhil’ to prove my point as well!

I was worried with my new self. I looked at my wife, for she has answers when I don’t. I asked her as to what was wrong with me?

She took a bite of her fish fry and nonchalantly said,”With Pujo ’round the corner, you are just PMS-ing.”