Last year, around this time, I was in Calcutta, in the thick of Kali Pujo. It was there that I fell in love with the beautiful Bhoger Khichuri, the Bengali khichdi that is offered as prasad to Kali Maa. The bub fell in love with the sweetish khichdi, too. When I returned back home to Bangalore, I began craving for the khichdi all over again, and learnt how to make it too. Today, it is a much-loved dish on our table, especially on winter evenings like this one.
The famed Kamakhya temple in Guwahati was the first pit-stop on our recent journey to North-East India.
I have been fascinated by this temple ever since I read about it a few years ago. I had heard that this is the temple of the ‘menstruating goddess’, the goddess who bleeds once every year and that people consider her menstrual blood sacred enough to dip their handkerchiefs in it and carry them home, as tokens of good luck. This temple was, definitely, one of the spots I had eagerly wanted to visit, as we planned out this trip to the North East.
Read all about our experience at the temple, here.
A long-cherished dream of mine came true last year – one of visiting Calcutta. This trip was very special because we accidentally landed in the city in the midst of one of its biggest festivals, Kali Pujo.
Do visit my photo blog here to read my thoughts on being in Calcutta in the thick of Kali Pujo. Thanks!
A while ago, one of the foodie Facebook groups that I follow had a post about something that I had never heard of before – Doodh Cola, a mix of milk and cola that many claimed to love to bits. The said drink is served at Balwant Singh’s Eating House in Calcutta, a dhaba which once churned it out on a whim (apparently), only to have it become hugely popular.
I happened to read the post just before we left for our Calcutta trip, and was desperate to try out the drink right from the very minute we landed in the city. I got an opportunity to do so a couple of days into the trip, when we visited Victoria Memorial and learnt that Balwant Singh’s Eating House was just a few minutes away from there. So, we hired a cab to take us there (at hugely inflated rates, because no one else we asked seemed to know the place), and he dropped us right at the spot.
We opted to sit in the non-airconditioned seating area of the restaurant, which was nothing more than a few tables and chairs put together in a decent-sized room. The menu was handed over to us – a pamphlet similar to the advertisement flyers that come with the daily newspaper. The ambience was much like that of a roadside dhaba, and we had no qualms with that.
After this, though, our visit turned downhill, I am sorry to say.
We ordered a Green Salad, about six phulka rotis, a Mushroom Masala, and a Chana Masala, and waited for our meal to arrive expectantly. Sadly though, nothing – absolutely nothing – tasted good. The salad vegetables weren’t even chopped well, the curries were spicy and oily and tasted absolutely meh, the rotis were thick and tough.
We persevered, and asked for the Doodh Cola, the supposed star of our dhaba visit, only to be told that we would have to buy a 1-litre jug, as they prepare it only in that particular quantity. We agreed, and were brought the drink in a plastic jug. Our spirits sank on seeing it – it looked sad, like split milk, with pieces of ice floating on top. It tasted sadder – very, very weird. To be honest, we found it unpalatable and the OH refused to drink it beyond a couple of sips. I gulped down one large kulhad full of it, just because I didn’t want to waste all of it, much against the feeling of queasiness that started welling up in my stomach with every sip. The rest of it, we left as is.
Sometimes, unheard-of combinations of foods/drinks can actually taste good, but this Doodh Cola was definitely not one such.
The meal was expensive, considering the ambience and the taste. It cost us close to INR 650, with the Doodh Cola itself costing us about INR 150.
Service was all right, nothing fantabulous, but not too bad either.
I’m not sure whether I’ll be going back to this place, the next time we are in Calcutta. Sad, considering that it is one of the few places in the city that serves pure vegetarian food, catering to people like the OH and me.
Have you ever eaten at this place? What was your experience like?
Remember I told you we found fresh, fresh water chestnuts in a Calcutta market? We absolutely had to get some home, and experiment with them. After all, I had never laid my eyes (or hands!) on fresh, straight-from-the-pond water chestnuts before. When we bought them, I was absolutely clueless about what I would do with them.
I asked the vegetable vendors what the locals do with the chestnuts aka caltrops (locally called ‘paniphal‘ or ‘singhada‘), and I was told they were usually eaten raw. Just peel them off and eat – they are super fresh, I was told time and time again. We did eat some raw, and quite liked the nutty flavour of them, though the taste of raw water chestnuts might not be for everyone.
Once back in Bangalore, I wanted to cook something with the water chestnuts. After some thought, I decided to make a Thai-style salad, keeping them raw, just as the locals prefer eating them. The end result was scrumptious, even if I say so myself.
Here is how I made the salad.
Ingredients (serves 2):
About 2 cups of fresh water chestnuts, peeled and chopped into large pieces
Salt, to taste
2 green chillies, finely chopped
A few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
A small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
1 tablespoon soya sauce
Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
1/4 cup peanuts, dry roasted till crisp, let to cool down and coarsely crushed in mixer for just a second
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
If you don’t think raw water chestnuts are your thing, you could roast them to make this salad.
Peeling raw water chestnuts can be quite an uphill task, I must warn you. That said, water chestnuts have a whole lot of health benefits and eating them raw can be the best thing you can do. I hope this gives you the much-needed motivation to keep at the tough task of peeling them, water chestnuts!
You can make the preparations for the salad well in advance, and mix it up just when you are ready to serve it. It isn’t advisable to keep the mixed salad standing for more than a few minutes, as there are chances of it turning into a soggy mess.
You like? I hope you will try this out, too!
Here are some other salads that I have made and loved: