Kolkata Ghare Baire...Kookie Jar, Flurys, Anadi Cabin, Shree Krishna Mistanna & my grandma's kitchen

Didu offers me a jam sandwich with a mango jam sandwich
that she had made before I headed out for breakfast

Someone wrote to me on Instagram yesterday saying, "I am missing your didu." 

I am back in Mumbai now after spending a few precious days with didu (my maternal grandma) in Kolkata. So no more Instagram live updates for now from Kolkata and my didu's house and yes, I am missing her too. 

This post is the last of the diary entries that I wrote when in Kolkata. I didn't get to post it the night I wrote it as there was an electrical problem at granny's with sparks coming out of the switchboard when I switched on the fan at night. I had to shift to my grandpa's room, from where I used to blog every night, to sleep too that night. I was finally too exhausted to upload pictures and post and kept it for Mumbai. 

When I woke up the next morning, didu said that she was worried that I would tumble out of the small bed when she saw me sleeping in it in the morning. To her I will always be the three year old grandson, her first grandchild, whom she met for the first time in Delhi some 40 odd years back.

Do join me while I recount stories from my last day in Kolkata. I have added a lot of photos at the end but didn't put them in between as I didn't want to break the flow of the text. It's a long post but a lot happened that day. In this post I will cover my breakfast at Flurys, lunch at Anadi Cabin and Shree Krishna Mishtanna Bhandar and then the gala dinner cooked for me by my granny. Please do mail me if you spot any copy errors.

30th June 2017:

Jam pauruti with didu before breakfast with friends

Today is the day when I was supposed to catch up with friends for breakfast. Friends I have made over the years through my blog. Friends who have become family friends now. Friends we try to meet when in Kolkata just as they are not allowed to leave when visiting Mumbai without meeting us. They open their houses for us when we go to Kolkata and they know that they have a home in ours when they come to Mumbai.

I had told granny about my breakfast plans last night and yet, when I was stepping out, she called me to the dining table and offered me a fried bread and jam sandwich. The jam is an unripe mango jam which she had made herself. With full swag she had kept the jam in the empty bottle of the jam we had got her from Paris last year.

'Khali pete jaash na,' she said. Don't step out on an empty stomach.

I asked her to pose with the sandwich for Instagram and opened the sandwich a bit for the jam to be soon. She tried to push it back in its place so that the sandwich was symmetrical!

The sandwich was delicious and I will miss these mornings of being pampered when back home. Perhaps I should pack my granny and bring her back with me.

Earlier in the morning I had finally succeeded in updating the date and time displays properly on her mobile phone after struggling to do so for the past few days. 

Jam pauruti by didu
A typically sunny breakfast on a rainy day at Flurys

My friends Ruskhana and Suneha had sent their car to pick me and with that bakes and cakes for didu and ghee and Mukhorochak chanachur for me to take back.

We headed out together for K and my breakfast destination of Flurys but not before I stopped at Kookie Jar for the lemon tart which is my favourite lemon tart in the whole wide world.

Flurys with friends:
Me, Suneha, Manishita, Kaniska and Rukshana

I have come across Kolkatans who feel that the 80 year old Flurys is touristy and over-priced but both K and I love to go there every time we are in town. We feel at home here and very good about life and like the food too. Turned out that Rukshana and Suneha hadn't come here for breakfast in a while and were here this morning to indulge me.

Joining Rukshana and Tinni and me were Kaniska and Manishita with whom I had spent a couple of evenings over adda earlier during this trip. 

I stuck to my favourite order at Flurys of the 'heritage beans' with finely chopped green chillies and onions. I had a couple of pretty decent cappuccinos too that morning. Their coffees have improved over the past few years. I also called for the pink cubed cake like I always do. These days I just take a couple of bites but do not attempt to finish the cake as I find it too sweet and synthetic tasting. Yet, I HAVE to order it with my coffee. As desserts go I prefer the lemon tart at Kookie Jar.  

Heritage staff with heritage breakfast

Lovely cappuccino with nostalgia driven
iffy pink cake

The other orders on the table included a slightly tight scrambled eggs an and an eggs Benedict which inexplicably had spinach in it which made it an eggs Florentine actually. The egg was a bit over-poached and the Hollandaise sauce too stiff. Kaniska liked his mushroom omelette despite the few egg shells that he found in it. "Calcium," he said jovially as we all were win in high spirits. Manishita seemed happy with her chicken croissant.

While the food was 'good in parts' like the curate's egg, the service was warm and friendly at Flurys and rather human too as the young girl looking after our table would giggle on hearing our jokes rather than keeping her reserve. She was fairly efficient too. All the orders were brought to our table together and without my having to ask for it. 

It started raining while we were there and looking out onto the streets of Park Street through the windows at Flurys felt even more magical than normal.

From Park Street to Dhormotola

I had been wanting to go to some of the iconic restaurants of Kolkata such as Anadi and Golbari as well as the College Street eateries of my college days for a while but hadn't been able to in recent trips because of packed schedules and logistical issues. 

After much indecision and vacillation, Kaniska, Manishita and I decided to go to Anadi after breakfast today while the others had to leave for work. Like Flurys was for Rukshana, the visit to Anadi too for Kaniska was that he made for a long time and for my sake. Thankfully they both enjoyed their respective trips.

Kosha Mangsho, the dark horse at Anadi Cabin

Moghlai paratha and plain paratha on top
Below the Moghlai is the customary cubed potato curry
and below the paratha, the dark horse, the kosha mangsho

We reached Anadi Cabin at SN Banerjee Road and opposite Regal Cinema at 1.30 pm which is when it opens for the day. We Ubered it. I wanted to take the Metro but none of the Kolkatans agreed to do so!

We were the first customers of the day and the staff at Anadi were divided in their opinion on whether we should be allowed to sit in or whether we should wait. We were eventually seated and the place got packed in a matter of minutes after that. The seating is spartan. No air-conditioning, toilets or wifi here. Though it is called a 'cabin', the waiter told me that this 98 year old (according to him) restaurant didn't actually have cabins in the past. 'Cabin' refer to partitions made for families to sit in privacy in restaurants during more conservative times and were later havens for courting couples. As it is in such eateries across India, you are expected to share tables with strangers if alone. There is a counter at the front of the restaurant where they fry the parathas and this dates to a time when 'open kitchens' were yet to be trendy. The tables have marble tops, the plates are of white bone china. It has the sort of look new restaurants in Mumbai pay designers big money to recreate these days.

I have a feeling that I had been to Anadi when I was college, or when I had just started working in Kolkata, but am not sure.

We had the duck egg (hasher deem) Moghlai paratha which Anadi is famous for. The paratha was served with the traditional cubed potato curry, sliced cucumber, carrot and onion salad and ketchup. 

I quite enjoyed the Moghlai paratha which was very well balanced in terms of flavour and which had a lovely texture as it was neither too crisp, nor dense or chewy. 

Stuffing the parathas

And frying them too

A Moghlai paratha is a paratha made with refined flour which is stuffed with eggs, crushed peanut, raisins, finely chopped carrots (at Anadi) and green chilies. They are then shallow fried in dalda and served hot. I don't think it will taste too good reheated. The one at Anadi one didn't have any meat in it as far as I could see.

The Moghlai paratha of Kolkata is a cousin of the martabak of Penang, matabaq of the middle east, the palata (sic) of Myanmar and the baida roti of Mumbai. 

The Moghlai paratha of Anadi did Kolkata proud. Kaniska tells me that these are made crunchier at Dhaka.

The revelation of the afternoon at Anadi though was the kosha mangsho (slow cooked semi dry goat meat curry). We ordered a plate of kosha mangsho with parathas for Manishita who didn't want eggs. The slow cooked onion based thick gravy of the kosha manghso at aanadi was a mystic delight and its taste lingered on after each bite. The mutton (goat meat) was ample and well cooked and NOT one piece was tough or chewy and some bits had delightful nibbles of chorbi (fat) hidden in them. This is significant as the mutton in the Moghlai biryani restaurants of Kolkata can be rather inconsistent and indifferent. The one I had at Aminia recently tasted like an eraser. I have found the mutton to be a bit tough in some of the Bengali restaurants too. No such problems at Anadi. This is definitely one of the best kosha mangshos that I have eaten.

Close to a century of practise and passion showed in what we ate at Anadi and the service was lovely too.

Lyangcha at Shree Krishna Mishtanna Bhandar

Hinger kochuri (4 to a plate at Rs 32) with some delightful mishti
Shree Krishna Mishtanna Bhandar

After Anadi we went to Shree Krishna Mishtanna Bhandar opposite Regal Cinema. It was apparently once a hole in the wall where Kaniska would go for hinger kochuri (puri flavoured with asafoetida) when he worked in an office close by. This shop is even more basic in terms of ambiance than Anadi and both belong to a world very different from Flurys where we had started our day. Thankfully, in Kaniska and Manishita I had willing campers for my expeditions.

The kochuri, four to a plate at Rs 32, was not very exciting to be honest as one didn't get the flavour of hing in it. It was filling though and was served with a cubed potato curry or alur jhol and a sweet and tangy tamarind chutney. There were fried and salted finely chopped chillies on our plates which our waiter suggested we try with the kochuri. When I did so, I saw that it did indeed liven up the taste. Like in Anadi, here too the service was warm and friendly and the staff seemed to proud of where they worked and wanted to ensure that the customers shared their love. I was told by the staff that the place is more than the hundred years old. That the owners and founder were non-Bengalis. Bihari according to one of the waiters and from Allahabad, which is more likely, according to the cashier. There were pictures of Amitabh Bachchan in the movie Piku pasted on the walls. He had apparently stepped in here for a nibble the staff told me. "They don't eat much," they said and then proudly said, "Allahabad is Bachchan's home town too."

What won us over at Shree Krishna were the sweets. We enjoyed the very pleasantly spongy rosagullas and the lyangchas which were served hot and which tasted majestic. Lyangchas are elongated versions of pantuas. These are Bengals version of gulab jamun but are made with chhana (cottage cheese) and not mava (reduced milk).

Superb hot lyangcha at Shree Krishna

Lovely roshogolla too

I had a kulfi falooda at the end which reminded me of dosa and kulfi treats that my mom would offer my brother and me at Indramahal at near the Esplanade Station when we were in school. I used to love eating the kulfi once it melted and when the rose syrup melted into it and the noodles added to the fun. This falooda has none of the sabja seeds that Mumbai faloodas have and which I detest. Ma used to take us to Indramahal near Esplanade metro for this.

Kolkata kulfi falooda

Back home at Bansdroni

I finally bid my friends goodbye after a lovely outing and went home to granny's to rest. I later headed back to our own apartment at Bansdroni to get it cleaned. I decided to walk back to granny's from home. 

I indulged in some nostalgia on the way as I bought my favourite Mukhorochok jhal papdi chanachoor in the muri and chanachoor my mother swears by and which is near the Bansdroni bridge. It is very crowded during the day and buying anything here is tough thanks to the crowds. Tonight I came back happy with my spoils for Mumbai. As I walked home, I passed by the homeopathic doc that we used to go to as kids. I used to love his sugared white pills which were lacedwith a touch of spirit.

I was drenched in sweat when I reached home. Didu's night attendant of years, Anjali, was back which was great as I was going to leave the next day. It is thanks to her little leave of absence that I had got make this trip. Anjali couldn't figure out why I had walked in the heat and looked at me as if I had lost it!

I wanted to rush straight for a shower after the walk but didu said, 'jiriye ne, thanda lagbe.' Cool down first and rest a bit or you will catch a cold. 

No one had told me this in years. To be honest, if my mom said this to me, I'd shrug her away and tell her that I am old enough to look after myself.

In this case, I did listen to granny and waited a bit before my bath.

Dinner with didu

Left to right:
Row 1: Kolar kofta, rice
Row 2: Pabda maach, ilish machh

Didu had cooked dinner for me with the help of her attendants. She waited I clicked pictures of the food before I ate. Like everyone else in the family, didu is used to it by now.

The thing about grandmas is that their kitchens don't have soft yellow lights or pretty crockery required for a good food shot, but the food that comes out of their kitchens is memorable and legendary.

Today my grandma made me a dinner of kancha kolar kofta (mashed unripe banana kofta), pabda cooked in doi posto (curd and poppy seeds) and ilisher tel jhol (Hilsa cooked with brinjal and tempered with Nigela seeds). Over dinner I took the broad recipes for the fish curries from her.

My didu was born in Dhaka and then lived in Jalpaiguri after marriage lived in Allahabad and New Delhi with my grandpa till they moved to Kolkata after he retired. What you see on the table are influences from all stages of her life.

When I praised her cooking she said with the quiet pride of a an accomplished creative person, 'mora haathi dosh lakh'...There's still some fight left in me, and then added, "even today I don't have to check twice after adding salt.' 

She sure was right. The seasoning in each dish was perfect.

We chatted over dinner and I got to know from her that the my grandparents had brought the dining table where we had dinner, over to Kolkata from Delhi and that my mother had bought it with her first salary.

Which means the table is older than me!

Didu had scolded me the previous day for spending so much in the market. The bulk of the expense was in the ilish that I bought. I bought the biggest one (850 g) which cost Rs 1200 a kilo compared to the smaller ones at Rs 800 - 900 a kilo. She told me, 'please don't spend money so lavishly, who will look after you'. But I knew that she never would buy this expensive a fish for herself and I didn't think twice before did so for her. When I sat down for dinner today, I saw that she cooked the ilish for me and gave me two prized peti (belly) pieces as I cannot handle the bones in the ganda pieces from the back. The curry was flavoured with the unquestioning love which only grandparents can give.

Didu said that she had seen young women on TV cookery shows prepare ilish with onion and lot of masalas. 'How will you get the taste of the fish? You should use minimal spices so that you get the taste of the ilish,' she said. 

I had recently read about a chef from a Sandinavian country say in an interview that Indians should focus on 'ingredients and not spices' to reach western standards and win Michelin stars.

As you can see from what didu said, this is an example of trying to 'teach your grandmother to suck eggs.' There is a lot of culinary knowledge stored in their brains and we need to harvest and store that from our grannies. And someone please tell that chef that spices are 'ingredients' too and that we do know how to use them well!

 I asked her if the kofte was from her time in Delhi. She said, 'no, where would I get unripe bananas there?'. 'Eat local' as they say today.

While having the pabda which she had cooked in a dahi based curry, I told didu that folks in western India never combine dairy with fish.

"Too much protein?" she asked. Then she told me about how the doctors had told my mother not to have dal and fish in the same meal as it is an excess of protein. "Your mother listens to them," she said. "I have had dal and fish in every meal in my life and me fine," she said with a huff.

She told me that she was so happy that she could cook me this meal before I left.

I was even happier than her!

The morning after

Anjali's alur porotha (Bengali for alu paratha)

My vacation at my didu's had come to an end and Anjali was back at work. She made me a nice and moch moche (crisp) alu paratha for breakfast and said, "you eat all over, who knows how you will find it."

The parathas were rather good and I had no use for the ketchup sachets that didu passed towards me. The parathas held me in good stead as the food in Jet Airways was inedible as it was in the other two flights I took this month. They should stop this tokenism, not charge for food and allow us to just pay and buy packaged upmas.

Anjali is a bedrock for us. It is so important to get caregivers who treat elders well. So many of didu's day ayas are sullen and surly and that's sad. I have seen that elderly folks often lose their temper with help but then I thought, they are often the only persons around for them to get bugged with. Loneliness is a terrible thing and I pray that didu always remains as spirited as she is. 

I took some selfies with didu before I left and she suddenly pulled me and gave me a hug.

That will keep me going till I return to visit her. 

Till next time
PS: When I landed in Mumbai, I saw a message from a young friend of mine which made me really happy. He told me that after reading about my time with didu, he plans to take a flight and see his granny whom he hasn't been able to visit in four years for sundry reasons. I am sure that his grandma will be thrilled to see him when he does and that he will have a lovely time too.

PPS You could also find these posts of interests:

1. My post on Moghlai Paratha
2. My article in NDTV Foods on the cabin restaurants of Kolkata

More pictures from my last day in Kolkata

Kookie Jar

Love this lemon tart
I always meet her when in Kolkata


Our breakfast at Flurys

The view on a rainy morning from Flurys

My Flurys smile

After a happy breakfast at Flurys
Suneha and Rukshana, our lovely at Flurys
Anadi Cabin

Add caption

Eat and move on

Kaniska and Manishita. Finely Chopped Knights

That's the founder

Jugal babu, our friendly waiter
My Moghlai porotha smile

Amra dui bhai, khali kore khai khai
Bros who love to eat

Shree Krishna Mishtanna Bhandar

That's the dal paste for the puris being ground

Omitobho Bochchon here

Another Mr Jugal and another friendly waiter
The founders at Shree Krishna

June 2017 prices

My kochuri smile

The joy of shooting instagram videos

Didu and Dadu had taken me here for a snack after they
took me for a joyride in the metro when the Park Street
Esplanade station had opened in 1984 

Last minute chanachoor shopping

Our parar murir dokan
Our doc from ages back