The Mutton Biriyani Diaries ... Bon Voyage Kirti

Caveat: this post is not about mutton biriyani

I often introduce him as my 'first internet blind date'.

Let me set the record straight. He is also my first editor. The first person to publish a piece written by me. He later made me a part of his editorial board. I often had visions of us sitting across the table, wearing top hats, smoking cigars, talking about scoops. Scoops of ice cream that is. The first and only person to organise restaurant reviews for me. The only man I know who can make the perfect Calcutta Biriyani at home. The person who has taught me how to use the 'macro' function in cameras for food photography. With whom I have had long Google chats on what works for each of us in restaurants and in foods. Chats, which I once told him, should be recorded for posterity the way letters between Gandhi and Tagore were preserved.

You still want to know how he is my 'first internet blind date'?

It started in the pre Blogger and Facebook days when there used to be something called Orkut. Towards the end of 2007. I was a part of the Bombay Bong's group and would often comment on food there. Then someone called Kirti Poddar wrote to me and referred to a 'proposition'. I was new to social media then. Wary of honey traps. Thought he was a Gujarati lady with nefarious intentions. This is not a slur on Gujaratis or/ and women be any means. Just wondered why such a person would get in touch with me if we had nothing in common. We Bengalis err on the side of conservatism. I didn't reply to his scrap.

Then Kirti wrote again and introduced himself. I realised that 'Kirti' was a man's name in this case. 'Poddar' was a Bengali surname too. And more importantly that he and his family worshipped food. We spoke. I sensed his passion for food. Found out that he was 'Stupid' well before Diesel told us that it was OK to be so. That he had quit his job to build his own food web site A man who gave meaning to the phrase 'living your dreams'.

After many conversations we met for the first time when he organised my first formal food review at Zenzi. We got along like a house on fire since. A rather unfortunate play of words as he and his family recently survived a big fire scare in their building. But are all safe since. A harrowing incident which Kirti later recounted with his usual cheerfulness while we cringed.

Kirti, and his lovely wife, Rumni, are must haves when we throw parties at our place.

This is what you can expect when you call them over. Rumni, or Tinku as she is known, will compliment you on the weight you have lost and quietly give you a lot of help and encouragement as you put the food together. Kirti meanwhile would be holding forth on topics ranging from the bad grammar of children in Mumbai to the seven Rupee beef kebabs at Noor Mohammadi to the beef at Crawford Market to the prawns at Dadar Market to the 'rip off' prices of Sweet Bengal and the amazing value of Peeping Tom versus the rolls of Hangla. He would be the last to eat. He would be the one to eat with the most gusto. The one to follow it with the loudest and most eloquent of praise. He is known to sing, off key I suspect, as Tinku drives home.

Kirti is the 'Chief Foodie' of Tinku has been his squaw for twenty one years now. A romance which started well before that. A couple for whom the phrase 'butter to bread, breath to my life'  (from Julie and Julia) was written for. They have two lovely daughters. Both well trained in the world of food.

So what do you expect if the Chief Foodie and his squaw invite you for a meal?

Well, let's take a look at what was there for lunch today. Cheese and olive rolled in salami. Mince pork kebabs. Juicy. Deep fried cheese and potato balls. Bites of ecstasy. All of this would be fried after the guests come and served piping hot. Garnished with blood, sweat and our tears of joy.

I was disappointed that Kirti's trademark mutton biriyani wasn't there for lunch today. That was my payment for my first article for him which was on Martin's Colaba. (the original feastguru link is lost in ether)

But there was roast beef which made up for that. Roasted to perfection. With a slight moist, buttery touch on the surface. How can a meat so robust be so tender. A softie at heart like its chef. So delectable that it made a pork lover like me change sides as I dug into this heavenly roast. There was mince pork sautéed in onions which would vie for your attention. Indian beef curry  taken out from the fridge and shared with us. Kosha murghi, mashed potato and salad from the Chief Squaw's Hot Pot. Prawn curry which she took out specially for me after the others finished eating. Birthday cake followed. Little wonder that I almost gave up on dinner.

A wonderful afternoon with conversation drifting from Platini to Tigana to Allan Lamb to Graeme Hick to Gatting to Maradona to Cannigia and eventually ended with where do you get the best kosha mangsho in town as you would expect with a group of Bong men in their 30s and 40s, their long suffering wives and other foodies.

I always get lost when I go to Kirti's house and call him for directions. Not this time. I got the cab to turn at the right place. Head up to the right apartment block. I finally got it right. Ironically, on my last visit to their house at Mumbai!

Kirti is heading to Bangalore with his family. He has decided to join the tribe of the smart again. For only a while I hope. He is like those characters in films such as The Pursuit of Happyness. You will him to win. You want him to win. You gain confidence when he wins. Your hopes are built on his winning. If there is anyone I know who will live his dream then it is my friend Kirti. 

And I have made Kirti and Tinku promise to keep a room ready for me in their new house in their new city.

The following is the first mail which Kirti had sent me. Recorded here for future generations:

Hi Kalyan
I was trailing your writings on Orkut about food. Let me tell you a bit about myself and how was born.
After working for 18 years in the IT industry I got completely bored and thought that it would make sense for a petuk like me to create something which doesn't exist in India and at the same time brings my experience into good use. So I chucked away a nice comfortable and well-paying job 13 months ago to work on this venture, Thus, as they say, the rest is yet to be history.
Feastguru has been created from a foodie's perspective. Its all about getting the right information, reading the right stuff and being able to get deals and transact online.
The site will be going live in the next 48 hours and that is the time I will take you through the entire site and you will be amazed at what all it can do. You can blog, form communities, ask questions, post on message boards, get information on eateries, find out about special discounts and much more.
I am looking for people such as yourself who will provide content in terms of experiences, reviews and even articles. There is no money involved in this but yes there can be a lot of fun in it. If you are interested lets have a chat once the site is up. You can call me at '''''''''''
I am married for the last 19 years and live in Kandivali with my wife and two daughters. I miss Calcutta and whenever someone comes to Mumbai from there my parents send around 20 KGs of food!!!! I drive 30 KMs each way to get the right fish or meat. I probably make the best biryani - Kolkata style not the stuff that you get in Mumbai (That's what friends say).
Lets catch up and chat.
Warm regards

I vouch for the last claim too.


such a sweet post for a dear friend! Loved the read!
Unknown said…
Nicely written and probably this is the best u can describe him in words....
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks Somoo, Sreemayee... the inspiration was such. A very dear friend.
happy fork said…
am sure Kirti's touched by your write up and is gonna miss you as much as you him!
Journomuse said…
Wow, what a well written ode to friendship. Love the way you write and more importantly, the way you describe food. Looking forward to more food journeys through you..:)
Kirti said…
It's been three years since our internet blind date but seems just like yesterday. I remember the date at Zenzi vividly - great food and a convivial atmosphere which laid the foundation of a great friendship (and the best part is that our better halves got along famously too).

I also remember that you had misplaced the paper on which you were taking notes in Zenzi and, yet, you managed to remember every dish of the 10 course meal right down to every minute details. Amazing!

The afternoon was sultry and I sweated (the photos captured the rivulets) profusely while preparing the starters. But all the effort was worth it for good friends. And I am so glad that you and Kainaz liked it.

Thanks for the great blog and for the amazing gifts!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Journomouse... thanks...more the merrier when it comes to food journeys

@Kirti: Notes? That'll spoil my reputation. People will think I am meticulous :)

But remember how we climbed up the stairs to the Kitchen at Zenzi to click the food and then came down to eat it. At least ten times. Beats gymming