Today I’m going to let you all know about the inspiration behind the dishes of Calcutta Street. Obviously the main courses and the bulk of the Calcutta Street menu are inspired by my mum’s cooking, but a HUGE part of the inspiration (as the name might suggest) is Calcutta itself. Calcutta is a vibrant city which is so rich in culture and history, but when I was growing up, the thing I really appreciated (and still do) was the food.
When I was growing up, my mum would always make incredible food, but as a child you never fully appreciate the great cooking you have at home, so the food I most looked forward to as a young girl was often snacks and desserts from my favourite hubs. One I often visited that you might have heard of is Golpark. Golpark was just down the road from my house on Gariahat Road, and is still full of snack vendors and food stalls. The variety of food was staggering – anything a young child could possibly want, from phuchka to ghoogni, to kebabs and chops. Some of my most fond childhood memories are making my way home from school, and picking up a snack from Golpark.
On Saturdays, when I had dance classes instead of school, I used to love skipping lunch at home (sorry Mum!!), and head over to New Market for an egg roll from Badshah or Bedouin. When it came to putting street food on the menu, having egg rolls was a no-brainer; they’re a real staple of Bengali street food.
New Market today
New Market in 1945 – it’s changed a lot since then!
Another staple of Bengali cuisine is sweets; Bengalis can’t have a fridge without sweets in it at all times of the day. My mum and grandad (even though he has diabetes!) always made sure that there were sweets from Chittaranjan Avenue at home. My mum especially always made the effort to trek all the way there to get our favourites. Even though we can’t actually bring Chittaranjan Avenue to London, we’ll do our best to make a Bengali home in Fitzrovia, sweets and all!!
Me with my lovely mum outside her university
Sweet shop in Chittaranjan Avenue
So that’s my trip down memory lane, and I can’t wait to bring my small part of Calcutta to London for all of you to enjoy. See you soon!!
P. S. Here’s a video where I’m making the Doi Phuchka:
I am so sorry for spending so much time away from my lovely blog that has got me where I am today. I promise to be a regular again (and I mean it this time!). The reason I’ve been so quiet is because I’ve been busy working towards the launch of my restaurant Calcutta Street, which is opening on 18th July at 29 Tottenham Street, London (Just off Goodge street station) and this blog post is to fill you in on the crazy journey its been!
For all of you who have been following this blog from the start in 2010 – MASSIVE HUGS! Seriously, if you hadn’t followed, encouraged, and supported me back then (when I was posting those horrible webcam videos), I probably would have given up.
In December 2014, I decided to go on a soul-searching trip to the USA all by myself. If you have been a follower, then you might have read my post (and you’ll know that it was more eating than soul searching!) and I had a eureka moment; I knew I wanted to start my food popup.
I got back to London and mulled the idea over for a few months before I decided on a name for the popup – Calcutta Street. Magically, I found a lovely restaurant owner; Steve from Zensai who let me use his restaurant to host a popup. That’s when it all really began – 7th March, 2015.
You can follow the rest of the first year on this very blog through articles and posts about the popups – just scroll down and you can see.
Popups are one thing but opening a restaurant in London is a whole different game – I had always dreamt about it but had thought that it was too far-fetched to achieve.
But that doesn’t mean it was a smooth ride, because each time I even mentioned the idea of starting a restaurant, I would hear the same things a thousand times:
“You are crazy!”
“You are twenty-six, a girl and international on top of that – you will never raise funding.”
“Restaurant is a tricky business, don’t quit your steady job.”
“No one gives funding to single-founder businesses.”
So on and so forth.
But I thought – OK, all that might be true but where’s the harm in trying? I might end up homeless (because I won’t have money to pay rent) but I have friends who will happily lend me their couch to sleep on! I might end up crying every day, but salt water is good for your skin!
So I did it. I decided to quit my job and take the plunge. I wrote a business plan, presented it to people, began the property search, and before I knew it I was fully funded! OK, so I missed out the crying sessions, sleepless nights and surviving on one meal a day bit – but that’s just part of the job!
Next came the tricky part; the fifty-year-old commercial property owners, who firstly refused to believe that I was twenty-six (do I really look like I’m in high school?!), and that I had the money or skills to start a restaurant. Three properties fell through and I eventually found a home in Fitzrovia – my favorite restaurant spot in London. Good things happen those who wait (even if they don’t wait patiently!!).
Finally, after jumping all these hurdles, I managed to gather together a team – project manager, creative director, architect, interior designer, branding guru, menu developer and builders. A bunch of us flew to Calcutta for a research trip for a week, had a blast shopping and soaking in every bit of the wonderful city. The trip also gave me an opportunity to introduce my team to my mum’s delicious home cooking, which after all was the inspiration behind everything!
Alex and Ed dancing in Calcutta
Colour scheme inspiration
Classic Calcutta – rickshaws and trams
View from 33 Gariahat Road (my family home)
Guess where these fans are gonna get used!
I’ll spare you the boring parts of legal, structural engineering, building control, property issues, and get right on to the fun stuff, like building the site, writing the menu copy, creating the website, design, identity, recruitment, music development, food development and all sorts of exciting things. All these different elements make it feel like I’m directing a movie, and the premiere is on the 18th July! It’s exciting and stressful, but after all this, can I handle criticism about my baby? All I want is everyone to love it as much as I do, and even though I know that you can’t please everyone, if you guys keep showing the love that you always have, then that would be enough. I promise to keep entertaining you, keep in touch, and not disappoint you – even if that means the occasional silly video!
Chandelier made with Bengali hand fans
Lease signing party – The Family
Lease signing party 2
I’m about to get drenched in champagne
Our dining room in development
Working hard painting our temporary sineage
By the way, here is a shameless promotion for our social media. Show us some love!!!
Press coverages are always special but some of them are a tad bit more special than the rest. Couple of weeks back The Telegraph in India featured a story on Calcutta Street, yes it’s a regular press story but it meant a lot more because of more reasons than one – this is a newspaper that I grew up reading , it is the largest newspaper of Calcutta (my hometown) where my family still resides. When the story was out I was sleeping here in London (it was 4 am) and my whatsapp went bonkers with messages from people who I haven’t even spoken to in years or even decades. All I can say is it was emotional.
So I have been taking you through my journey from Eatwithmeshrimoyee to Calcutta Street. I have been doing Pop-ups at restaurants for the last few months but this time I decided to take up the challenge of doing a food stall at a festival. It is a great opportunity for marketing your brand and reaching out to a wide range of people but it definitely has a lot of challenges. A lot of people have been asking me about the challenges of having a food stall, the first one would be getting all the licences and certificates including – HACCP, Food and Hygiene licence and certification with the local council. Once you overcome these you can have a food stall but then comes the challenges on the day, in order to maintain quality you need to be extremely organised and be prepared with everything including washing up liquid because you have no guarantee of a proper kitchen with a sink. And finally it’s always tricky to estimate the amount of food you should buy, so my suggestion would be to have clear idea of how much you need to sell to make a profit and just buy that amount otherwise you might just land up with a ton of extra food – no one can guarantee foot fall in a festival.
My experience at Bollywood Fever at South bank was great over all as I got fabulous response from the people who came, I also added an element of photobooth which people love at festivals and also brilliant for my branding! The dishes I made were extremely simple – Doi Phuchka, Doi Aam and Churmur. All these dishes except doi aam come from the streets of Calcutta and I was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone loved them as much as I do and the Indian’s said it reminded them of home.
Here is the Doi Phuchka recipe for you.
Ingredients (One plate)
Pani Puri (6) You can find them at any Indian store, try Bangla Town in Brick Lane.
Chaat Masala (You can find this at any Indian Store too)
Bhujiya (It’s similar to a bombay mix)
Fresh Coriander and Green chillies
Dry fry the cumin seeds, coriander powder and chilli flakes in a pan, don’t use any oil. After about 2-3 minutes you will start getting a beautiful aromatic smell from them and it will turn slightly red. Keep it aside.
Beat the yogurt to a fine consistency
Mash the potatoes add the dry fried spice mix to it, lemon juice, fresh coriander and chillies,kala channa and a tea spoon of tamarind paste. Then mash it all together.
Make holes in the pani puri’s and add the potato mix
Then arrange all 6 of them in a plate and add yogurt on top (1/2 spoon for each puri)
Then sprinkle the bhujiya and chaat masala on top
Finally add the tamarind sauce on top (1/2 tea spoon for each puri)
I will be popping up again this weekend (23rd and 24th May) at Southbank at Bollywood Fever festival. I will be serving quintessential Calcutta Street Food including – Doi Phuchka (Pani puri with potato, yogurt, tamarind chutney and coriander); Churmur (Crunchy broken puri with potato, black chick peas and tamarind – very tangy) and Doi Aam (fresh alphonso mangoes with sweetened yogurt and cream – nomnom).
I shall post recipes for all of them very soon! And do drop in and say hello to me at the Calcutta Street Photo-booth too if you are in the area!
It was a bright sunny day on April 11 and London was basking in it’s full blown glory – how could I have a better day to host my second Calcutta Street, Seafood special Pop Up? I would love to thank each and every one who attended it and by the looks of it enjoyed my food. There is nothing more satisfying for me than to watch other people enjoy my food – It makes all the 18 hours of cooking and prep totally worth it.
And a massive Hi5 to all the staff at Bonnie Gull for being absolutely fabulous, efficient and super friendly – Makes a sea of a difference! An a bigger Hi5 to Luke Robinson (Head Chef) and Gavin (Exec Chef) for making the whole process so smooth sailing. Finally I can’t thank Cobra Beer and Lord Billimoria enough for sponsoring the beers, they definitely make the food taste better!
I wanted to share the photographs from the day with all of you (who care to read this blog). Hope to see some more of you at my next Pop Up!
Calcutta Street Sea Food Special
Photographs by Kheya Chattopadhyay
My next Pop-Up will be a very special one as it has two of my favourite things Calcutta Food and Jazz (with some Indian instruments like sitar). Save the date!
Calcutta Street Jazz Special – 4th May (6 pm – 9 pm) at Stage 3, Hackney!
I am extremely excited to let you know that, at my second Calcutta Street Pop Up I aim to make some of the famous, mouth-watering seafood and fish dishes from Calcutta. These recipes are all extremely special because it comes from my mother’s kitchen and I have grown up on them. I will be cooking with Luke Robinson, Head Chef at Bonnie Gull and Cobra Beer is the official Partner.
Bonnie Gull Seafood Bar is an ode to the faded glory of British seaside towns. Rose-tinted memories of golden days by the sea: Pleasure beaches, fresh crab rolls on the pier, Mods & Rockers hurling deckchairs, whippy ice creams and jukeboxes full of sweet Northern Soul…And I am going to take these fresh crabs and give it a Bengali flavour.
1. Saffron – This is an ingredient which I am a big fan of, because it can magically turn a plain boring plate of rice to look royal and majestic. Persian’s love to use saffron in abundance in most of their dishes. So if you intend to make a delicious Persian meal at home, better stock your shelf up with these beautiful strands. Saffron is also used very often in tea or chai in India and Middle east.
2. Rice – Persian meals are never complete without a plate full (or bowl) of thin grained, saffron infused steaming rice. But this is not the regular rice we boil at home, they make their rice with a lot of love and care. They first boil the rice, drain the excess water and then prepare a pan with oil, saffron and even yoghurt and then add the rice to it and let it steam in extremely low heat for about 40 minutes. Yes m’dear that is how much effort they put behind rice – Phew!
3. Herbs – Just like the Indians and Italians even the Persians love herbs, I mean it’s hard not to. They tend to use a lot of Coriander (My favourite), Parsley, Chive, Fenugreek, Mint and the most special one – Dill. The last one is very unique to this cuisine but you might just find it in one of those exquisite super markets, my bet is whole foods!
4. Advieh – It’s not some random ingredient, Persians use this rather exotic term to describe spices. I was impressed with myself when I realised I have most of the spices they use at home. Advieh is extremely similar to Garam Masala, so compositions vary but the basic spices are the same. The most common composition is – Corriander seeds, Fenugreek seeds, Ginger and Turmeric. The other one which is more similar to Garam Masala is – Cumin, Nutmeg and Cinnamon.
5. Dried Lime – Fresh lime has a very tangy and refreshing taste to it but dried lime can create magic too. It is used very often in Khoresh, which is a type of casserole dish with meat to balance the smell and taste of meat.
You must be wondering how did I suddenly become an expert in Persian cuisine? Ah I happened to speak to this wonderful lady Jila Dala -Haeri, who just wrote a new cook book called – From a Persian Kitchen.
She will be talking in details about Iranian and Persian cuisine and her book atAsia Houseon Friday, 14 November along with some light snacks from a Persian bakery!
If you liked this post, then you will LOVE the event, so come along and it will be a lot of fun and you can impress your weekend guests with your newly acquired Persian cooking skills! I’ll be there too, so don’t forget to say hello! 🙂
Here is a special recipe from her book just for my readers 😀
Khoreshts are an essential element of Persian cuisine. The nearest equivalent in the West would be a casserole, a rich dish with plenty of sauce. Khoreshts may be made from meat, chicken or fish combined with vegetables, herbs, fruits or pulses. A khoresht is always served with plain rice (chelo); neither dish is secondary or subservient to the other. Serve a couple of large spoonfuls of rice with one large spoonful of khoresht; eat the rice and khoresht together.
The following recipe is a variation on one of the most popular khoreshes cooked all over Iran.
Chicken and aubergine khoresh with cherry tomatoes and sour grapes
The combination of saffron, sour grapes and cherry tomatoes with aubergine adds layers of aroma and flavour to the plain chicken.I used fresh sour grapes but you can also use the pickled unripe grapes available from Middle Eastern or Persian food stores. I prefer chicken thighs to breast as they are more flavoursome and easier to cook; you can use breast if you prefer.
This dish takes approximately 1 ¼ hour to 1 ½ hour to prepare and cook.
2 medium aubergine
1 medium onion
6 skinless, boned chicken thigh fillets
10 – 12 cherry tomatoes
250 g chopped canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 table spoon tomato puree
3 table spoon lemon juice
3 table spoon sour grapes
2 table spoon liquid saffron
500 ml chicken stock
3 table spoon vegetable oil ( plus extra amount, enough for frying the aubergines)
Preparation and cooking
Peel the aubergines and cut each lengthwise to three slices. Wash and put them in a colander, sprinkle I teaspoon salt and leave them to stand for about 15 minutes.
Peel and finely chop the onion. Wash the chicken high fillets and trim any extra fat. Wash and dry the cherry tomatoes.
In a medium size heavy based sauce pan heat 3 table spoon of vegetable oil and fry the onions until golden. Add ½ a teaspoon of turmeric, stir and then add the chicken fillets, salt, pepper and the rest of turmeric. Stir well and fry for about 8-10 minutes, until the chicken pieces are golden and sealed. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, and the stock, stir well, bring to boil and then reduce the heat. Cover the pan and simmer for 40 – 45 minutes.
The sauce should be reduced by now to half.
While the chicken is cooking, fry the aubergines. In a frying pan, preferably non-stick, heat 50 ml vegetable oil and fry the aubergine slices until golden. Aubergine absorbs a lot of oil, so add more if necessary. Remove the slices with a slotted spoon and pat dry on kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
In the same frying pan, fry the cherry tomatoes in a table spoon of oil for a couple of minute. Remove from heat. Return the aubergine slices to the frying pan, sprinkle1 table spoon of liquid saffron and a table spoon of lemon juice over the aubergine slices and cherry tomatoes and set aside.
When the chicken is cooked, carefully arrange the aubergine slices and then the cherry tomatoes in the sauce pan on top of the chicken. Reduce the heat to low, add the sour grapes, the rest of the saffron and lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer very gently for about 10 15 minutes. Make sure that the sauce mix is not boiling vigorously because the aubergine and tomatoes will disintegrate.
Serve in a shallow bowl, carefully arranging the aubergine and cherry tomatoes on top of the chicken pieces.