A royal send off from Kolkata. Nizam's annexe, VIP Road, Kolkata

It is not unknown for flights out of Kolkata to smell of rose water, meat, garam masala or even fish.

For emigrants from Kolkata, or Probashis as we are known, often carry back rolls, biriyani, mishti (sweets) or even frozen raw fish back to our adopted hometowns. I have done the rounds too. Mishti for office folks, prawns cooked by Mom for K, rolls and biriyanis packed from Bedwin,  or Zeeshan on the way to the airport, loads of Mukhorochak dalmut,  pastries from Flurys and Kookie Jar  and yes, I confess, even frozen fish.

Well, not so much these days after I have spent more than a decade outside. Since then I have discovered good fish markets close to home at Khar. There’s a Sweet Bengal at Bandra which I am fairly OK with. And now that Hangla’s has opened here, I have a decent roll and biriyani option too. Yes, they are more expensive but have you seen the cost of a ticket to Calcutta?

So I was driving to the Kolkata airport in a cab. It was Sunday. Traffic was less and we took the good old VIP Road instead of the circuitous but zoom down new Rajarhat Road. I had dozed off. I suddenly opened my eyes I saw a shop which said Nizams to my left with VIP Sweets to the right. I stopped the cab and walked back. Yes, it was a franchise of the famous Nizam’s of Kolkata’s New Market. The place where Kolkata’s legendary kathi rolls were apparently invented.

I walked in found out that the biriyani prepared in the central kitchen was ready. I picked up some for me. And mutton rolls for the Missus back home. With fried onions and chopped green chillies the way K likes her rolls.

I took out my camera and an impromptu photo shoot followed. It was almost as if the food Gods of Kolkata had come out to bid me farewell. I told the owner that I was planning to take the food by flight to Mumbai. He said that his rolls were often delivered to air hostesses at the airport. Let me know if you figure out the connection.

I chatted with the cooks as they took out the biriyani and clicked away as they made the seductive looking rolls. They were tickled to see me pack the stuff to take to Mumbai. “You can make these at home”, said the guy who made the rolls. I said that I did make chicken rolls with packaged  frozen parathas at home. “But how do you make the biriyani at home?” I said. He looked at me and nodded sagely and sadly.

I got into the cab with my loot just as I heard the radio commentator say that Tendulkar had reached his century in the World Cup match against England

I then headed to the Kolkata airport which for long has been the most clogged airports around. It took me close to an hour to get security checked. A thing to keep in mind if you stop to buy rolls. And the fact that you are likely to miss Nizam’s if you take the Rajarhat Connector which cabbies love.

How did the food stay? Well the rolls tasted fantastic when we heated them in the microwave. The biriyani was good though a bit too dry for my tastes these days. At the risk of turning off fellow Bongs I must say that I prefer the Lucknowi Biriyani of Kakori House or Peshawari or the mutton pulaos of Parsi weddings which are slightly more luscious and have more meat in comparison to the Kolkata ones now. And yes, Hangla’s was of similar quality to this. Lot more expensive than Nizam’s of course.

But then hey, when was food just about food?

I had got a piece of home back home after all.


Sassy Fork said…
The Indian Bourdain!
? said…
Have heard so much about these rolls and have had 'other' versions from outside Kolkata; the post was droolworthy so also the snapshot!
Nothing like home town food... u make me nostalgic for yummy rolls from my home town and amazing cutlets too!
Kankana said…
That was a beautiful post. I love Kolkata street food the most. The pic you took of the airport makes me wonder why can't the state do something about the airport. My cousin works there and that is one question I ask him everytime and he tells me that the city has too mane beautiful things .. can you not ignore one :D
Rai said…
I remembered that I too carried Ilish maachh, wrapped in multiple layers of clothes and newspaper, from Kolkata to B'lore whenever I travelled to my home town ... Next time u come, take Ujjala's chanachur with you as well ... The shop is just opposite the now non-existenmt cinema hall Ujjala at Kalighat ... pretty close to the Kalighat Metro Station
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Anurag :)

@Sassy you flatter me, touched but those shoes are too big

@? thanks

@HCOF: yes, i am sure they would be really there

@Kankana, but why should we? This way the beautiful things will remain a secret

@Rai, I had Ujjala's chanachur once. Was sent with me by a friend's mom for him when he was staying with me. More the 'Hindustani type' right?
Tarjani said…
Kolkata is one place which grows on you. I have lived there for 3 years and moved back to mumbai last year. Food is “the” most important thing in Kol's life. This funny incident happened with me reminds me from Chanachur... I had one of those Dadas in my office who was really sweet n kind to a newly married Mumbai girl in Kolkata he would get really yummy snacks every evening i stayed back late in office ...from the big open food Court Dalhousie, once he asked "didi chanachur khaabe" i was wow like those we get at Juhu Beach....and this guy gets me a packet full of Farsan i was like where the hell is Chanachur Garam......i had this look on my face and with that packet of Chanachur in my hand i would never forget in my life. I loved your Post i hve some beautiful memories of Kolkata n food in Kolkata :) SIMPLY LOVE IT
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Tarjani, thanks so much for writing in. I was lying in bed with a bad back last night trying to ignore the pain. The phone pinged and saw your comment. Rached the end. I smiled. Thank you :)

I can completely empathise with the Bong gentleman. We take it upon ourselves to spread the word on Bong food to others after all
Rai said…
Kalyan, Ujjala's chanachur is just gathia and unbroken badam, always hot & fresh when served from the counter. It tastes quite different from the red packets of the childhood favourite Bapi Chanachur (bit jhaal, bit sweet) which even goes perfect with muri. Is that what you had before?
Allyson said…
I love reading your blog, especially about Calcutta. I migrated to Australia in 1971 and well remember the days when buying cakes and chicken patties from Flurys, chocolate nougat easter eggs, kati rolls from Nizams, puchkas in the laneway from the Globe cinema and maidan. What wonderful memories.
Regards Allyson Goddard
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Rai, I think Bapi is blue and Muhorochak is red. I prefer the latter's jhaal papdi

Hi Allyson,

Thanks for writing in. Would love to hear about your Kolkata memories
Allyson Goddard said…
Hi K, where do I begin with my wonderful memories of Calcutta? Perhaps with my early childhood living at the Railway Quarters in Sealdah, enjoying the puja pandals and tasty Bengali dishes that were presented to us by the Bengali community living there too.

Allyson Goddard said…
Hi again - in the mid 60's I was in a stage production "Desert Song" which also included Amitabah Bachhan and Victor Banerjee. Who was to know that later these two would become such great and well known actors. Victor's wife Maya was also with us in Desert Song. We were then known as CLOGS (Calcutta Light Operatic Group Society). Regards Allyson
RD said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Dear Allyson
I am not sure if my last reply got posted?
I knew Papa Clogs after he returned to England and have a number of items from CLOGS that might be of interest to then members. I would be pleased to hear from you. Do email me at penpaly@gmail.com
Sanjiv Sood said…
Sir, This Nizam is a close clone as because the pleasure and aroma of having coal skewered Chicken is quite different. It seems, here, they are cooking it up on the Tawa like all and sundry in Kolkata. Whereas, @ Minerva it is directly put into the roll from skewers thus emanating a fresh Tandoori Aroma. But will do if it has to go to Mumbai. I have carried them to Bangkok as well though if you ask me I won't even try the original after 20 minutes of preparation. It looses its appeal.