A Bengali food crawl in Delhi's mini Kolkata: CR Park
- Snacks: Puchka, Mutton ghughnee, Plain ghughnee, Jhalmuri
- Cutlets: Fish fingers, Egg devil, Mutton cutlet, Mocha chop (banana flower cutlet), Posto narekel bora
- Kolkata Biryani complete with potatoes and boiled eggs
- Main Course: Kosha mangsho, Doi Katla, Beguni, Dal and rice
CR park houses the maximum number of Bengalis in Delhi and is equally welcoming to any other community willing to make friends. It all started after the partition of India when the division of East Bengal (currently with Pakistan) and West Bengal (currently with India) took place. In those confusing times, Bengalis in large numbers started migrating throughout the country, and a handful of people settled in Delhi under the name of EPDP colony (East Pakistani Displaced Persons Colony), which was later renamed after a prominent figure in the Indian Independence Movement, Mr. Chittaranjan Das. Today, the food at CR park is exactly what one would expect to get in the City of Joy, with many specialty Bengali dishes and ingredients available easily. Be it a mustard mixed Shorshe eelish (Hilsa fish), or mishti doi, or jhal muri and mochar chop, CR Park has outlets selling all these and more. Culturally too, it's a mini Bengal - it's easy to spot groups of elderly men discussing politics, intellect, modernization accompanied by their favorite evening snack, a tea and a cutlet. In Delhi, this is usually a go-to place for a taste of Bengal. Here is a detailed street food crawl which originates in the CR Park market 1 and ends in market no 2.
Kolkata, hear the name and one pictures plateful of spicy, tangy, deep fried street food. So what better way to start then the crispy-spicy Kolkata styled puchkas. Unlike Delhi’s gol gappa, puchka has its own charm, it's crispier, it's spicy, the stuffing is how it should be - potatoes mixed with spices and a lot of chillies, and the paani is a sour mixture of imli, lemon and everything Bengali.
CR Park Market no. 1 has more puchka sellers, jhalmuri stalls and other classic Bengali evening snacks in and around the area. Jhalmuri is an uncooked mixture made of puffed rice, onions, spices, peanuts and a lot of other ingredients depending on individual tastes. The usual options are boiled potatoes, tomatoes, finely sliced coconut, mustard oil and roasted gram.
Mutton ghugunee (yellow peas cooked in gravy) is a hot, filling snack option though the plain ghugunee is clearly more popular.
Moving on, the next stop should definitely be the cutlets - deepfried, pocketsized, goldenbrown, all-time favorites. Fish fingers, Egg devil, Mutton cutlet, Mocha chop (banana flower cutlet), Posto narekel bora (fritters made of poppy seeds and coconut) are only some of the names of the unique offerings that are difficult to find outside of Kolkata.
The Bengalis in CR Park, known for their gastronomical delights, are happy adding some honey chili potato and tandoori chicken to their plates too. Both, CR park market no. 1 and market no. 2 have a fair share of shops with Indian, Chinese, Continental apart from Bengali cuisine. CR Park market 1 however, has a better variety of Kolkata biryani. I personally recommend Kolkata Biryani House if Kolkata-style biryani is what you’re craving. The best and the first choice here would be to order a simple chicken biryani cooked in the Bengali way with potatoes and boiled eggs.
This would be quite filling so it might be good to take a short pause. Walk around any corner and find Bengali sweets ranging from sandesh to mishti doi. Alternatively, stroll around, window shop sarees and go see the fish market, if that is of interest.
Alternatively, choose to walk to the CR Park market 2 to aid digestion and work up a second round of appetite for the delightful food on offer there. A little bit of Delhi influence is visible in this market (considering that the rest of CR Park could easily pass off as a para in Kolkata) with outlets like Karim’s, Sanjha Chula, a chaap outlet and other north-indian cuisine joints. However sign boards of ‘luchi aloo’ (aloo curry and puri) and local Bengali magazines from Kolkata are quick reminders that this is bong land! This market too has a number of popular food vendors, including an immensely popular momo stand, a chinese vendor who sets up shop around 5 PM and a jhalmuri seller. For a full, Bengali, main course meal, ‘Maa Tara’ restaurant towards the left end of the market is a good choice. Good non-vegetarian Bengali food and a simple plate of home cooked rice and daal is exactly what it does best.
Kosha Mangsho, spicy Bengali styled mutton, is their signature dish and they seem to get it right without a fail every single time.
Order the above with a bowl of Bhat (boiled rice) and Doi katla i.e. fish prepared in curd which is tangy soft and moist from the inside. If you’re willing to experiment, order the Bhetki shorsha, a unique dish where the fish is boiled in milk first and spiced and oiled later. If prepared well, it has a creamy, runny flavor in each bite, with an interesting sprinkle of the pungent taste of the mustard oil that’s been used. Order a slice of Beguni (sliced eggplant coated in besan and deep fried) as a side.
This might be what it feels to be in Kolkata, enjoying the food of the City of Joy, with its noisy, blaring traffic and its polite, friendly people.