Kolkata Fish Fry, The Iconic Snack With British Link!
Image Credit: Kolkata fish fry, Petukeshwari_2.0@Instagram

The food trail in Kolkata remains incomplete without devouring the crispy Kolkata Fish Fry. Often served with julienned onions, cucumbers and carrots and the quintessential Kasundi, or Bengali version of mustard sauce, fish fry holds the essence of this city. The crunchy coating outside perhaps narrates several struggles this part of the country had gone through to transform into what it is today. At the same time, the supple interior conveys the tender soul of the city expressing eternal love. Fish Fry might appear as just another must-eat snack or street food of Kolkata. But how many of us know that its genesis has a British link? Let's unwrap the layers of history enveloped in this iconic dish. 

Connection to British colonial rule

To learn about its origins, we must time-travel back to the era of British rule in India.  Kolkata, or Calcutta as it was known at the time, was India's capital. While cooking delights for the British officers, the Indian cooks were often directed to emulate European dishes. British country cuisine, a favourite of the Britishers, was in particular demand. The available indigenous ingredients and Indian produce were inadequate to replicate the same western flavour. As a result, the Bengali chefs began blending, tweaking, and flavouring the western recipes according to their culinary knowledge and expertise. This was when Kolkata Fish Fry and a few other raved and legendary dishes, such as Macher Chop and Kobiraji, came into existence. It won't be wrong to claim that British Fish and Chips is the inspiration for Calcutta Fish Fry. 

The flagbearers of the Kolkata Fish Fry

What was first prepared as a snack to appease the Angrez Babus (British officials) quickly gained popularity across Calcutta. Slowly, several local commercial eateries began to replicate the dish. So, a few cafes were pivotal in popularising such treats among the general public. In Kolkata, these snacks are still offered on the menus of several historic restaurants, including Mitra Cafe, Dilkusha Cabin, Nizam's, and Indian Coffee House. 

Iconic Kolkata fish fry at heritage Mitra Cafe, Image Source: tease_buds@Instagram

The most suggested places to get Kolkata fish fry, also known as fish cutlet, elsewhere, are heritage cabin-type cafes and street-side shops. Since the British era, Kolkata cabin-style fish fries have been the norm. A few other hubs are Chittoda's Suruchee Restaurant, Apanjan and Campari. Supple bhetki fillets coated in a fiery marinade, breaded, and deep-fried—simply mouthwatering!

Why Kolkata Fist Fry is unique?

The usage of sweet water fish barramundi or bhetki, is the highlight of the Kolkata Fish Fry. This particular fish species is famous for its fleshiness and lack of bones. It has a distinctive flavour. As a result, fish is the suitable option for the inner, tender fillet. With the crumb coating, the outer layer becomes crispy. Cucumbers, carrots, and thin slices of onion in a salad with a squeeze of lemon are typically served as a side dish. Bengali kasundi works perfectly as a pungent dip.

Next time you take a bite of Kolkata Fish Fry, relish its hundreds of years history adding to its taste.