Please forgive me, but I don’t know the culinary history of Kachori (not at least with proper documentation- however for the detail freaks, this wikipedia article comes in handy), but what I do know is the feelings when you tear the piping hot kachori in two, dip it in the dal (or aloo dum or….. ), put it in your mouth and due to sheer pleasure, you’re transported to a dreamland for a few micro-seconds…..
So, in this post, I’ll try to focus mostly on the kachori experience than the culinary history behind the ever-humble kachori and radhaballavi…..
For me, kachori is THE playboy in bengali breakfast scenario. No, not the luchi, it has got its limitations in terms of accompaniments (at least for breakfast). But kachori, no sir, the possibilities are endless. I’ll try to narrate few of the experiences of mine with Kachori flirting with different accompaniments and being successful at it. And, secondly, I’ll try to talk about the bengali styled kachori and Radhabalavi and not the marwari styled ones (for the simple reason that they need a separate post for them).
Let’s start with the early risers in south Calcutta. Have you been to Bhawanipore area lately ? The shop bang opposite to the Bhawanipore police station ? From around 6 in the morning, the shop is thronged with clients for more than last 100+ years (the typical pot-bellied bhadroloks) demanding their packets. Now, these guys have these packets very very standardized. Hold tight, but even in 2016, for 9/-, you can have their breakfast combo – a small paper packet (thonga) with 4 small hard deep fried kachori and a chink of sweet halwa. Yes, they serve kachori halwa. And for the simple space constraint (their famed kachori dal starts by 630 AM), these packets are sold across the counter and have to be consumed outside or parceled for home consumption. Trust me, the kachoris are hard, halwa lacks of ghee or any dry fruits, but when you put them both in your mouth, they somehow tend to make love and the feeling is awesome…..
So, once you are through, drive down towards the lansdowne road via bakulbagan area and just when you’re about to cross, at the opposite footpath towards Maddox Square, you may find your next destination. For a bengali breakfast, the standard accompaniment of kachori is Chholar Dal and trust me, heads will roll if the dal is not sweet. Don’t smirk please, that’s how we love it. We bengalis are very particular about Rabindrasangeet, sourav ganguly and our sweets. So, live with it.
Welcome to Mrityunjoy Ghosh and sons. Ironically, here, most of the sweets are rubbish (except maybe their rasomundir payesh), but the kachori (and radhaballavi at later part of the morning) and phulkopir singhara (in winter) is something to die for. You should have some time in hand. Because, due to some strange reason, they never keep their kachoris ready and always do so whenever you place the order.
Wait for 5 minutes and those steaming hot kachoris with a dollop of sweet dal will be handed over to you. Don’t wait, pounce on it and tear it in half, dip it in the dal- put it in your mouth. I know its hot but bear with it and feel the orgasm. Whoever says what, don’t make the mistake of ordering the aloo sabzi with it and go for the dal. Sheer heaven. The shop is slightly dirty, but who the hell cares ?????
Ok, now comes the tricky part. The genre of aloo (potato) sabzi. I prefer to divide the vast territory into 3 major areas. Aloo chhechki (chopped aloo cooked into a semi-mashed sabzi), aloo sabzi with gravy and a proper aloo dum. I’ll try to mention 3 shops for these 3 varieties.
For the first variety, one has to go to College Square, just beside college square ask anyone where is Putiram. Yes sir, we are Indians and we prefer to ask than to use Google maps. In the morning, they prepare their heavenly kachori with aloo chhechki. The kachoris are small in size here, but the hing flavor is mesmerizing. These guys make a proper hing kachori in the bengali styled kachori segment in Calcutta. And the aloo chhechki is heavily powered by ginger. So, together, its a killer combo. Statutory warning, they are quite particular about their timing, please be careful. The pricing is a little on the higher side, but when did you get your slice of heaven at a cheap price ?
If you drive towards Khanna cinema hall from manicktola, from khanna stoppage, take a left towards hatibagan. After few buildings on your right, in the morning time, you may suddenly find that a crowd is fighting for something over a small shop. The shop has got no names and I can only indicate it with a picture (my sincere apologies). Join in the fight, stick in your hand, shout “2 pcs please / dada duto deben” and they’ll hand you with a shalpata conical plate with 2 kachori (phucking hot) with the aloo gravy put on it. Congratulations, you’ve found your reason to live in Calcutta.
Next comes Aloo Dum. Here, I’ll mention one shop, mostly unheard and tucked inside a bazaar in Beliaghata. On the Beliaghata Main Road, if you’re going towards CIT more from Alocchaya stoppage, on your right hand side, you’ll find Rashmoni Bazaar. There’s off course no parking space available (legal at least) so, take the adjacent lane of the market. Cross the bazaar with roadside stalls and after the temple on your left, you’ll find this shop. From 830/9 AM onwards, they start to offer the aloo dum with the kachori (god knows why).
The Radhaballavi (they call it Kachori) is good but the dry aloo dum is fabulous. Its a little spicy with ginger flavor pre-dominating, but its damn good. The shop is dirty and underrated, but for packing the radhaballavi-aloo dum at home, its definitely one of the best places I’ve experienced.
Calcutta is a city with multiple small small Calcutta tucked inside. So, kachori is served here with Beef Nihari, now don’t kill me please. But I’m serious. In winter, if you find 100 people fighting inside a shop at 5 in the morning, welcome to Sufiya, Chitpur. As strange it may sound, Sufiya opens at 430 AM. Now, please don’t ask me when do they start the cooking and all….. It operates from 430 AM- 1030 PM on all days.
For reaching the same, either, you’ve to follow the tram-line from Poddar court towards chitpur and you’ll reach Nakhoda Masjid. Or, from central avenue-MG Road crossing, you’ve to take MG Road towards howrah station and get down a the Nakhoda stoppage. Just on the lane beside Nakhoda, lies Sufiya. The below picture depicts how it looks like at 5 15 AM on a standard winter morning. Once you get in the shop and take your seat, you’ll find a person with a large nihari gravy handi and lots of tiffin box/ containers getting filled up as per the requirement written on top of them. Kachoris with sattoo stuffing are being prepared outside on the pavement and tandoor is inside for rotis.
Once you order your nihari, probably your friend should go with their mutton liver and the 3rd friend with Mutton ishtew. And like the old college days, remember to share them amongst yourself- else, the qty of any one dish (coupled with Kachori/ roti served hot and fresh) is enough to fill up a heavy-eater’s morning breakfast. The pricing is extremely reasonable. P.S, there’s an array of mughlai breakfast available in the city and can be found here…
So, halwa/ Dal/ Aloo Chhechki/ Aloo sabzi/ Aloo Dum/ Beef Nihari….. phew, kachori in Calcutta has definitely has got its share of lovers and who’re we to object ? But, please remember, there are numerous other shops/ joints in Calcutta who make fabulous stuff and could not be covered in this single post. So, please enjoy and keep eating….
Bon apetite !!!
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