The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Street-side sweets of Kolkata

The street food of Kolkata is well cultivated, but the street version of sweets is surprisingly the poor cousin. The sweets sold on the streets of Kolkata not only offers a wide range to please customers with varied tastes (like those who have a sweet tooth and those who don’t, like me, but have a sweet craving sometimes), and have a value-for-money pricing, they can give many sweet shops (including popular ones) a run for money in terms of quality vs price. One point- the prices are not cheap at all, unlike street food, but completely justify the quality. The stalls are generally seen in office areas as sweets post meal are favoured by foodie officegoers. Typically sweets are laid out in aluminium trays covered with glass sheets.

The sweets are sourced from many places- all outside Kolkata as far as I know. The vendor I prefer to go to, to satisfy my post-lunch sweet craving at times, sources from Howrah, and partly from Chandannagar. There are sellers who get the stuff from Katwa and other places in Bardhaman district.

This vendor’s stall is at this tiny patch called LIC Gully- basically the connector between CR Avenue at Chandni Chowk metro station to Madan Street, along the Hindustan Buildings (starting from its one end and ending at the other). The old, toothless man in shirt & trousers sets up the stall everyday (except Sunday) opposite the post office entrance at Hindustan Buildings. He keeps a no. of bhaja mishti (fried sweets) like golap jaam (gulab jamoon), chhanar jilipi, pantua, kalo jaam, lyangcha; a no. of sandesh, both kawda paak and nawrom paak (hard and soft versions respectively) and a no. of rosher mishti (syrupy chhena-based sweets)  which prominently includes cream-based sweets- my favourite category. I like the sweetness mellowed my sweets. 

The golap jaam he sells is top class, biggish and comes at Rs 10 (it used to be Rs 8 not so long ago). It looks the perfect shade of golden brown and has the right mix of sooji and maida (flour) with the cardamom at the core (essential in a good golap jaam), which is rarely seen in many well-known shops. I bet the quality matches that of any popular shop selling quality gulab jamun, say the Ganguram’s across the road. He brings a sweet from Chandannagar called Rasomadhuri (a cream-based sweet), which I can put in one word- sublime! I hardly get to taste it as it is exhausted before 4 pm and I mostly come at that time. When I asked about it in recent past, he said with deep empathy “You come so late… doesn’t stay long in the tray”. Rasomadhuri happens to be one gem from Chandannagar which is famous for its sweets. The stall is wrapped up by 5 o’ clock. He has customers from officegoers who have at least three-four varieties everyday. I also love the chhana bhaja, kalo jaam and chhanar jilipi.

If I’m too late, I have another place to go. It’s on Ganesh Chandra Avenue, which can be easily called the food street. It’s just before Lalani’s IT World, between CR Avenue and Bentinck Street, at the left (towards Bentinck St). This vendor with a glass box keeps a good variety as well, except cream-based sweets. But once in a blue moon he offers a yummy rasomalai served cold (adding to the taste).

Few days back boss treated me with sweets from roadside as we felt a wee bit hungry after visiting a prospect at central business district. This stall was at Lyons Range sells a mind-boggling range. I sampled a chhanar cake followed by a cream-based sweet. Both were good, but the former was class apart with its artistic play with a thin layer of cream inside.

The stall at Lyons Range. Photograph by Suvendra Mukherjee.

I have been eyeing one such stall at Sealdah, a little before Loreto Day School (set up at the entrance of a building), approaching from Moulali, for a long time. The fare is slurp-inducing. Have not had an opportunity to visit it at the right time. 

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