Kolkata is a gastronomic melting pot of multiple communities. Many have come here, got settled and in turn, enriched our own cuisine. And in this quest, many new items got created. Few of them stood the test of time, while few items lost the battle. We can find them in a handful of eateries in the old part of the city- in a few sloppy food joints. This story is about one such item. It exists as an urban legend. Many have heard about it, but few have tasted in reality. Pantheras- the flagbearer of colonial tea-time snacks- this blogpost is on you.
Firstly, let me try to explain Pantheras in layman’s language. Imagine a simple crepe, stuffed with cooked mutton keema (with typical Indian spices), coated in breadcrumb and deep-fried. Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is Mutton Pantheras for you. It looks like a Chinese Spring-roll, but the recipe and making process is vastly different
This dish is said to have originated when the mog cooks (from the Chittagong region in Bangladesh) got trained by the British cooks from Kolkata. Britishers took their 4 PM afternoon tea quite seriously and many of today’s popular snack dishes got created then. The mog cooks had a superpower. They could taste an item and had the ability to recreate the same, customized to the local palate. Raja Nabakrishna Deb was from the royal family of Sovabazar and he had an extremely good relationship with Britishers. In fact, when after 1757, the Britishers were rejoicing the win of the battle of Plassey, a party was hosted at the Sovabazar Rajbari.
This royal family introduced the Mog cooks to the Calcutta culinary scene from their native, Chittagong. The reason, primarily, was the legendary skillset for recreating Anglo-Indian dishes. One of the cooks from the mog community was Mr. Barua, who also worked in the Great Eastern Hotel and the “Theta-Feta Club” for new-age Bengalis. Gradually, club culture started dying and in 1934, Mr. Barua started his own business. After him, his son Mr. Bidhubhushan Barua continued the business with his partner Mr. Phatik ch. Dey. And today, the only shop making a good Pantheras is Barua & Dey Fast Food Center.
Somehow, us Bengalis, are never really known to be great marketers. And we take pride in keeping our skillset/ finesse, exclusive to a selected few. And, it’s the usual sad story here. The place is tucked inside a sleepy lane, opposite to the Manindra Chandra College and near to the Shyambazar Metro, gate no 5. The shop starts its operations from 5 in the evening and operates till 9 PM. Finding the place is slightly difficult, so please refer to the Google location. Or ask any local for Mama-r Dokan (Late Bidhubhushan Barua was locally called as Mama) or Barua Pantheras shop.
Reach the place and even before you have a look at the menu, please order for their Mutton Pantheras. On a good day, it gets over by 7 PM. But after the Tala Bridge fiasco, business is a bit down. Though Pantheras is a must-have at 40/- a piece, I’d also recommend their Mutton Cutlet.
About the food now
If you’re not a regular, the shop owners are not really very friendly or talkative. There’s is no sitting facility, barring a few rickety plastic tools. But the food is superb- especially the Pantheras. The deep-fried outer coat is fantastic- crispy and comes with that perfect snapping noise. The inside is a soft thin pancake, stuffed with slightly spicy dry mutton mince filling. Though with changing time, the mutton is getting replaced by breadcrumb and god knows what- taste is simply sexy. And honestly, at 40/- a piece, you can’t really expect much. The kasundi is said to be their specialty, but honestly, I never bothered to check the taste.
My personal take
These are among the hidden gems in Kolkata, which are dying. The food is sexy, the place is not. Pricing is extremely pocket-friendly, and maybe that’s one of the reasons, they couldn’t invest in better infrastructure. I know, they make Pantheras in a few other places, but for me, this is my go-to place for this particular dish.
You might like to check my experience on my food walk around Shyam Bazar below.
for the story part, I’ve taken help from the below blog posts:
- Pantheras recipe
- Writeup by Mr. Arindam Sarkar
Bon apetit !!!
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