Mumbai’s Bengali Helpline – Pratap Caterer’s Bengali Dabbas

I had called for some chicken drumsticks for dinner. The plan was to grill them when I returned in keeping with my new grilling frenzy.

Except I had a headache which struck me somewhere in the middle of the day at work and, like a guest who overstayed, just would not leave. As I headed home early, no pun intended, it was obvious that a bit of carbo-TLC is just what the doctor ordered.

I picked up the phone as the car headed back and I dialled a number I hadn’t in a while.

“Aajke dabbai ke aachhe” (what’s there in the dabba today)

Apologetically I (vegetarian)

“But what?”

“Poneer and labra or alu jheenge posto”.

“Can you send me one to Bandra please?”

“Sure no problem”

“Great. Give me the labra and alu jhinge posto and skip the poneer please”.

“No problem”.

“By the way, by what time do I need to call you to get a delivery in the evening”

“Paachta…ekhon share pachta kintu thik aachhe” (5 pm. It’s 5.30 now but that’s OK)”

It was almost three years since I had last called Pratap Caterers before this.

A few things had changed since then. A full dabba no longer costs Rs 70. It is a princely Rs 100 (2 USD) now.

Labra, alu posto jhinge, chholar daal, rice, 4 rotis this evening. On other days there would be fish, chicken or an egg curry too. Was enough for both of us with some of the paneer (not poneer) Banu made tonight.

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The guy who came to deliver the dabba wore a grey uniform with Pratap Caterers proudly written on his chest pocket.

This was new too.

The rest was the same since I first came across Pratap Caterers at a friend’s wedding and found out that they delivered packed Bengali meals or dabbas. Specially to Bandra W at Mumbai close to their kitchen at Gazdar Bandh.

There was a time when we could call for their dabbas pretty often. Occasionally ordered for dinners at home when we had guests. This was before I began to cook for large groups and didn’t inflict Pratap’s special (read super oily) Bengali food on guests any more.

The dabba food this evening was the same as before. Middle of the road Bengali cooking. Slightly heavy on oil. Though nowhere as heavy as that in their ‘special food’. Just the amount of oil which was used in most Bengali houses till the anti-oil health mafia took over our kitchens.

The food is that of the Ghoti style. From West Bengal. On the sweeter side versus the spicier food of the Bangals, originally from the East of Bengal. Though honestly when you are in a faraway land  you forget your clannish loyalties, if any, and revel in the fact that the food is indisputably Bengali at least. And Bengali food is tough to get outside of Bengal.

Thanks to the largely non-entrepreneurial nature of us Bengalis, one of India’s most sublime cuisines is largely hidden to rest of the world to whom ‘Indian’ means ‘curry’, ‘spicy’ and ‘chicken teeeka maasala’.

Pratap, who I recently found out, started off as a humble cook in Bengali households of Bandra, has now, with his catering company, taken a few steps towards feeding home-sick Bengalis of Mumbai. With a business-like spirit which is definitely more that of his adopted city of Mumbai, and not of surly Kolkata. He even delivers lunches if you call him by 9 am in the morning and dinners by 5 pm in the evening. At Bandra W at least.

Pratap is definitely not for the Epicurean.

But if you are a Bengali at Mumbai and and want a bit of mommying then Pratap is the man to call.

Fixed my headache too.

Pratap Caterer’s phone  number is 26007882. He is based at Santa Cruz. Delivers within Bandra to Santa Cruz for sure. And with, a delivery charge, party orders across Mumbai. Not sure about dabbas elsewhere.

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