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A great start to New Year

The kachoris of Arun’s Tea Stall

The kachoris of Arun’s Tea Stall   | Photo Credit: 02dmc rahul2

The kachoris and samosas of Kolkata’s Arun’s Tea Stall are indeed something to write home about

My friends from Calcutta –– and despite my best efforts, I have quite a few –– hold strong views about the food of the city that they grew up in. They can hold forth for long hours on the Chinese food of Tangra, or the mixed grills of Oly Pub, or the steaks of Mocambo on Park Street even though they haven’t gone back there for years. They are all passionate (and partisan) about food, but if there is one subject on which they can talk till the cows come home, it is that of street food.

I just have to mention the word golgappa to get them going about phuchka, the Bengali variant of the paani puri. They will wax eloquent about how the sweet-and-sour water in the phuchka is so much better than that in the golgappa, and how the mashed tangy potatoes beat the chopped potatoes and chickpeas that you find in the north. You have to mention the word kachori, and they’ll go lyrical about the kachoris of Calcutta –– the crispy khasta kachoris, the pea-filled kachori, the kachori with dal sautéed in hing and so on. On the streets of Calcutta, they will tell you, you’ll get the best of kachoris.

It has to be said that they aren’t very wrong. My sojourns in Calcutta usually revolve around new restaurants or some food-filled chats with the chefs there. So, much as I love street food, I don’t get to eat it much. Once, with one of the aforementioned friends, I made a plan of going to a Chinese neighbourhood for what he had promised was going to a delicious Chinese roadside breakfast of fish dumplings in broth and buns filled with pork. But he overslept, and I never went there.

But during my last few visits to Calcutta, I noticed a high level of activity at a street corner near the guest house where I was staying. This corner of Shakespeare Sarani and Hungerford Street always has a crowd of people. So one day I sauntered there to see what the excitement was all about and found a man selling kachoris. And everybody around was eating them with real gusto.

The place is called Arun’s Tea Stall. I bought some hot hing key kachoris and discovered several facts. One, Calcutta street food is cheaper than Delhi’s street food. A plate of four kachoris with a potato and chickpea curry came for Rs.30. Second, I realised why there was such a crowd there –– the kachoris were excellent. And third, I had to admit that my friends from Calcutta were not off the mark: Calcutta street food is indeed something to write home about.

Arun’s kachoris are small and soft, and nicely flavoured with onion seeds. The vegetable curry is excellent, not over-spiced, but mildly fragrant and hot. I found that Arun also sells samosas and jalebis for Rs.10 a piece (or samosas with sabzi for Rs.20). I bought some samosas, and loved the filling of small cauliflower florets flavoured with peanuts and ginger. Arun’s khasta kachori is for Rs.10. As is the tea that comes in a khullar.

This is a popular spot in this part of Calcutta. On a Sunday morning, I found a huge group of morning walkers, wearing their jogging suits and sneakers, having a healthy breakfast of kachoris and tea (sure beats muesli and curd!). No doubt, their families at home thought they were out on a brisk walk.

Arun’s kachoris, one can tell, are special. And, anyway, a good burp is a good way to end a week. And start a New Year!

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 6:39:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/A-great-start-to-New-Year/article13975189.ece

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