Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh Calcutta!

We didn't go for a holiday, we went for an experience! And the city lived up to every letter of that word!

On the conducted tour of the city, we were taken for lunch to a smelly, hole in the wall South Indian, yes, South Indian restaurant somewhere in the Esplanade area. Unable to bear the fact that our first day started off with less than authentic food, we sought comfort in kulfi in the restaurant next door. It was the first time we were having kulfi with semiya (vermicelli) and some red sherbet poured all over it. I held back till I tasted a bit of my friend's, and then ordered one for myself.

Street food in Calcutta. En route to the Kali temple in Kalighat, we settled on this restaurant for our lunch. Several parcels of good-looking biriyani were being dispatched in cars as we waited for our lunch to be prepared.

Why, when you order a mutton tikia, is it served all scrambled? And how did our chicken kabab turn into mutton? The paneer is a concession to vegetarians, but processed on the same tawa that the meat is cooked on!!! And the lacha paratha was glorious and well done.

Back from the Kalighat temple, after two hours of waiting that culminated in a mighty stampede that succeeded in crushing us but not our spirit, we treated ourselves to some food at a wayside cafe - thick, substantial rossogulla at Rs 3 a piece and some samosas. This man was making ... kachoris, I think.

Fishing in the Hooghly. Aboard the ferry to Haldia and back. The clayey soil at the back brought back to mind geography lessons of Gangetic West Bengal, alluvial soil and silt deposits.

A glimpse of rural Bengal. En route to Raichak, a day trip from the city. The villages are full of trees, of which I could only recognise the jackfruit tree, banyan and bamboo. There were some rice fields too, along the way.

A Kolkata evening in the monsoon

Kolkata and its cabs, near the now crumbling Great Eastern Hotel

On Howrah Bridge, shot from our car.


  1. one city i have never been to but always wanted to go. btw,kulfi always had semiya in kerala wherever i went and i hated it. this made me stay way from kulfis in hyderabad, which i realised just in time were a totally different thing. and man! did i regret all those i turned away the dairy goodness with cardamoms!! anyway, i learnt what kulfi is a good year before i left hyd so its okay i guess :)

  2. Calcutta brings back memories on my official trip there. I couldn't get myself to enjoy the city.

    I've been Calcutta once. We visited the State Mental Hospitals and a few NGOs working in the field of mental health.

    I found homeless people on every street - every god damn street - I cannot even begin to describe how terrible those state run institutions were - in short it was the horrendous trip in my life. I've never seen something even remotely close yet.

  3. lovely pics,,,street food look delicious,..hve been to calcutta but couldnt enjoy there ,,,causei was down with fever,..still manage to eat egg roll which was really deliciousnd rosagolla and bhopa doi too,..feellike gng again...lookin at pics,..

  4. that's more like some sort of a falooda no??

    The lachcha paratha looks totally fabulous. :-) Seems you had a great time. Have never been to Calcutta

  5. u r bk from ur trip i meant experience:) lovely, lovely pics sra...both the street food and monsoon pics r enough to pack my bags and come home!!!
    sorry for not replying to ur mail. been caught up with hectic work schedule... glad to know u had gr8 fun(and little J too;)

  6. Oh cool! I love your satarical take here..:) Nice pics.

  7. Looks like you had a wonderful time in Calcutta. And all that food.
    Never been there, though I've eaten the "roshogolloh" in the earthernware pots! I shall make it there some time in this lifetime:)

  8. Sra, you've rekindled fond memories...we lived in Kolkata for nearly two years...both Rengoni and Agastya were born there :-)...glad you had a great time :-)

  9. Nice Pictures..i was just scrolling down to see fish in the dal:)
    even iam reluctant to taste semiya kulfi..if i get a friend like your's allowing to taste a bit..i would try!!

  10. Nice pics....sounds like you had a fun trip....

  11. Didn't you try their singadas, they are so yummy. The pictures reminded me of my past visits to Calcutta. When compared to other metros, this is one city which hasn't changed much over the years.

  12. Nags, were you lucky! This wasn't too bad, and the sherbet didn't have any funny taste, either, as they tend to.
    Lakshmi, definitely, it's not easy on the eye, or on the mind.
    Notyet100, we had mishti doi and aamdoi, patishapta, lot of sweets!
    Raaga, yeah, I didn't like the falooda touch but I'm glad I kept an open mind and ate it finally!
    Sia, thanks. It was an interesting experience, we knew it wouldn't be a traditional holiday, in that sense.
    Jyothsna, the temple and its priests really angered me - we grumble about Tirupati but that's heaven compared to this.
    Aparna, yes, at least once in a lifetime, you have to visit this place.
    Sunita, yes, I remember reading this on your blog.
    Lavi, I didn't take pix of our Bengali meals as we were too hungry and tired.
    Jayashree, yes, it was a revelation, the city.
    Vidya, we did, just didn't take pix.

  13. Sra,
    all the pics are so good specially the howrah bridge pic and the village scene enroute to Raichak .
    Kalighat Temple is one busy temple, I am glad you came out from there unhurting yourself, last year my MIL sliped away in the crowd and later recovered from the Floor..
    hurting herself badly .
    And That kulfi is being served with faluda, and the street food looks too good .Have you Tried Egg Roll ...

    Hugs and smiles

  14. "the most horrendous trip of my life" - :D - Why isn't there a grammar check for the comments section? :D lol

  15. i love calcuta..had been there about 10 yrs back..loved all the old buildings and the street food :D...the part where you said they cook meat and vegetarian in the same kadhai is so true...that is the main reason i get scared to eat out..i sort of mention that in my next post!!...and yep..that kulfi sounds like rabdi like raaga said...hate the noodles in that..what a kill joy!!

  16. I visited so long ago (as a kid) but I distinctly remember how crowded everything was and the awful traffic. Don't remember much of the food except that I tasted rasamalais for the first time there.
    This was a lovely food emphasized travelogue Sra..

  17. Aah, I've always wanted to visit Calcutta for its street food. But never got a chance. Did you eat Jhaalmudi? I've heard so much about it!

    A of course has done it all. Humph.

  18. Drool over all the food pics! But I must say that the pic of the fisherman is my fave! It's wonderful!!

  19. i remember the local office made sure i got my share of sandesh after every meal when i was visiting Cal, always soft & never sickeningly sweet :)

  20. Jaya, even I thought the Howrah bridge pic turned out well. Apparently, we're not allowed to take pix on the bridge, so I shot it at random from inside the moving car.
    I was really disgusted with the Kali temple, it's worse than the Puri Jagannath temple. And no, didn't try the egg roll - didn't find it anywhere.
    Lakshmi, Blogger could use a lot of features, basic ones. LOL! Let's not bother about grammar for now. And if you don't confess, fewer people will notice. I didn't.
    Rajitha, even I tried it very reluctantly, and then I liked it. Reminded me of payasam, which I've been lusting after but not eating for quite a while!
    Laavanya, thank you. We tried mango rasmalai and 'aam doi' too, apart from other sweets. Lovely! I usually stay away from fruit-infused sweets but these were a revelation!
    Kalva, hi, thanks a lot!
    A&N, no, we ate papdi chat, tikiya chola chat - I didn't think much of them but maybe we ate at the wrong places.
    Manisha, yeah, it was good, but I'd have liked a closer shot but that's all I could zoom in.
    Richa, I don't much care for the texture of the sandesh but the rossogullas on the street were a revelation.

  21. Hi Sra Looks like you had an amazing time, Fabulous food and fabulous scenery and that reminds me of home. Few more months to visit India u see and i am already too excited!!

  22. Lovely photo essay! I am starting to get a little jealous of all your travelling. :-)

  23. Simply wow! beautiful pics Sra!

  24. Wow and this is the reason for not blogging for more than a week ? Looks you had lovely time. The lacha paratha looks real glorious!

  25. Calcutta has it charm restored in those subtle ways, one has to feel it to know it.......street food is all oily and soiled and at the same time delicious....kulfi and semiya....isnt is called falooda

  26. Padmaja, bagunnara? Not much scenery, really, because we didn't travel much (tho' what we saw was nice) and we missed a meal or two, but most of what we ate was good! Sometimes we ate just sweets for a meal!
    ET, thanks. I HAVE been having a good time and I constantly want to travel - now am in the realm of greediness - but I have a feeling I may not be able to for the next few months :( Hope I'm wrong!
    Uma, thank you, I liked most of them myself.
    Ni, yes, that's why no blogging. The paratha WAS glorious!
    Bhags, I thought falooda was more liquidy, you know, and it has those sabja seeds inside, this was called kulfi, even!

  27. Love the pics..especially the howrah bridge....

    A city on my to-visit list..though wonder when...all in all..ur experience well-summarized :)

  28. thatz one city i haven't visited .. everybody raves abt calcutta .. I guess the street food out there is awesome .. esp rosogollas, jalebis & samosas

  29. This is A and smoke was coming out of ears (in sheer envy!) as I went through the pics :) Just kidding! I miss India so much! I think that Bengalis use quite a bit of mustard oil in their preparations...even chat. And that gives a distinct flavor.

  30. that street food pic is killing me , such a torture to a hungry soul :(

  31. I don't think I've heard "alluvial soil" and "silt" since the seventh(?) standard! :D

    Sounds like u had a good trip.

  32. there is something about this city and the culture... I shopped till I dropped in gariahat and then kalighat is an experience in itself...

  33. Thankyou our trip is very helpful to me teach my son about Battle of Plassey and about Dalhousie..,

  34. Thankyou for the wonderful trip.Our trip to museums is rightnow helping to teach my son about Battle of Plassey and Lord Dalhousie.No momo pics :-(

  35. dera sra
    'oh calcutta' are the words that escape from my lips when i think of the city..nice post and it reminded me of a quick food joint in esplanade, where you could have phuchkas and chicken chilly over a bottle of thumbs up ! wow !

  36. yeah 'Oh Calcutta...'..glad you had a nice time. I still remember the wonderful time I had my first visit. Not that I didn't enjoy my second, this time as parents were there. Though we didn't get to enjoy as you seem to have visited all the street nice they look..but as you said they would cook both veg and non veg in the same pan right...:))..that sure puts me off eating ever hhah..

  37. Oh! These are loads and loads of nostalgia..
    I have spent all my childhood in Calcutta and you know what I am feeling like now..home sick!!
    Calcutta is one place which grows on you..Did you try out the puchkas and jhaalmoori there..its yum yum!!

  38. Beautiful shots Sra. I esp'ly like the one with the yellow cabs.


  39. Never been to calcutta, but it is in my list... My sister visited couple of years ago, and she hasn't stopped talking about it! Lovely pictures... and wow, a Calcutta tour included a lunch in a South Indian restaurant? Why???? Did they do that just because you guys were South Indian?

  40. Rachel, yes, just take the city as it is - try not to have too many expectations :)
    Veg Platter, yeah, the rossogullas and samosas were v nice, didn't try the jalebis
    A of A & N, come visit, then! I didn't detect any mustard oil in the chaat but didn't like it much either, guess we didn't try what Cal is famous for - golgappas and jhaalmudi
    Pooja, LOL! Hope you had something to eat soon after you saw this.
    TBC, spot on! Seventh standard it was!
    Dee, we went to Gariahat and my friends bought saris. I went to Spencer store there and bought some spices!
    Vjaya, thanks. I thought I'd uploaded the momos pic but realised only later that I'd missed out. You must have seen the other pix by now - plenty of momos there!
    Anamika, we spent a whole day in the Esplanade area and finished up at K C Das with lots of sweets!
    Srivalli, yeah, it was quite strange to see that, thought things in India would be different.
    Swati, we looked all over for puchkas, didn't find any, can you believe that? And no jhaalmoodi either! We had papri chaat and tikkiya chola chaat instead.
    Mamatha, thanks, I liked those cabs too.
    Sig, the place is full of South Indian restaurants, everywhere! Think they had some tie up, not all of us on the tour were South Indians.

  41. Wow.....looks like you all had a rocking time! Hope to visit Kolkata some time.

  42. Hi, I have heard so much about Calcutta from my husband, and have always wanted to visit! Have not yet been able to. I loved your post, and great pictures:-)

  43. I've always dreamed of visiting Calcutta. Thank you for the trip and the beautiful pictures, it'll satisfy me until I can get there one day.
    I just LOVE Indian culture, food and customs.

  44. Homecooked, yes, it's worth a visit.
    Shreya, may you go soon! Thanks.
    Todd & Diane, thank you. Hope you get to go soon!

  45. Oh Calcutta! It reminds me of the most tasty tender coconut we drank there. I'm a person who can drink 4 tender coconuts at one time.. But these tender coconuts that we had in calcutta, they looked very tiny, but I couldnt finish two! Very filling and very sweet! :)

  46. I always wanted to go to Calcutta but never got a chance. My daddy did his studies from Kharagpur and finished his graduation from Calcutta Univesity... we atleast got his obsession of drinking tea 5-6 times a day... I thank you for this post, as I am seeing the city through your writing

  47. Great Eastern Hotel..ahh the many Brilliant Tutorial sessions that I have attended there!! :) Seems like you had a great trip!

  48. I was born and raised in Calcutta(yeah not KOLKATA)
    I got married there and yes the best Jhaalmoori and Puchaka and Bengali Samosa ..brings back lots of memory .I had my child there.But now we all live in US of A and You are right Calcutta grows on you.Been to Delhi and Bombay too but Calcutta is my home!!


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