Raj loves working out. The gym is his favourite place to be, and nothing in the world can make him happier than a pair of weights in his hands. He is very conscious of what he eats – never an ounce more, never an ounce less. But no matter what he does, he cannot give up the delicious egg chicken rolls outside his college campus. In fact, he is willing to put in one extra hour at the gym to shed the extra calories but those mouth-watering rolls are just too irresistible.
Such is the allure ofÂ the street food of Kolkata. Of all the things the City of Joy is known, street food comes right at the top. The most astonishing aspect of Kolkata’s street food is its variety. From kati rolls to chowmein, fish fries to chicken cutlets, stews to momos â€” you name it, and youâ€™ll find it here!
StreetÂ Food Reflects Kolkataâ€™s Multiculturism
They say you’re not a native of Kolkata if you don’t gorge on its street food and wash it down with a clay pot of tea. Every alley and lane of the city is strewn with vendors in their little stalls, calling out for customers while attending to the ones waiting. The street food of Kolkata is affordable and delicious â€” the perfect combination. Perhaps this is why Kolkata is often called a foodie’s paradise.
Itâ€™s even more interesting how such rich diversity in flavours can be actually traced to different cultures and communities that call Kolkata home. For example, the good old fish fry can be called the city’s own version of Britain’s popular fish and chips; similarly, chops and cutlets are intrinsically European food with Indian touches. Nahoum is the city’s lone surviving Jewish bakery, while the Tibetan momos have taken Kolkataâ€™s food scene by storm. Dal pakodi (lentil fritters) that youâ€™ll find street vendors selling across the city came here from Rajasthan holding the hands of Marwari businessmen, while our undying love for chowmein and chilli chicken is courtesy of Chinese settlers who came to Kolkata over two centuries ago.
Food thatâ€™s Hard Not to Fall in Love with!
From spicy kick to utter simplicity, from the savoury to tart to sweet and everything else in between, the flavours and textures offered byÂ the street food of Kolkata is nothing short of mind-boggling. No wonder, it has attracted and amazed food connoisseurs, culinary heavyweights, and Michelin-star chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsey, and Rick Stein.
In fact, hereâ€™s an interesting story.
One British gentleman found the delightful taste of our very own jhalmuri so appealing that he decided to sell it on the streets of London himself!
In another instance, Angus Deenon, a professional chef, tasted the mix of puffed rice, cucumber, potatoes and mustard oil extremely appealing, and decided to recreate the recipe in the streets of London.
He was quite shocked to see the response he received from people of different ages and backgrounds. Turns out, no one is immune to the flavours of Kolkata. You can read more about Angus and the journey of the jhalmuri here.
The Statistics Don’t Lie
According to an article published in Times of India, Kolkata has outdone its metropolitan counterparts and established itself as the city serving the best street food in India. In fact, many food bloggers and food enthusiasts have commented that Kolkata’s street food is unbeatable.
Famous journalist, Vir Sanghvi once wrote, “Frankly, it (golgappa) really is not in the same league as the Bombay panipuri. Delhi just doesn’t cut it. I have to respect the memories of the panipuri I grew up eating in Bombay, but I also have to accept that the Calcutta phuchka is Indiaâ€™s best version of the dish. It is like the streets of Calcutta themselves: a boisterous kick-ass kind of experience.”
Whether you are vegetarian or non-vegetarian, you will find something for yourself here. The pocket-friendly aspect of the street food certainly adds to its popularity. The city brings together cuisines from all over India and the neighbouring countries as well, to create a foodie’s paradise. And, the fact that you can indulge yourself without worrying about running up a bill is simply the icing on the cake.
Even WHO is Full of Praise
When the World Health Organization (WHO) approves of the food sold in a city’s streets, you know it is something to look out for. Well, this is exactly the case with Kolkata’s street food.
While the whole city is popular for its delectable snacks, Dacre’s Lane continues to reign as the undefeated champion. With its convenient location in the middle of a business area, Dacreâ€™s Lane is a favourite hangout spot for many office workers. An array of delicious dishes: ranging from chicken cutlet to fish fry, vegetarian and non-vegetarian stews, rolls and the like- create a mouth-watering food haven here.
The most common and potent doubt that people have regarding street food is its quality and cleanliness. But the food found here is approved by the WHO, which has even gone as far as to say that the dishes found here are among the best street food anywhere. If that is not the greatest compliment, we don’t know what is.
Street Food of KolkataÂ â€” by the People, for the People
Most of Kolkata’s street food is either indigenous or inspired. Even when the items are inspired, the makers add their own touch to the recipe to create a unique dish. The taste of Kolkata’s street food stands out amongst its counterparts elsewhere in India. Another very important reason for the popularity of Kolkata’s street food is its variety and affordability. You can get a full Bengali meal including pulses and fish for only fifty bucks here. This is a huge help for travellers who visit the city, and almost anyone who is running on a tight budget. It is safe to say that Kolkata’s street food is actually the best in the country.
The Streets will Live Forever
You would think that with the rise of more and more restaurants, the street food ofÂ Kolkata would die a slow death. The reality is exactly the opposite. Kolkata’s love for its jhalmuri, telebhaja, phuchka, roll, and chowmein has only increased by leaps and bounds. The city is a treasure trove of history â€” from art to architecture; but the street food here is the most wondrous of them all. And, unlike many other things of the past, there hasnâ€™t been the tiniest dent in its popularity. We donâ€™t know if it ever will!