The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
Kolkata Maidan- The lungs of the city. Lovingly shot by Arindam Patra.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The aftermath of the double blast in food scene

As if the fear of dead and formalin-preserved chicken in our favourite chicken delicacies was not enough, the carcass meat scam dealt Kolkata a mighty blow last month.


Suddenly we are suspecting our favourite chicken roll, chicken momo, chilli chicken, mutton biryani and kawsha mangsho and being on the alert about everything with chicken or meat in it, be it roadside eateries or well-known restaurants. We want to be sure we are not eating carcass meat or formalin-laden dead chicken in drool-worthy dishes.


The other day, I saw that the tawa earlier busy frying parathas now idle, the heap of chicken drumstick and chilli chicken displayed outside now noticeably shrunk and just a handful of customers sitting at a popular street eatery on Arabinda Sarani at Karbagan which I’ve always found crowded. A few feet away, the biryani handis which I always used to find open for filling boxes now covered and the staff waiting for customers in two popular roadside biryani shops. This is a representative picture of the city. Biswanath Ghorui aka Mangsho Bishu, the arrested carcass meat kingpin, has scared the daylights out of Kolkatans.


Kolkata would like to look away from such a sight now

Egg roll in snacking and dim-bhaat/ machh-bhaat or khichudi in working class lunch are suddenly seeing an Uber-like surge in demand, beating their respective eternal rivals- chicken roll, chicken-bhaat and fried rice-chilli chicken combo hands down. A sizable population is now preferring egg, fish and prawn (those who can afford) over chicken and mutton even if it is a compromise with the palate. The trust is shaken and customers aren’t taking chances.


Restaurants and eateries are seeing an unprecedented free fall in orders for chicken and mutton dishes and a relatively higher demand in prawn and fish options. As a natural reaction, restaurateurs are now desperate to prove the freshness of their meat and poultry and some of them are even putting up their suppliers’ names and phone numbers on display subjecting them for public enquiry and inspection to earn back customer trust. I read that small restaurant owners from Hatibagan who shop for their chicken and meat themselves and are demanding that chicken and goats be cut before their eyes as a condition to buy.


A huge food group on Facebook is now seeing posts of mostly home-cooked dishes whereas till recently the feed used to be balanced by posts of dining out- predominantly chicken and meat dishes besides fish. I assume paneer jokes circulated by hardcore non-veg Bengalis (Like ‘paneer biryani’ is a joke by itself) are dipping now.


This social boycott is being reflected in Bengali papers publishing recipes of versions of popular non-veg foods made with green jackfruit and green plantain because people are now even wary of buying raw chicken/ mutton that is already cut and insisting on getting it cut before their eyes. I am sure earlier hardcore non-vegetarian Bengalis would quip that Enchorer Kebab (Green Jackfruit Kebab) was an oxymoron but they are possibly mellowed enough not to react now though they may still be far from accepting those options.


Is it a passing phase for a largely non-vegetarian city that loves eating out like few other cities in the country, or will it change Kolkatans' food habit in the long term? Will the Bengali be back with a bang to his favourite chicken roll, mutton biryani and chilli chicken in this year’s Pujo? Time will tell. I will be curious to know. All that I feel is that this will clean up the food chain to some extent and improve people's judgement of food (Like anything that's cheap is not good to go for, because cheap indicates compromise).



#CarcassMeat #Chicken #Formalin #Mutton #Kolkata Food



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