By Alokeparna | April 12, 2019
Honestly, I am not a Summer-friendly person at all. I avoid all kind of outdoor or non-AC activities including food adventures during the very inconveniently long summer in Kolkata. But pice hotels had certain attractions for me. I had been hearing about them for some time now and never had the chance to visit one. So when a lunch opportunity at one such place opened up with fellow foodies in mid-March, I couldn’t resist.
Mullick Ghat is a name Kolkata and Travellers to Kolkata are well acquainted with. This century-old heritage flower market has appeared in countless publications- from Nat Geo to local travel & culture blogs. Spring lives here forever and riots of colours at this place can make Holi at Vrindavan a shade paler. The location is also awe-inspiring. The market is spread about a kilometre by the ghats of Hoogly (a tributary of River Ganges).
A Note before we begin:
I deliberately haven’t included history in the main body as this article is about my experiences. However, New Market (earlier Sir Stuart Hogg Market) is a historical place and many will be interested in the background, especially my readers from other countries. So at the end of this article, there are a few useful external links on New Market- which is more than a century old British era shopping arcade and Nahoum’s- the Jewish Bakery inside the market. I have also mentioned several shops in New Market in my write-up. I have given a list of my favourite shops, containing one sentence introduction and location on Google map, at the end. Happy reading!
Recently a Global survey had declared Kolkata as India’s top city for street food. We Kolkatans were elated for obvious reasons. Who would pass up a chance to gloat in the glory of OUR egg roll, phuchka, fish fry, shingara (not samosa) and the likes. Well, Kolkata actually offers a lot more than that and what we remain blind to, is purely our loss. As I discovered so in the maze of Kolkata’s own Bhulbhuliya – Burrabazar.
I grew up in a culture where people indulged in coffee in winter. Pretty much like wearing monkey caps or eating nolen gur (liquid palm jaggery) infused desserts. Rare luxuries. Rest of the 10 months tea ruled the world of Calcuttans. Can’t really remember how I permanently switched to coffee. Must be during those times when all-night studying required extra power. I had started my coffee journey with the classic hand beaten coffee. Mom used to excel in that and she would just use a teaspoon to beat the coffee powder with sugar and a touch of warm milk-water. Not an easy task. It required skills and precision. Besides, Nescafe in those days yielded better taste and aroma than the weak liquid it produces these days. Gradually I parted with milk or creamer in my coffee and started having it black. The taste became refined over the years keeping pace with my lifestyle choices. Now I prefer my coffee (medium-dark roasted beans) black with a sensory stimulating aroma and a strong body with a façade of a fine crema. Less voluminous but not a nude espresso shot. Americano is what they call it, though I upgrade it to long black wherever possible.
For 2 years, my office was somewhere between Rashbehari crossing and Kalighat. I used to carry lunch from home. However, 4 pm was a crime time when mind would demand a snack bribe and a short break to carry on for two more hours (often more). Now the South peeps know that there is no dearth of ‘cheap n cheerful’ food in Rashbehari-Kalighat area. Shingara, Kochuri, porota, roll, chowmein, chop, phuchka – you name it and the place has it….and to top it all, Apanjon was just a stone’s throw away. My go-to place was, however, a hand-cart manned by a Bihari Mashie in her 50s. She used to sell muri, peanuts, chana etc and you could customize the mix as per your requirement. She was quite a Lalu, albeit in a bright printed saree. Over the months she grew accustomed to my order and from then on I just needed to come to her cart and she would prepare the perfect peanuts mix with tiny slices of cucumber, onion, green chilies, tomatoes, a dash of lime juice and a few drops of mustard oil. She would put the mix in a paper cone and would say ‘Shpecial – 20 taka’.