I strongly believe, heritage does not only mean a few bricks and mortar buildings. It’s something, that can be felt, tasted, and lusted for. Now, it’s a quite well-known secret, that my intellect and existence, apart from few other things, revolves around food. And thus, heritage food is definitely among them. So, Dhakai Parota is one of the items from our childhood- for most of us 70’s kids. And there is this small shop at Fariapukur, from where we used to get our dose of Dhakai Parota. This story is on that semi-forgotten food item.
If you are from North Kolkata, locating Fariapukur, or Talkie show House should not be a problem for you. and if you’re from other parts of the city, check this location on Google Maps here. This shop, Parbati Bhandar is a few shops ahead of this place- maybe 1-2 buildings. It’s a small shop- rather a sweet shop. And the primary point of attraction is, Dhakai Parota. You need to either get it packed or sit on the wide pavement on the net building and enjoy your Dhakai Parota. check the place here.
Parota and Dhakai 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 layered 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 a hollow in the center, where, hold your breath, heavily sweetened chola r dal is poured in.
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 a twist in the tale and basically invented 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 folklore and I am trying to find historical evidence for this, which I’ll post shortly.
For us, Indians, we love to have most of our fried items- super hot. But this dish, Dhakai Parota, is the distant cousin of a layered flaky pastry. And the basic rule of a flaky pastry is not to have it hot, else, you end up burning your inside- just joking. But honestly, at Parbati bhandar, the dhakai parotas are fried, dried, and piled for the day at around 12 noon and are sold, till stock lasts. and once you ask for the Dhakai Parota, they’ll ask you, “Saar, do you want it whole, or crushed?” And somebody like myself wants, almost always, to get the damn thing ready to be eaten.
And thus, they’ll slap and crush the damn thing, pour some Chhola r Dal and hand over the plate to you. The entire package is priced at 30/- per pc and, 1.5/2 of this Dhakai Parota is good to satisfy a hungry soul. the chola r dal is not over-sweet like Jalpan and luckily, the Dhakai Parota is not burdened with an overdose of Dalda. And it actually tastes good- pretty good.
Do visit this place, and maybe places like these. they do not understand and client servicing, and in most of the cases, doesn’t go after sales numbers. But what they offer, is a sneak peek into Kolkata’s culinary history. Do have the Dhakai Parota and let me know your feedback.
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