The Cutlet Of Calcutta: Tracing Its Story

The curious case of the cutlet still mesmerizes foodies. Food enthusiast or not, the cutlet is one dish you can barely ignore. It is one item present on menu cards from Japan to the UK. 

The Origins

  • Originally derived from the French favourite cotelette, the name signifies creating involvement in the cutlet. It means to form, coat, and fry. Remember how you make a base or body, dip the same in a coating of egg or slurry, and then re-coat it before giving it a flash fry?
  • Cutlets come in varied avatars and have subsidiaries such as the chop competing for attention. As Bengal calls it, cutlet or "kaatlet" dates back to colonial times. The Portuguese can be credited with introducing potatoes to India. Given that these colonists strongly influenced Bengal's Bandel, the Bong love for potatoes is evident. Bengalis can use potato in every and any dish! I vouch for this.

Tracing The History

  • When the British came to Bengal, Lord Amherst started the cultivation of potatoes. Around those times, the colonial cooks mashed up boiled potatoes and mixed up minced meat to make the neat cutlet.
  • The Bengalis already loved fried stuff, and the cutlet seemed to be a perfect find. Gradually, cutlets became so common that even leftover sabzis found a way into becoming a cutlet. It was quick to make, presentable and filling at the same time. 
  • Later on, the kabiraji cutlet came to be another innovation. Then that is for another story on another day. Gradually, the Bengali love for fish went into the way of cutlets. The cooks started experimenting with fish fillets and coating those to fry them. 
  • The heritage hub Indian Coffee House in College Street Kolkata popularized the cutlet moving forward. It was akin to finger food, and intellectuals meeting up for an adda session would find the dish easy to munch on while engaging in conversation.

Summing Up With Popular Appeal

Later on, the Mitra Cabin popularized the Afghani cutlet in restaurant culture though this was more of an innovation. However, it only sealed Bengal's love affair with cutlet even more and how! No wonder a cutlet is available at the moat niche and heritage restaurants of Bengal as well as the shabbiest of corner shops across your locality.

Satarupa B. Kaur has been writing professionally for a decade now. But, she is always on the go; she loves to travel, books, and playtime with her toddler as she explores new places and food!