As our country, the land of cultural diversities and festivals, is celebrating the Navaratri festival, one community has been gearing up to get dripped with nostalgia. Durga Puja, which is known affectionately as ‘pujo’ or ‘Durgotsav’ to Bengalis, is celebrated with dance, food, music, grandeur and community gatherings. So, whether you are a ‘probashi’ or an expat Bengali or even if you do not have any Bengali parentage, this socio-cultural event will enthral you and your near and dear ones irrespective of geographical proximity. It’s no secret that Bengalis are foodies and Durga Puja is a testimony to this fact. While the country, especially the northern and western part of it, celebrates Navratra by fasting every day, Bengalis seem to have a gala time, eating the lip smacking delicacies, especially the trademark sweets are worth relishing. On a lighter note, fasting is restricted to daytime, till ‘pushpanjali’.
Probably one of the best things about Durga Puja is the “Bhog”– an amalgamation of the khichdi which has an addition of mixed vegetables like – cauliflower, green peas, potatoes, carrots etc. with other Bengali delicacies like papad, payesh (kheer) and tomato chutney. This is given to all poor people who come there, and they sit along with everyone else and eat their food.
As you start pandal hopping, you should try these mouth-watering and spicy stuffs which will make you forget about boring office evenings.
Ghugni: An aboriginal street food, made with dried yellow or white peas, and is spicy and sweet at the same time. You will get a vegetable version as well as one with minced mutton.
Samosa and Jalebis: Samosa or ‘Shingara’ is one food item that you will like to have. If you get palatable Jalebis , there is nothing more you can ask while roaming in the streets during Durga Puja.
Phuchka: One street food that rules the bylanes of Kolkata and wherever the Bengalis reside. A must during Durga Puja. This spicy and delicious item will leave you spellbound. Try it!
Radhaballabhi: A puri stuffed with dal and veggies. Though it is predominantly a breakfast dish, one can have a few in the evening.
Kathi Rolls: Five days of Durga and you would like to taste different categories of it on those five days.
Chops and cutlets: You don’t like oily food items for the health. Right? Forget the cholesterol part during Durga Puja; grab crumb-fried oblong cutlets with ‘Kasundi’ or tartar sauce. It could be made with vegetables (with beetroot playing a big role), potatoes, chicken, fish, or mutton keema.
You can try these:
Fowl/Chicken cutlet, Fish Fry, Fish Orly, Kabiraji, Dimer (egg) Devil, Mochar Chop (deep-fried banana blossom croquettes), Prawn Cutlet, Mangsher Chop (minced mutton croquette, crumb-coated and deep-fried).
Main Course Dishes
Now it’s time for dinner and you are looking for the dishes which will fill as well as satisfy your stomach. You can have these.
Kolkata Biryani: An authentic Kolkata-styled Mutton or Chicken Biryani with a chunky potato is a must. The grains have to be long and separate and have that yellow tinge without fail. You will get it from the stalls installed near pandals.
Luchi and Mangsho: A Bengali dish which you want to try. Little and plump puris made with refined flour, to be eaten with Kosha Mangsho (mutton), is perhaps one of the most important parts of the puja tradition.
Mishty Pulao: The delicious Mishty (sweet) Pulao with a fish curry of sorts, is something worth trying. Typically made with small grained fragrant rice, further sweetened with sugar and raisins, and spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, javitri, saffron, etc. It is an absolute treat.
The most important part. When you are into a Bengali surrounding, you have to try sweets.
Quintessential ‘Mishty Doi’ (sweetened curd) along with Bengal’s most famous dessert, ‘Sandesh’ and Rosogolla is a must.
‘Bhapa Sandesh’ or the steamed version, Chum chum, Dudh pulisita bhog, Chandrapuli, Bundi laddoo, Lobongo lotika, Chhena jalebi (a jalebi made of cottage cheese instead of flour) and Jal bhara Sandesh (a sandesh with a liquid centre), Kheer puli (a doughy sweet dish made predominantly of kheer) are some of the delectable dishes which you can opt for.
So, buy cloth that suits you, take your family, friends and visit an area that boasts of a sizeable Bengali population and you will have an experience of a lifetime. Please try to spread the warmth and joy to others, especially the underprivileged ones, and you will get the real taste of ‘Mishty doi’.