A Durga Puja 2023 pandal in North Kolkata’s Tala Park area has combined Bengal’s love for Maa Durga and Phuchkas under a roof adorned with the popular street food snack. From the Durga idol being housed in a faux Phuchka to walls decked with the snack, here is everything about this pandal you need to know.
The fact that Durga Puja 2023 is one of the most important festivals of the year for Bengalis in India and around the world is very well known. Every year, Bengalis across major Indian cities and different parts of the world celebrate five days of Durga Puja to showcase their devotion to Maa Durga and her victory over the demon Mahishasura. Another thing Bengalis are famed for is their love of all things delicious, so naturally, many Durga Puja pandals around the world combine the love for Maa Durga and food. This year, a Durga Puja 2023 pandal in Kolkata is doing just that with the popular street food, Phuchka.
In a video that has now gone viral, one can get a glimpse of the unique Durga Puja 2023 pandal created by the Tala Park Prattay Durga Puja Samiti. The popular Durga Puja 2023 pandal situated in North Kolkata has managed to combine Bengal’s love for Maa Durga and Phuchkas, the popular street food, with immense creativity. The video shows how the entire pandal is decked with Phuchkas served in saal leaves, like it is still traditionally done across Bengal by street food vendors.
The video shows how the walls of the pandal are adorned with large Phuchka boxes brimming with wheat-flour Phuchka shells, along with chakla-belans used to prepare them. Even the ceiling and chandeliers have Phuchkas on them, while some walls have motifs made with saal leaves. The pratima or idol of Maa Durga at this pandal is also housed within what looks like a giant, artificial Phuchka shell. Definitely one of the most creative Durga Puja 2023 pandals in Kolkata, this Tala Park pandal should be on your must-visit list if you are in the city.
What Makes Kolkata’s Phuchkas Outstanding
Most people know Kolkata’s Phuchka as a version of Pani Puri or Golgappas, one of the most popular street foods of India. But do you know what makes Phuchkas so unique that a focus on them at the Tala Park Durga Puja makes utter sense? Anybody who eats Golgappas regularly would know that this dish is a medley of wheat or semolina puris, potatoes, sour tamarind water and many other additions like boondi, meetha pani, etc.
But what makes Kolkata’s Phuchkas unique is the focus on the balance of sour-spicy-sweet flavours (known as tok-jhaal-mishti in Bengali) in the mashed potato stuffing itself. Whereas Golgappas and Pani Puris manage to get this balance right with a blend of infused waters, Phuchkas manage to do this with just the mashed potato stuffing by adding plenty of chillies, tamarind paste and even some boiled chickpeas on occasion. This blend is always customised according to the tastes of the customers, with many preferring to add more chilli paste to make Phuchkas spicier.
The fact is, if you go looking for boondi-infused green and sour water in Kolkata while eating Phuchkas, you are not likely to find them. The Phuchka water usually highlights the sour and spicy flavours with tamarind and chillies. Thanks to the popularity of sweet water or meetha pani, many Phuchka vendors across the city have now started serving it on the side as well. But if you want a true, authentic taste of Phuchkas, then try it without any sweet water and get the vendor to customise the dish according to your spice tolerance levels.
Another thing that makes Kolkata’s Phuchkas incredible is the way they are served. While most places across India now offer up plastic or aluminium-coated bowls, Kolkata’s Phuchka vendors still use handmade saal leaf bowls. The sal leaves are dried until they turn brown, and are then secured into a conical shape with the help of twigs or thread. These eco-friendly crockeries are a key part of the Phuchka experience and simply should not be missed.