SAWAN'S SONG BLOG 

BLOG POST 17:  AN ODE TO CALCUTTA

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12th April, 2017

THE METRONOME/ BLOG POST 17

Poila Boishakh is almost here! I was looking for a subject to celebrate with, this year - something rooted in Bengal, with a connection to its cuisine if possible. I was absolutely THRILLED, therefore, when Anjan Chatterjee - founder of Oh! Calcutta - every Probashi Bangali's favourite Bengali Restaurant - asked to come on board for this post. This iconic restaurant is invariably where I - and most of my Probashi Bangali friends - head to during Pujo, or during the much awaited Ilish Season, or during the Nolen Gur season - in fact whenever nostalgia strikes and we're in the mood for Bengali food! 

 

It was over my many illuminating chats with Anjan that I became aware of how intricately linked the cuisine of Calcutta is to its rich and varied history. Of how every new civilization that made Calcutta its home - the British, the Mughals, the Chinese, the Russians, the Armenians - left an indelible mark, not just on the city's skyline and architecture, but also on the city's cuisine, often inventing entirely new dishes that borrowed local ingredients and mixed them up with the original recipe to yield something totally unique. I had no idea before embarking upon this blog post, that the Chilli Chicken and the Manchurian, for instance, had originated in Calcutta, within the Tangra Chinese community! 

 

We decided, therefore, to make this song and video not just about any ONE Bengali dish or recipe or restaurant, but about Calcutta, the city - about the many little things, both culinary and historic, that make a tryst with this city one of the most exotic and unforgettable adventures in the world! 

Of course it is impossible to capture or do justice to a muse as intriguing and multi-layered as Calcutta through one song or video - there will always be a million stories left untold - waiting perhaps, for another song, another day, another vlog post! 

SONG AND VIDEO CREDITS :

Lead and Rhythm Guitars : Hrishi Giridhar

Viola and Violin : Ganesh Dutta

Video : C B Arun Kumar and Sawan Dutta

Song written, composed, performed and produced by Sawan Dutta

SPECIAL THANKS TO : 

Anjan Chatterjee -  Founder and MD, Speciality Restaurants Ltd - for his ideas, suggestions, guidance and support! 

THE SPECIALITY RESTAURANTS LTD. TEAM IN MUMBAI:  

Siddharth Chakravarty, Shambodeb Lahiri 

 

THE SPECIALITY RESTAURANTS LTD TEAM IN KOLKATA : 

Kanchan Bannerjee, Ajay Paswan, Subir Deb, Indraneel Bhattacharya

AND everyone else at all the branches of Speciality Restaurants Ltd, who has helped with this vlog post in any capacity - a million thanks! 

 

 

SONG LYRICS : 

The scent of a Gondhoraj Lime

Take me back to my roots each time

The crunch of a Phuchka, the first bite

Sets the pace for the night...

Oh! Calcutta, Oh! Calcutta, Mmm Calcutta, Oh! Oh! Oh! Calcutta

The Manchurian and the Chilli Chicken 

Were born right here though I'm not sure when

The layered history of a Kosha Mangsho

Just a whiff, and you know...

Mishi Doi, Nolen Gurer Payesh

Kheer Kodom, Norom Pak Shondesh

There's a sugar craving in my DNA, 

Let's chuck the fitness advice away...

Oh! Calcutta, Oh! Calcutta, Mmm Calcutta, Oh! Oh! Oh! Calcutta

The subtle flavours of a Daab Chingri, 

Spice it up with a Jhalmuri, 

An egg makes a Biryani complete, 

The story changes with every street, 

Bangla, British, Mughlai, Chinese

Feel the yesteryears mingle in the breeze...

Tales of the past go rumbling by...

And its time for me to say goodbye...

Oh! Calcutta, Oh! Calcutta, Mmm Calcutta, Oh! Oh! Oh! Calcutta

 

 

GLOSSARY OF NON-ENGLISH TERMS IN THE SONG LYRICS

Gondhoraj : A rare, distinctly and deliciously fragrant lime found in the region of Bengal

Phuchka : A common Indian street snack consisting of a round hollow crisp fried bread filled with a combination of flavoured water, chutneys, potatoes, chickpeas and masalas, also known as Golgappa or Pani Puri in other parts of India

Manchurian and Chilli Chicken : Two typical preparations in the Indian Chinese cuisine

Kosha Mangsho : A slow cooked lamb/ mutton curry made with in a rich thick gravy. For more on this dish and how to make it, check Vlog Post 09, "Kosha Mangsho"

Mishti Doi : A traditional Bengali dessert made of sweetened curd 

Nolen Gurer Payesh : Rice Pudding flavoured with date palm jaggery, a traditional Bengali dessert

Kheerkodom : An exotic Bengali sweet with a spongy syrup soaked rasgulla centre and a dry sweet khoya and powdered sugar outer cover

Norom Pak Shondesh : Shondesh is a typical Bengali sweet made of milk and sugar, Norom Pak being the soft cooked version of it that melts in your mouth

Daab Chingri : A Bengali prawn curry cooked and served in the shell of a green tender coconut

Jhalmuri : A spicy crunchy Bengali street snack made of puffed rice mixed with other ingredients. For more on Jhalmuri and how its made, check out Vlog Post 12 "Jhalmuri"

Biryani : A mixed rice dish popular in many forms all over South Asia, with its origins among the muslims in the Indian Subcontinent. The Biryani in Calcutta traces its origins back to the Nawab of Awadh, and is cooked with a potato and a boiled egg, along with the chosen meat. 

Kal Boishakhi : Original Meaning : A thunderstom that occurs in Bengal a few times in a year, and usually just before the advent of the month of Boishakh and the Bengali New Year, symbolising the washing away of the grime of the old year, ushering in the new. HERE, it refers to the signature cocktail of Oh! Calcutta named after this thunderstorm, made of Aam Panna ( mango syrup ) and vodka, lemon juice, soda, chaat masala and a green chilli.