It’s a common misconception, one that even I believed for a while, that Bengali cuisine is all about fishes, gol-gappas and rosogollas. Perhaps the idea existed because the Bengalis around me swore off vegetarian food with absolute hostility. This myth was broken first by my dear friend, Nishkala, from The Guiltless Foodies, when she hosted me for a Bengali lunch a year ago. Being a vegetarian with the aforementioned notion, I was quite sceptical about my experience. But I left TheGuiltless table pleasantly surprised. Not only was I introduced to a new side of Bengali cuisine, I grew an instant affection for it.
Taking this experience to the next level is the fair served at Jamavar‘s Bengali Food Festival. The opulent desi restaurant in The Leela offers its patrons a fine dine affair from the vibrant Indian cuisines, with various food festivals round the year. This time they’ve partnered with a team of incredibly talented chefs from Kolkata’s prestigious Aaheli, to plate a variety of mouth-watering Bengali dishes.
I started off with Gondhoraj Nimbu Sherbet that was served to me in a champagne glass. After a refreshing glass of sherbet, a plate full of appetizers was placed in front of me. My plate had portions of Chanar Patisapta – chenna stuffed spicy pancake, Piyaz Postor Bora – poppy seeds & finely chopped onion, green chilli patty cooked on griddle and Mochar Chop – banana blossom croquette deep fried in mustard oil. My favourite of the three was the Mochar Chop which I enjoyed with kasundi, a Bengali mustard chutney. Piyaz Postor Bora was a good one too. Chanar Patisapta, which came across as a crepe stuffed with paneer, was a slight let down as it completely lacked the spice element.
With some hits and some misses, the appetizers gave my lunch a fairly decent start. The mains, on the other hand, took the game a couple of notches higher. The dishes grew on me more and more with every bite. The vegetables and curries curated for me were Bhapa Chanar Utshab – homemade cottage cheese dumpling cooked in yellow saffron gravy, Dhokar Dalna – Bengali gram and red lentil cakes simmered in light gravy with red chilli, Mono Mohini Begun Bahar – brinjal cooked with thick mustard gravy and Piyaz Aloo Posto – cubes of onion and potato cooked with ground poppy seeds. These incredibly delicious vegetables and curries were accompanied by Bengali breads like Mottorshutir Kochuri, Pholko Loochi and Tinkonna Paratha. When one is served such a rich variety, one is bound to feel happily stuffed in the first round itself. The fight is then in choosing that one dish that’s your ultimate pick to fill that little vacancy, leaving you contented. My pick was the Begun Bahar.
I also relished a small portion of Suravi Polao – pulao cooked with dry fruits, green peas & cauliflower with Sonali Moong Dal – a unique preparation of green Grams cooked in traditional Bengali style.
After happily stuffing myself with such delightful dishes, there was little to no space for desserts. But one simply doesn’t turn away from the irresistible sweets from the sweetest state of the country. My dessert platter comprised of Paramanno – a traditional rice kheer, Gur er Raj Bhog – cottage cheese dumpling simmered in dates and jaggery syrup and Missti Doi – the classic sweetened yoghurt. Out of them all, Raj Bhog came out a clear winner.
My Bengali culinary experience ended with a juicy-sweet Magai Pan.
This being my third visit to Jamavar, I can say that I am always delighted by the dishes they curate for each of their food festivals. If you’re one of those initiated one who is interested in tasting the true Indian culinary culture, this is one of the best places the city has to offer.
The Bengali Food Festival at Jamavar opens its doors to patrons on 22nd January and will go on for the following three weeks.
You can read about my previous experiences here:
Experiencing The Flavours From India’s Most Royal Country
The Festival Of 2 States At Jamavar, The Leela, Mumbai