Kolkata, the city of joy, is every bit the city of incredible street food. For us Bengalis, no Sunday is ever complete without cups of tea, a storming debate on any topic worth fighting for, and a particularly enticing assortment of the best street food you’ll ever find anywhere. Those who have been to Kolkata will tell you how vibrant and charming the street food stalls are, and I can vouch for the taste.
Growing up in the city, I have explored the length and breadth of the beautiful city, teeming with a million eyes full of dreams. As Kolkata lives and breathes, there is an assurance in the air that no one will ever go hungry. Hit the narrow, rickety alleys of old North Kolkata, and you will come across quaint sellers standing at the corners of these alleys, selling beguni, peyaji, dhonepata bora and muri. The staples of Bengali street food snacking, these roughly translate to brinjals fried with a coat of besan, deep fried onions, crisp-fried coriander leaves, and puffed rice mixed with peanuts, green chilli and a hint of mustard oil.
As Kolkata lives and breathes, there is an assurance in the air that no one will ever go hungry
If you choose to have all of these, it will cost you about Rs. 20, in total! The magic of Kolkata street food lies here – street snacking is not about prices, it is about the emotions, the people and the times you spend. Egg rolls and mughlai paranthas play a big role in the culture of Bengali street food. At about every 500 metres in the city, you will find stalls selling egg rolls and chow mein, albeit with varying degrees of hygiene. The essence, though, is unique – egg rolls in Kolkata are made on thin paranthas, with egg filling, and a sizeable dosage of cucumbers and onions, layered on top with tomato and chilli sauce. The unquestionably filling egg rolls cost upward of Rs. 12.
Street noodles in Kolkata begin at about Rs. 15, and are typically about the spiciest noodles that you will ever have. Incredibly lip-smacking and barely hygienic, the street noodles also range in variety between veg, egg and chicken. Joining hands with these are places like Michael’s outside St. Xavier’s College in Park Street, where you get fried rice and gravy (the choice of veg and non-veg lies with you), all for Rs. 35.
For mughlai paranthas, the most iconic and historic place you can go to is Anadi’s Cabin, now over five decades old. I have heard tales of the place from my father, back then in its hey day, till today, where it has been reduced to legacy customers and intrigued youngsters visiting the place with an almost shrine-like reverence. The cost, I hear, has gone up to nearly Rs. 60, but for the price, what you get is a taste that has survived since pre-partition Bengal.
This is the legacy of Kolkata’s street food, aced by the legendary fish fry of Mitra Cafe. Despite innumerable places that sell excellent fish fry, Mitra Cafe is yet another place that has stood the test of time, and with incredible taste that has remained constant, a humble nature and the constant trust of being open and affordable to all, this signifies the best of Kolkata’s street food.