Serampore is a former Danish settlement on the banks of the river Ganges, in Hoogly. And during 14th and 15th century, was a hub of global trade. But then, it was a cluster of villages surrounded by paddy fields. The portuguese came to Bengal in around 1500 and the rest of Europe followed. The first Danish settlement was set up in 1698, but soon due to some problems, had to leave the land. The Danish Asiatic company rreturned back in 1755 and got hold of the land legally from the Moghul emperor. In 1777, the town was handed over to the Danish crown and the area started flourishing as probably the best Danish settlement in India. But by that time, the British started strengthening of their military power and in 1845, Serampore and Tranquebar were handed over to the British. This blogpost is about the best food in the once Danish Settlement in India- Serampore.
Mahesh chandra dutta sweet shop
Mahesh Chandra dutta is probably the flag bearer of good Hoogly sweets in Serampore. and trust me, it has a legacy of around 200 years. And it produces only sweets from Chhana- I mean, with probably no savoury items , this shop is there for two centuries.
The star attraction of this place is their Gutke Sandesh. It’s a small sandesh, where two separate sweets are joined together. Taste-wise it’s pretty average, but it has an interesting story with it. And while you check the story, let me tell you, do try the Chhana r goja. It’s very very good and definitely recommended. The manohara was pretty average and I’ve actually tasted better stuff at Janai. But it’s worth a visit for the Chhanar Goja alone.
Radhaballav ji has a very strong divine presence in the locality. Now, many moon back, when Mr. Mahesh chandra Dutta was working in his small shop, one small kid came to him and asked for Sandesh. He had it and quite liked it. But when it’s the payment time, the boy didn’t have money. But how could Mr Dutta leave him without the payment? After a brief talk, the boy left one of his small bangles at the shop and told that his father will pay for the sweets and take the bangle back the next day morning. And the next morning, when the temple door was opened, one bangle was missing from Radhaballab ji. Now, whether the god came to this shop to have the sweets or not, is a folklore, but this story definitely enhanced the otherwise average taste of that Gutke Sandesh at Mahesh chandra Dutta, Serampore.
Adi Hazra Sweets for their hot jilipi
Adi Hazra sweets is just opposite to the Mahesh Chandra dutta and is a small miniscule shop at Serampore. But mind you, this shop is there since 1858 and makes two very interesting products. I’ve visited many sweet shops, but rarely have found a place serving some good narkol naru. Now, this narkol nari- or small roundels made with grated coconut and jaggery is one of the well kept secret of the Sweets Of Bengal. It’s made generally at home and used in pujas.
But the star attraction of the Adi Hazra Sweets is their jilipi- fried and served piping hot from the late afternoon. And I’ve seldom tasted something as good as it in recent times- definitely recommended.
Jilipi is a pretty old dish. In ancient time, it was called as Kundalini. In fact in the book Kulunkul Sarbasya, by Ramnarayan Tarkalankar in Bengali year 1261, we can find Jilip as part of Uttam Falar (highly rated meal)
নিখুঁতি জিলাপি গজা ছানাবড়া বড় মজা
শুনে শক শক করে নোলা
Madan er chop
the next place, that I’d like to recommend in Serampore, is the Madam restaurant- and for their one single product- machh er chop. Madan restaurant is one of the oldest in Serampore and can easily be called as the local heartthrob. So, when we were taken there, I honestly expected an old rickety shop, but it was pretty swanky and well maintained place. And the the obvious choice was machh er chop.
Let me be honest. I have never ever tasted such a tasty machh er chop in my life. It does not have a spicy stuffing, but rather a subtle tasty mashup of Katla fish. It’s very very good and definitely recommended. The Egg chop, on the other hand, is made of mashed boiled egg as stuffing. Normally for egg chop, we are used to see cut boiled egg pieces, but this one was different. The fish fry and chicken cutlet were reasonably good, but honestly couldn’t stand a chance against the mighty chops. Do visit Madan restaurant at Serampore only for this dish- it’s worth.
Oops, I forgot to mention about the Kasundi (handmade mustard sauce) at the Madan restaurant- served with almost each dish. It’s super spicy and in fact had the impact of tasting Wasabi on my taste buds. Do try it.
Basanti Cabin er Moghlai Parota
And finally, there is that typical old aged rickety cabin, serving some good food at Serampore- welcome to the Basanti Cabin. It’s an 87 year old establishment and is situated near the Panchubabu r bajaar. It’s tucked below the new flyover, so the visibility has become slightly challenging. But ask any localite and you’ll be guided here.
The recommended dish here, is the Mughlai Parota and Kosha mangsho- mutton. The moghlai parota is super tasty and definitely recommended. Recently somehow the average quality of moghlai parota in Kolkata is not really great, or at least at the places that I know. But this one is at a different league altogether. The stuffing is quite heavy and has small pieces of chopped ginger- which enhanced the taste. I’d suggest to pay for the extra amount and go for the special Mughlai parota. 2 eggs and with a meat keema stuffing, it’s worth.
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.”
The kosha mangsho at Basanti Cabin, on the other hand, was pretty average. It’s more towards a runny, less spiced and bhunaoed mangsher jhol and not the kosha type, as we expect. But with the superior moghlai parota dipped in the runny gravy, tasted decent.
Kulpi at Sri Durga and roll at Hyangla
Now, there are these 2 shops, which are recommended if you still have an appetite left. Around 100 mtrs from the Madan Restaurant, there is this sweet shop named Sree Durga sweets. And forget about the sweets, it’s known for it’s kulpi. I must say, the shop is worth the hype. the Kulpi is smooth, creamy and delicious.Same goes for the Hyangla Roll shop. It’s good. The parota is quite less oily and that had made the difference.
I do not have the picture of both the places, but you can definitely check it out at the Foodka video here.
Serampore has quite a few number of interesting places for a foodie and this list is definitely not final and will be updated. Meanwhile, check my experience at one of the premium restaurants in Serampore- the Mukherjee’s.
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