I am known to talk a lot of unnecessary rubbish before coming down to the main point. So, to discuss Dhakai Parota and Mughlai Parota, let me take the liberty of starting with Parota first. What is a parota ? Is it (as per wikipedia), just one unleavened flatbread – that simple ? Can we quote food author and Historian Late K.T Achaya on paratha in his book, ‘A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food’ as “Wheat dough rolled out, with frequent folding over while smearing with fat, to a square or triangular shape, and pan fried using a little fat to a layery structure. Cauliflowers, potatoes, spinach and methi leaves can be mixed into dough before frying.” ??? Nah, being an argumentative bong that we are, nothing can be that simple.
So, if we start discussing the varieties, here we have the Dhakai Parota. It’s more like a layered fluffy deep fried bread with hollow in the center, where, hold your breath, heavily sweetened cholar dal is poured in. On the other hand, Moghlai Parota is another strange item, where some genius chef, at some point of time, thought of putting egg mixed with onion and chopped green chillies inside a Parota.
Let’s start with Dhakai Parota then …
If we go by the lyrical meaning, Parota can be traced as the love between two words, Parat and Atta, which literally means layers of cooked atta or maida dough. So, when the same thing came to Bengal, apart from the simple quintessential triangular parota, we thought of having twist in the tale and basically iunvented the Dhakai Parota and Moghlai Parota. As per my friend and foodie Sunando Banerjee, the shape of the parata resembles the shape of a lid or “dhaka” and hence the name. He also says, the Dhakai Parota originates from Midnapore and has got no connection with Dhaka. But, this is a folklore and I am trying to find historical evidence for this, which I’ll post shortly.
So, where to have it ?
Enough bakwas, now, let’s come straight to the spot. There is this quiet shop on Southern Avenue, in fact near Southern Avenue Swimming Pool called New Jalkhabar. It’s one of those old school shops, where they basically care a hoot about their daily sales and making a margin. It’s in fact one of those places where they’ve perfected a few items and sleep happily. And frankly, they’re not ready to mass produce their items even. If you reach there by the afternoon, the Dhakai Parota will in all probability, be over and all you get is a standard answer “Shesh hoye gechhe dada, kal asun”. Even the clock seems to take a nap inside the shop.
Once inside, do not go for any other material distraction… Order for their Dhakai Parota at 25/- a piece with Chholar Dal. Please remember to overlook the ever-lingering shitty taste of Dalda inside your mouth and focus on the looks. The product might well be extinct in next few years. Pro tips: ask them to give extra Dal- you’ll need that.
And once you start cursing me, ask them to get you 100 gms of curd (not their sweet variety) topped with 50 gms of their dry Bundi. Now, I love this combo. The sweetness of bundi pairs beautifully with the sour curd. The whole package comes at 24/-/. And lastly, order anything else at your own risk.
I know, the dhakai parota is not that great here, but this visit was to pay a tribute to this dying art. So, move forward around 100 mtrs towards Rashbehari crossing following the same footpath and you’ll find a new joint preparing some neat Mughlai Parota. But wait …
Any story for Mughlai Parota ???
Contrary to the popular belief, mughlai Parota was invented during the mughal era in India, during emperor Jehangir’s time. He was bored with plain keema parota and hence, his loving cook Adil Hafiz Usman was given 10 days time to think up of something new. Now, we don’t know what was the punishment, but the cook actually came up with Anda-Roti, which is known as Mughlai Parota today. Now, this gentleman Adil Hafiz Usman was from Burdwan. When Burdwan became the Mughal empire’s official revenue-collection center for Bengal at the time of Shah Jahan, eateries serving Mughlai cuisine came up. Quoting from the article in The Hindu, “Usman told his son not to go and work in Avadh (Lucknow), Dilli, Agra or Dakkhan (Bijapur, Aurangabad, Hyderabad) after a chef from Lucknow insulted him. Usman’s son Farogh began to experiment with Mughlai paranthas at Burdwan and never shared the formula with the chefs of Lucknow and Dilli (from Barbara Mansfield: History of Mughal India and its Cuisine). It remained with the seven sons of Farogh. When their descendants began to work as chefs in 19th century Calcutta, Mughlai paranthas became Calcutta’s own dish. It was relished by Bengali gourmets as also the men of the East India Company.”
Back to modern times …
Whatever, forget the history … once you’re through with Jalkhabar and it’s Dhakai Parota, try this new place called Bhaja Bhuji.I know, Anadi Cabin is cult, but these guys are doing a neat Mughlai Parota these days.
Soumya Gangopadhyay is a friend of mine and I know him from our Streets Of Calcutta days. Now, contrary to the popular trend, one day, he has come up with this idea for a branded bengali fried items shop named Bhaja Bhuji, beside Southern Avenue Swimming pool.
The shop is basically a take-away joint. Nothing fancy and barring a few plastic tools, there is no seating arrangement as such. But what Soumya is offering is some good snacks items at a reasonable price. The Fish Roll is killer, but this time, let me talk about their Mughlai Parota only. It’s priced at 55/- and the special variant (with minced chicken stuffed inside) is at 75/-. Luckily, they put in 2 eggs in their standard mughlai Parata and some mean Aloo Dum. And that’s what sets them apart.
Few words of caution. Do not miss the aloo dum they serve with this parota and if it’s a problem having it there (hot from the tawa), order it via their delivery partners like Swiggy or Zomato.
So far, so good. Let me find out few more stories on Dhakai Parota and Mughlai Parota, two of the nostalgic bengali snacks … And if you come across something, do share.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome.
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