BENGALURU: Rice, ghee, aloo sheddho (mashed potato), dal, aloo bhaja (crispy potato fries) – having the all-essential potato dishes on the menu, something is still amiss. Any guesses? Ask a Bengali and he/she will promptly tell you, “Of course! It’s the gondhoraj lebu (lime) that’s missing!”Over centuries, gondhoraj lebu has been a welcome guest in Bengali households and even today, it is considered as a dear relative of all types of dal and in some cases, fish and chicken curries cooked in the kitchen.
Known to be a cousin of kaffir lime and having no such English word in the dictionary, gondhoraj keeps its head held high as the ultimate ‘king of aromas’, the essence of which can be felt even from a few metres away. Oh! Calcutta in Church Street is hosting the Gondhoraj Cocktail and Mocktail fest, and true to its spirit, we went Oh! Gondhoraj after the meal.
To beat the heat, we were offered Gondhoraj Lychee Cooler, which was simply aromatic, fruity and soothing. The lime and its leaves did the magic of accentuating the magical aroma and lychees in the drink put in more flavour, turning the mocktail into an absolute delight. My dining companion had the Gondhoraj Lychee Caipiroshka, a vodka-based cocktail infused with flavours of the East. The vodka-mixed lychees gathered at the bottom of the glass gave a nice kick to the start of a sumptuous Bengali dinner ahead.
Oh! Calcutta’s fortnight-long summer food festival, Grishher Khabar, includes innovative yet traditional recipes, keeping in mind the ingredients that are essential to the summer cuisine. For starters, we had Sosha Diye Bhapa Maach, which is steamed boneless fish with cucumber and mustard. Soft bhetki fish topped with slices of cucumber melted in our mouth, with the right amount of spices and mustard that left our Bengali taste buds wanting some more.
Coming to the course that is fit for a king, we were served rice along with Jhinge Pabda Aam Jhol, Lau Chingri, Doi Moricher Mangsho, Kancha Aam Diye Maacher Paturi and Enchorer Dalna. Only a Bong will understand the feeling of ‘maa er haater ranna’, (mom’s cooking), especially when he/she is living outside Bengal, and the main course reminded us of just that.
The Jhinge Pabda dish, which is butterfish cooked with green mango and ridge gourd, is known for its amazing health benefits. Although the fish was not too fresh, the flavour came out really well, as anything that has hints of raw mango gives a tantalising taste to it.
Lau Chingri, or bottle gourd cooked with prawns, is again a common dish prepared back home. With the right amount of ginger, tempered with dry red chillies and cumin, we loved this dish with rice.
Chicken or mutton, when cooked with yoghurt, gives a creamy scrumptious flavour to the meat, and Doi Moricher Mangsho was no exception. The mutton, stewed in a clay pot, was cooked with yoghurt and black pepper and its richness got to us quite well.
The Maacher Paturi, which is steamed fish marinated with mustard paste and wrapped in banana leaf, was marinated with green mango and stood out as our favourite. It was as soft as it could get, and the spices helped amp up the flavour. The jackfruit cooked in onion and tomato gravy (Enchorer Dalna) was wholesome, which we relished till the end of the course.Lastly, we ordered Nolen Gurer ice-cream, which is date palm jaggery added to the dessert, and ended our dinner on a sweet note. The summer food festival is on till June 25 and cost for two is Rs 1,700 (approx).