There is a bit of Bengal in every part of Delhi. The author discovers yet another Bengali food centre – Royal Kolkata Biryani in Chittaranjan Park

I don’t know if you have noticed, but Delhi has been taken over by Bengalis. Some 25 years ago, Bengali food was as hard to find as truffle oil in the city. There was a small canteen called Basu Lodge in Gole Market, a once predominantly Bengali neighbourhood which also had a tiny shop that sold Bengali sweets. Chittaranjan Park had its fish markets and a few Pice hotels. A couple of sweet shops sold a few savouries such as singaras, and that was all.

Now, if you throw a stone, you’ll probably hit a Bengali food outlet. There are all kinds of Bengali restaurants, small dhabas and stalls –from the high-end Oh! Calcutta to The City of Joy in Alaknanda, Golmorich and Hashmi’s biryani counter near Mayur Vihar. Indirapuram has Paribeshan, while there’s something called Panch Phoron in Mayur Vihar Phase 3. Aahar is in Pandav Nagar and in Katwariya Sarai, Suruchi is in Janakpuri, Probashi in Dwarka, Hangla’s in CR Park and Ki Hangla in Gurgaon. And, of course, kathi rolls are an essential part of Delhi’s street food today.

Not surprisingly, people who thought ilish was another word for eesh (made popular in Hindi films by a stream of women who wore white saris with red borders and bit their tongues every now and then) now know their paturi from their labda. And Kolkata biryani, which we once thought was an oxymoron, is now a dish that we all know of – and love.

Actually, I’ve been fond of the Kolkata biryani from the very beginning. I think that’s mainly because of the nicely browned potato that the dish comes with. Elsewhere, you get an occasional egg in your mutton or chicken biryani, but not potatoes. I love potatoes in my non-veg dishes, so Kolkata biryani has always appealed to me – I might as well confess that I eat the Bengali mangsher jhol mainly for the juicy potatoes that swim in the gravy.

I noticed a small shop in Chittaranjan Park selling Kolkata biryani some years ago and was most impressed by the light and delicious biryani it served. I went back to the market the other day, and found another shop. This one is called Royal Kolkata Biryani, and it is in Market 1, behind the fish section (Phone No: 9899237760).

When I saw that in a huge degh, rice was being steamed with mutton and spices, I quickly ordered three plates of it. When I took it home, I discovered that it came with a delicious saalan, or gravy. The saalan was hot, smooth and tasty, and the biryani was excellent. The meat, though browned more than necessary, was tender, and the rice had a nice flavor and taste. Of course, the potatoes were excellent.

The prices are reasonable. Mutton biryani is for Rs.160, chicken biryani for Rs.150 and egg biryani for Rs.120. The place also sells other dishes such as chicken chaap (Rs.120), chicken curry (Rs.120), chicken masala (Rs.150), mutton kosha (Rs.130), mutton korma (Rs.140) and mutton chaap (Rs.130). Then, of course, it has the ubiquitous rolls.

Now that the mad rush of the pujas is behind us, I shall go there one day and try out the chaaps. If those are good, I’ll be a loyal – or do I mean Royal – customer.

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