The diminishing sight of trams in Kolkata these days has led the West Bengal government to take such a decision.
Once a popular mode of transportation in the ‘city of joy’, trams or tramcars are no longer seen as a feasible way of conveyance in Kolkata. On my visit to the first capital of British India in the year 2019, there were two things that I was most excited to try. One was their lip-smacking fare and the second was a ride on their decade-old tram. I was hoping I would be able to do both of them in my five-day tour of the city but in vain. Although I chanced upon several good eateries and the famous foods of Kolkata, it was the latter that could not be fulfilled. I had assumed that trams would be running around the city in large numbers but it was quite far from reality. Our cab driver educated us on the subject and we were told that trams are no longer a widespread affair and run only in limited areas.
I was reminded of this incident with the recent news of the West Bengal government’s initiative to preserve the old tradition of Bengal i.e. the trams. For the unversed, trams are a kind of train or a station wagon that run on specially-designed tramways or tracks on the public streets. These were commonly used as a method of transport in the 19th century in Kolkata. Although the trams evolved from horse-pulled ones to the steam and electric ones of today, it hasn’t been able to keep up with the modern needs of fast-paced travel and newer modes of transportation.
In the wake of such a scenario, the West Bengal government announced that it would convert tramcars into restaurants serving the popular street foods of Kolkata. Being set up near the Mother Wax Museum, the tram would be stationed at the Eco Park of Newtown area. The restaurant will be offering a wide range of food items on its menu, thus attracting locals and tourists alike.
What’s On The Menu?
The restaurant has been designed to give you the old-Calcutta feels, with the posters of veteran movies and songs tugging at the walls of the diner. The use of painted cartoons and lamp posts lends the entire eatery a rustic vibe which will add to the experience of the customers. Operational from 12 pm in the afternoon to 9 pm at night, the tramcar has been refurbished to seat approximately 20 customers at a time.
Talking to one of the residents of Kolkata, Ishita Mishra seems rejoiced at the idea of this new venture. A working professional in her mid-twenties, she was born and brought up in Calcutta (as she likes to call it) and exclaims that she has taken the tram a couple of times in the past. She remarks, “Tram is a dying heritage/culture of Calcutta which everyone is trying their best to preserve. Very few trams still run in limited locations and so making a restaurant inside a tram is a really interesting way to keep its charm. Everyone enjoys eating and sitting in trains and trams and so it is going to be a nice experience, enjoying traditional cuisine while celebrating the legacy of trams”.
The tramcar-turned restaurant would be serving everything, from Indian delicacies to the desi Chinese of Kolkata along with the chatpata street food fare too. You can expect some crispy puchkas being prepared in one corner while mughlai parathas and kathis rolls being tossed on the tawa in another. Hakka noodles, manchurian, manchow soup, fried rice and many more Kolkata-style Chinese flavours will unfold on your plate at this restaurant.
If you’re not in Kolkata to enjoy their delicious fare, here are some recipes you can try at home.
1. Mughlai Paratha
Deep-fried and flaky is what the Mughlai paratha is all about. Stuffed with spicy minced meat (keema), the maida-roti is made thick with a layer of egg on top of it. This is then rolled up into a parcel and served with onion rings and green chutney.
2. Machher Chop
Fish chops or fish cutlets are one of the most loved street foods of Bengal. Shredded fish is mixed with potatoes and spices to be rolled into rectangular shapes. These are then coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried till they turn golden-brown.
3. Chicken Manchurian
By now, you would have guessed how much the Bengalis love meat. This Chicken manchurian is a gift of the Chinese and Tibetan settlers in the region who invented this dish.