Food Spot: With an English touch

Dish of chicken pantarash as part of anglo-indian food festival at Oh Calcutta restaurant. Photo: Meeta Ahlawat

Dish of chicken pantarash as part of anglo-indian food festival at Oh Calcutta restaurant. Photo: Meeta Ahlawat  

If you look hard you’ll still find some people getting all moony-eyed about the Raj. “The Brits gave us so much,” they say nostalgically. “Look at the railways, the hill stations, our educational institutes.” But what I find more interesting is what we didn’t take from them – their trademark English dishes. Instead, we did a fusion of the British and Indian food styles – and came up with something wonderful called Anglo-Indian food.

Many of the snacks that you get in cities such as Kolkata and Mumbai are the by-products of the two cultures. Cutlets and chops – crumbed and fried – are among the Anglo-Indian dishes that are now very much a part of our own cuisine. And there’s lot more, as I discovered recently when I was invited to join an Anglo-Indian food festival at Oh! Calcutta. I had small portions of a great many dishes, and was pretty much floored.

I have always been fond of Anglo-Indian cuisine, for it really celebrates the best of the two worlds. Chef Subir Deb of Oh! Calcutta points out that many of the British dishes were Indianised with the right doses of Indian spices. You will, for instance, find the use of cumin – or zeera – in Anglo-Indian food in Calcutta. The Anglo-Indian fried fish (Rs.495) tasted wonderfully of roasted cumin.

It’s not just the spices – the dishes blend with other Indian culinary traits as well. The grilled chicken (Rs.425) that the chef served us came on a bed of crispy bori, small dried and fried lentil balls that you find in many Bengali dishes. The pantheras (Rs.375) are crepes stuffed with curried minced chicken — the filling was rich and spicy, and the coating wonderfully crisp. Some food historians believe that Mog cooks from Chittagong, who were great culinary experts, created pantheras for their British bosses.

The festival includes Entally chicken sausages (Rs.425), named after a locality in Kolkata. I would have preferred pork sausages, but the restaurant doesn’t serve pork (or beef). The chopped sausages, cooked with peppers in a tomato sauce, were a bit too hot for me.

There’s an array for vegetarians, too. Some of these are meals in themselves, such as the vegetable hotpot (Rs.425), veggies in a tomato sauce, served with lemon-flavoured rice and rolls. I liked the roasted cauliflower (Rs.380), but focused more on the non-vegetarian dishes. The bhuna duck (pot-roasted with spices; Rs.645) was good, and I enjoyed the Dacres Lane roast chicken (Rs.495) for its creamy sauce and the Anglo-Indian meat ball curry (Rs.495).

The meat balls were nice and juicy, the gravy was rich, and went rather well with the aromatic yellow rice the meat dish came with. But I think what I liked the most were the grilled mutton chops (Rs.495) – succulent pieces of lamb, well-coated with Indian spices, and then grilled to perfection.

The dessert fare includes the jiggling caramel custard – which I like – and the bread and butter pudding. I had some of that, and then finished the meal with a steamed bhapa sondesh – which wasn’t on the Anglo-Indian menu, but which is simply out of this world. And that, indeed, was a sweet end to a greatly satisfying meal.

Rahul Verma is a seasoned street food connoisseur

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 1:37:02 AM |

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