Foodies tell Slurrp about their favourite food-related Pujo memories, and where you too can sample them.
PUJO in Kolkata is a time when families come together, no matter in what far-flung corner of the world they ordinarily reside, to celebrate this most important of all festivals in Bengali social life. You'll hear a lot about food, because food is an integral part of Durga Puja. In fact, think-pieces on "why Bengal feasts while the rest of India fasts (for Navratri)" are common for this very reason. From the offerings for Ma Durga to the bhog shared with members of the community after the rituals are completed, and even the myriad stalls and eateries that offer their most delectable fare to the surging crowds in the city: there are few aspects of Pujo in which food does not feature. Here, foodies tell Slurrp about their favourite food-related Pujo memories, and where you too can sample them:
DEBJANI CHATTERJEE | @foodofdebjani
While I do enjoy preparing traditional delicacies at home during Pujo, there are definitely some restaurant favourites that I also indulge in. When dining out during Pujo, I seek a place that not only offers delectable cuisine, but also provides a serene and pleasant atmosphere. Therefore, my choice would be the Oberoi Grand lunch.
Every year, Grand delights its customers with a fantastic selection of Bengali cuisine. With an array of delicately prepared dishes to choose from, I am particularly drawn to their dessert offerings. Their spread of sweets, including kheer kodom and komola bhog, is truly amazing. Although I am uncertain about this year's offerings, based on my previous experiences, Grand holds a special place in my heart.
Photos via @foodofdebjani
Where: The Oberoi Grand,15, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Dharmatala, Kolkata - 700013
DOLON DUTTA CHOWDHURY | @poutpretty
Food is an integral part of Pujo and with my friends, we would plan weeks in advance which of the pandals we would visit and what we would eat there. In my college days in the late '90s, there weren't as many restaurants and cafes in the city as there are now so we would pretty much go to the same places every year. We did not have a lot of money so mostly we would eat things like biryani (it was quite cheap back then), roll, phuchka etc, but we would make it a point to have at least one special meal in a fancy restaurant on Park Street during Pujo and that was something we all really looked forward to. I have very fond memories of those meals with my friends.
Bar-B-Q is more than 60 years old and still serves some of the best Indian-Chinese food in the city. My favourites are the chilli chicken and mixed fried rice that I've been having for years now and I've got very happy memories associated with these dishes. I'll also recommend the Hakka Noodles, Drums of Heaven, Golden Fried Prawns, Spring Rolls and Double Fried Pork.
Where: The Bar-B-Q, Mother Teresa Sarani, Park Street, Kolkata - 700016
ANINDYA BASU | @pikturenama
Being born in Chandernagore, my Kolkata memories of food and Pujo are none. But in the first year of our marriage (editor's note: Anindya and his wife run the Instagram channel pikturenama) my wife took me to Sankar's Fry, known for their fish fry, at Triangular Park. It's been 18 years of our marriage, and at the same time 18 years of our association with Sankar's fish fry. That is one fish fry I swear by.
Apart from Apanjan (another Kolkata eatery), Sankar is the maestro when it comes to making fish fry. The fine cuts of the filet, the marinade, the breadcrumb coating and the crisp fry... it is just amazing! The other item from Sankar's Fry that I would recommend is the Cheesy Chicken, which happens to be one of their own creations. Layers of cheese in between chicken and then crumb fried — all of this makes it a delectable dish.
Kolkata's street food is known worldwide; it is often called the street food capital of India. And street food and Pujo are almost inseparable. Yes, there's phuchka, biryani and other restaurant food also, but telebhaja (fritters), fish fry, cutlets etc. that are made here in Kolkata are completely different to anything anywhere else in the world. So, if you are pandal hopping, or simply out with friends during Pujo, or just want to lift up your spirits, street food becomes an essential component. And fish fry, for me, has got a certain theatrical element to it: the way it is served directly from the pan to your plate, with a dash of kasundi and some salad to go along. In some ways, Pujo is also very theatrical with all the colours, light and exuberance of life, isn't it?
Photos via pikturenama.com
Where: Sankar's Fry, 119, Rashbehari Avenue, Kolkata - 700029.
POORNA BANERJEE | @panushwari
My fondest memory of a Kolkata eatery during Pujo is very recent. About 3-4 years ago, I went to a place called Barkaas in the Park Circus region -- the road which goes from Park Street towards Park Circus. It basically serves mandi and the best part is that it stays open till late at night.
In 2021, during the pandemic, I was out with two of my friends. We were very hungry, and we were not risking eating outside at that time. But I couldn't resist not taking them to Barkaas. The restaurant serves a huge piece of meat on kabsa rice called Laham Mandi and we all love that.
The dish is really special because you can share this with everybody, as many people as you can. It's one huge plate of food and you share that with others. I think that's why it is great during Pujo. Of course, there is the usual street food fare: roll, chow mein, phuchka etc. But for me, during Pujo, if I am going to eat somewhere, I would like to go to a place where I can sit down and eat. And during Pujo, finding that is very difficult. So, to find a place like Barkaas where I could sit and eat with my friends was rather lovely. It wasn't empty then, there was a good crowd but the service was also pretty good.
Even today, I had the same meal. It is probably the nth time I've been to Barkaas. I've sort of brought people to eat together. We usually don't share a plate [of food], but eating and sharing the same dish with so many friends makes me happy.
Where: Barkaas Arabic Restaurant, Mother Teresa Sarani, Mullick Bazar, Park Street, Kolkata - 700017
SAYANTANI MAHAPATRA | @ahomemakersdiary
I think it was just before COVID hit us. We were roaming around Salt Lake with our two small kids on the night of Ashtami. When it was dinner time we wanted to have some good food but most restaurants were already booked. By chance, we got a table at a quaint place called Abcos. My husband who'd visited this joint previously wanted us to try the Elaichi Raan.
It was rather late into the night and we were worried and feeling guilty for not booking ahead of time, especially with the kids. But the restaurant was generous and courteous to accommodate us that night.
The plating was beautiful with rice and a whole leg of mutton (boneless) on a bed of flavoured rice and veggies. The food was really well prepared. I have had raan at many places but here the meat was really tender and without being heavy on the spices it was very flavourful. Even our daughter who was five at that time had her share without any problem.
Where: Abcos Food Plaza, Behind Manipal Hospital, IB Block, Sector 3, Bidhannagar, Kolkata - 700106