The saying goes like this: ‘Way to a man's heart is through his stomach’. But, I think this can’t just be about a man! After all given a chance who won’t be feasting on his/her choicest of foods on the table? So here is a gastro-trip for you through Kolkata and Goa.
‘Cultural Capital of India’ – one of many sobriquets Kolkata has earned for itself over the years is also a ‘heaven for foodies’. From Kolikata (as mentioned in the rent-roll of the 16th century Mughal emperor Akbar and the work of a Bengali poet, Bipradas Pipilai, of the late 15th century) to Calcutta (as capital of British Indian empire until 1911 A.D.) to again Kolkata (in recent times), the present metropolis has been a big melting pot thanks to its protean nature as a trading hub, assimilating many winds of change through history. While Turkic, Mughal and British left their influences as rulers at one point or the other, small communities of migrants like the Chinese and Jews have also left their indelible marks in the microcosm that has come to be known as ‘Bengali cuisine’ today.
One thing that unites Kolkata and Goa is their love for freshwater fish and seafood because of their proximity to the seas, but what distinguishes Kolkata is its sweet tooth and its array of street foods that includes all time hits like Phuchka, Jhalmuri, Ghugni Chat (veg.) and Chops & Kathi rolls (non-veg.). Though we generally identify the quintessential Mishti Doi (that too of Nolen gur or jaggery), Sandesh and Rasogulla with Bengal/Kolkata, there is a vast repertoire of sweet dishes out there for the lovers to be explored! The ritual of tea and introduction of baked confectioneries was a direct result of the British influence (celebration of Christmas in the second case), but the credit of popularising confectioneries goes to the Jewish migrants who immigrated from Baghdad in the early 20th century. But there exists a vegetarian subtext to the overtly non-vegetarian script of Bengali cuisine. Bengalis are particularly good at using leftover bits of vegetables in preparing ambrosial dishes.
The Goan food is considered incomplete without fish (in that way it is similar to Malvani or Konkani cuisine). Falling in the tropical zone, spices and flavours play an intense role in the food. The unique taste and flavour of most Goan dishes come from ingredients like coconut milk, kokum, toddy (coconut vinegar) and tamarind. But, there is more to Goan cuisine than just fish, curry, rice and feni/fenny (liquor).
The cuisine of Goa carries in it the strains of its Hindu origins, 400 years of Portuguese colonisation, and modern techniques. Seafood is the mainstay of Goan cuisine and the staple foods are rice and fish whereas the Hindu cuisine in Goa is mainly pescetarian and lacto-vegetarian. Sorpotel, Xacuti (pronounced ‘shakuti’), Vindaloo (nothing to do with aloo or potato though but Portuguese term for a garlic and wine) with Catholic influence and fried fish (Nushte), Kismur (a side dish of dried fish), Bhaji (vegetables and fruits fritter), Tondak (a dish made with beans, cashews, etc) and Solachi kadi (a spicy coconut and kokum curry) with Hindu influence are some popular dishes.
Goa doesn’t lag behind in desserts either. You should not miss out tasting a slice of traditional Bebinca (pudding with as much as 16 layers or more if you like) or Kulkuls (a form of Filhoses Enrolodas - the Portugese Christmas sweet), Kokad (a coconutty Christmas sweet) and Dhol Dhol or Dodol (black rice Halwa – another Christmas time sweet) while in Goa.
Discover a whole lot of both these worlds at Eden Pavilion of ITC Sonar, Deccan Pavilion of ITC Kakatiya and The Pavilion of ITC Maurya all through this month.