For any self-respecting Kolkattan, whether we live or die, having a good evening adds is mandatory. and honestly, no adds is complete without the mandatory tea. Now, we live to eat and that’s a reality. So, long before kathi roll and momo shops conquered the street food scene, Kolkata snacks empire was ruled by Telebhaja. And this blog post will talk of probably the most famous telebhaja shop of Kolkata- Lakshmi Narayan shaw, Hatibagan
If you know North Kolkata, you’ll be familiar with an area named Hatibagan. It’s one of those age-old streets in Kolkata where hand-pulled rickshaw and tram rule, rather than swanky cars. If someone crosses the Scottish Church School and walks towards Shyambazar, Lakshmi Narayan shaw will be there on your left-hand side. It’s a well-decorated kiosk. Now, please do not underestimate the shop. It has been there for more than a century and still going strong. Everyday evening, you’ll find a good crowd in front of it, shouting to get their share of telebhaja. Welcome to the Telebhaja king of Kolkata.
History of the shop
Mr. Khedu Shaw started this establishment in 1918. Yes, Kolkata was different back then. The freedom movement was at the peak and this shop was known to be the den for information exchange. While many would think that people were having their evening adda with telebhaja from this place, the freedom fighters actually exchanged information. And it was during that period, Mr. Shaw first met Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. We don’t know what did he see in young Subhash. But he was so much impressed by the personality, that still today, Lakshmi Narayan Shaw distributes telebhaja free of cost on 23rd January each year- on the birthday of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Even today, many locals refer to this shop and its fritters as Netaji r peyaji – we don’t know out of love or for fun.
Telebhaja, or fritters, is anything quoted in Besan and deep-fried. It can be boiled potato mashed with spices for aloo chop or sliced onion as peyaji. Now, besan is basically powdered chana dal. This is a generalization, I understand… but mostly holds true. And we tend to make a batter out of it. The batter is generally spiced with nigella and seasoning. items are dipped in it and deep-fried. Voila, the magical evening snacks for Kolkata is born. But the thing is not that simple at Lakshmi Narayan Shaw. they have many varieties. In fact, some of their most loved items are quite unique. For example, the aamer chop (made with seasonal raw mango to impart the tangy flavor) and soyabean cutlet are quite famous.
But more than the usual chops, let me talk of the Fried dhoka from Lakshmi Narayan Shaw. As you must be knowing, dhoka is one of the vegetarian culinary gems from Bengal. A mixup of Chholar dal (Split Bengal Gram) and Matar dal (split peas) is mashed, cooked till they get a solid shape. They’re then deep-fried and either served like that as snacks or more popularly, cooked in a vegetarian gravy. The recipe is readily available online and you can search it. But in today’s world, few can spare and master the complex method. and thus, it’s a common practice among the locals to purchase the fried dhoka from Lakshmi Narayan Shaw and prepare the gravy at home.
Keshto Kumar Gupta and his younger generation run this shop now and they still don’t compromise on the quality. Here in Kolkata, we love to live with our heritage and traditions. On the one hand, we love our swanky coffee shops and croissants with evening coffee … but on the other hand, age-old traditional shops like these are thriving with real good business volume. and that, probably, is the beauty of Kolkata. But this is the city that we grew up with and this is our city- Kolkata- the cultural melting pot.
You may like to check our tribute to Lakshmi Narayan shaw and Kolkata’s telebhaja culture in the video from Foodka here …
Bon appetite !!!
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