For me, the Kachori is THE playboy in Bengali breakfast scenario. No, not the Luchi, it has got its limitations in terms of accompaniments (at least for breakfast). But Kachori, no sir, the possibilities are endless. I’ll try to narrate few of the experiences of mine with the Kachori, flirting with different accompaniments and being successful at it. And, secondly, I’ll try to talk about the Bengali styled Kachori and Radhabalavi and not the Marwari styled ones (for the simple reason that they need a separate article for them).

Let’s start with the early risers in south Calcutta. Have you been to theshop called Sri Hari which is bang opposite the Bhawanipore police station? From around 6 am, it is thronged with clients for more than last 100+ years (the typical pot-bellied bhadroloks/gentry) demanding their packets. Now, these guys have these packets very, very, standardized. Hold tight, even today for Rs. 9, you can have their breakfast combo – a small paper packet (thonga) with 4 small hard deep fried Kachoris and a chink of sweet Halwa. Yes, they serve Kachoris with Halwaand for the simple space constraint (their famed Kachori dal starts by 6.30 am). These packets are sold across the counter and have to be consumed outside or parceled for home consumption. Trust me, the Kachoris are hard, halwa lack ghee or any dry fruits, but when you put them both in your mouth, they somehow tend to make love and the feeling is awesome.

So, once you are through, drive towards Maddox Square where you may find your next destination. For a Bengali breakfast, the standard accompaniment forKachoris is Chholar Dal and trust me, heads will roll if the Dal is not sweet. Don’t smirk please, that’s how we love it. We Bengalis are very particular about Rabindrasangeet, SauravGanguly and our sweets. So, live with it.

Welcome to Mrityunjoy Ghosh and sons where the Kachori (and Radhaballavi at a later part of the morning) and PhulkopirSinghara (called samosa in north India) is something to die for. You should have some time in hand. Because, due to some strange reason, they never keep their Kachoris ready and always do so whenever you place the order. Wait for 5 minutes and those steaming hot Kachoris with a dollop of sweet dal will be handed over to you. Don’t wait, pounce on it and tear it in half, dip it in the dal − put it in your mouth. I know it’s hot but bear with it and feel the pure joy. My advice − don’t make the mistake of ordering the AlooSabzi with it and go instead for the dal. Sheer heaven.

Ok, now comes the tricky part. The genre of Aloo (potato) Sabzi. I prefer to divide the vast territory into 3 major areas. AlooChhechki (chopped potato cooked into a semi-mashed vegetable, AlooSabzi with gravy and a proper AlooDum. I’ll mention 3 shops for these 3 varieties.

For the first variety, one has to go to Putiram near College Square. In the morning, they prepare their heavenly Kachori with AlooChhechki. The Kachoris are small in size here, but the hing (Asafetida) flavor is mesmerizing. These guys make a proper hingKachori in the Bengali-styled Kachori segment in Calcutta. And the AlooChhechki is heavily powered by ginger. So, together, it’s a killer combo.

For the AlooSabzi with gravy, you need to drive towards Khanna Cinema Hall from Manicktola,and atKhanna Stoppage take a left towards Hatibagan. After few buildings on your right, (during the morning hours), you may suddenly find that a large crowd in what appears to be a fighting match. This shop has no name but the lines outside will be the best indicator that you are about to partake in something special. Join in the fight, stick in your hand, shout “2 pieces please/ dada dutodeben” and they’ll hand you a shalpata conical plate with 2 piping hot Kachoris with the AlooGravy put on it. Congratulations, you’ve found your reason to live in Calcutta!

Next comesthe AlooDum. Here, I’ll mention one shop called Annapurna MishtannaBhandar, mostly unheard and tucked inside a bazaar in Beliaghata. On the Beliaghata Main Road, if you’re going towards CIT More (crossing) from AlocchayaStoppage, on your right hand side, you’ll find Rashmoni Bazaar. There’s off course no parking space available (legal at least) so, take the adjacent lane of the market. Cross the bazaar with roadside stalls and after the temple on your left, you’ll find this shop. From 8.30 -9 am onwards, they start to offer the AlooDum with the Kachori (god knows why). The Radhaballavi (they call it Kachori) is good but the dry AlooDum is fabulous. It’s a little spicy with ginger flavor pre-dominating, but it’sdelicious. The shop is not very clean,so get the Radhaballavi-AlooDumto take out. It’s definitely one of the best places I’ve experienced.

In certain parts of the city Kachoris are served with Nihari! In winter, if you find 100 people fighting inside a shop at 5 am, welcome to Sufiya in Chitpur. As strange it may sound, Sufiya operates from 4.30 am – 10.30 pm on all days. To reach it go to the Nakhoda Mosque in Chitput and Sufiya lies in the lane beside it. Once you get in the shop and take your seat, you’ll find a person with a large Nihari gravy handi and lots of tiffin boxes (containers) getting filled-up as per the requirement written on top of them. Kachoris with Sattoo stuffing are being prepared outside on the pavement and tandoor is inside for Rotis. Once you order your Nihari, you can also try the mutton liver and ishtew. And like the old college days, remember to share this with your friends as the quantity of any one dish (coupled with Kachori/ roti served hot and fresh) is enough to fill up a heavy-eater’s morning breakfast.

So, Halwa/Dal/AlooChhechki/AlooSabzi/AlooDum/ Nihari….. phew, Kachori in Calcutta has definitely has got its share of lovers and who’re we to object ? But, please remember, there are numerous other shops/ joints in Calcutta who make fabulous food too but could not be covered in this single article. So, please enjoy and keep eating….

Bon appetite !!!

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