During my service days, I used to travel to Bihar and Jharkhand quite frequently. And found some strange round shaped wheat and sattu-made balls were burnt and consumed happily by a large number of people. One fine evening, after office, I caught hold of one such dish and came to know its called Litti and the accompaniment was traditionally called chokha (mashed potato flavored with cumin, tomato crushed, coriander, green chilly among others). This whole thing was served on a sal leaves plate usually. At the first meet, I was bowled over. The raw taste and the explosion of flavours just had a mesmerizing effect on my nerves. And, in Kolkata, I kept on looking for the same.
However, in Kolkata, I usually caught hold of a lot of food varieties but yet to find a good litti shop. Lots of shops make it, but the perfect roasting and that earthy flavor mixed with desi bhaisa ghee was missing somehow. So, when one of my friends suggested this shop, I happily rushed in. Its near Nimtala burning ghat . If one moves from Nimtala burning ghat towards his right towards kumartuli ghat, there are 2 shops which sells them. People say the first one was more authentic and made better staff. Frankly, I’ve visited that one only, so, will be able to comment on the same.
Its a shabby shop, to say the least. There are 2 shops in fact, under one roof. The left one served litti+ aloo chokha and the right one sells gulabi chai.
They sell it at 30/- a plate- no negotiations. The offering is 5 small littis (little burnt) with a large spoon-full of aloo chokha and dhania-dahi chutney. Frankly, we were a little skeptic about the price. But, when we saw the making process, we were somewhat convinced, The littis were roasted in the open charcoal-grill in front of the guy and then thy are taken on a bowl and smeared with desi ghee (” the ghee is homemade”- he proudly exclaimed) and that had made all the difference.
The first bite and we understood. The taste was mesmerizing. The rustic flavor mixed with ghee with the tangy aloo chokha, the chutney and a small bite at the green chilly was something out of this world. Each litti was having one kismis inside it to increase the flavor and it did so.
And we moved to the next shop, run by the gentleman’s father for gulabi chai. This gentleman seemed straight from the age of ramayana- well built, muscular, with long black beard and wearing saffron colored dhoti…. He took his tea making seriously, very seriously. He did some puja, offered tea to his lord and then started making for us lesser mortals. And, we started shooting instinctively. Somehow, within one-two shots, the gentleman got very angry and started shouting at us – it was that he doesn’t like to be shot – at least without his permission. We deleted all the shots from camera respecting him but one shot.
Frankly, I’ve never had a tea anywhere with rose water and this guy surprised us. The tea was heavy with milk, then rose water was added and finally a slice of milk malai was floated on top and one tulsi leaf (we didn’t like that, frankly), like lassi (a little more for us because probably he was feeling bad for scolding us… ). The result was nothing less than a miracle.
The heavy tea, itself, was a meal at 20/- a glass. And we were full (who wouldn’t be after 3 plates of those pocket littis and one glass of this heaven ? )
So, anyone looking for a good litti-chokha in Kolkata, head towards nimtala and your prayers will be answered.
Bon apetite !!!
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