For outsiders, one of the great things about eating in Kolkata is the opportunity to indulge in a diverse mix of food cultures.
Yet, the city’s culinary delights are unique in their own rights. While popular street food of Kolkata takes inspiration from other parts of the country and its diverse resident population, the flavors are undoubtedly robust, distinct, and will leave ardent food lovers wanting more.
The quintessential street food to have in Kolkata is puchkas – water balls, known as pani puri and gol gappas elsewhere in the country. For those wondering, there are subtle differences between them all, with puchkas being bigger in size and likely to crumble easily. Moreover, the ingredients are basic, mainly mashed potatoes, green chilies, and tangy water.
Available through street-side stalls across the city, there is nothing more fun than having a few puchkas in the middle of your Kolkata sightseeing tour. Russell Street and Vardaan Market are two places where you can find famous puchka sellers.
Popularly called Kolkata Rolls or Frankies, kathis are another foodie must-have in the city. A comfort food par excellence, it consists of freshly made paranthas – shallow fried Indian flatbread, filled with onions, meat, or vegetables, and then rolled in an easy to hold shape.
The origins of kathi rolls can be traced back to Nizam’s Restaurant in Kolkata, where kebabs cooked over coal fire were wrapped in paranthas to make them more favorable for the customers. A thin paper sheet covers the roll to make it easier to hold. Besides Nizam’s, Kusum Roll’s, and Hot Kathi, both on Park Street, are excellent stops to savor this local invention.
You are likely to find jhalmuri vendors in several big and small streets of Kolkata. A quick and light snack, jhalmuri is a dry mixture of puffed rice with chopped chilies, tomatoes, chanachur, potatoes, cucumber, coriander, peanuts, and a hearty blend of different spices with a drizzle of mustard oil and a splash of lemon on top.
Cheap and tasty, the best part about jhalmuri is that it is prepared fresh with ingredients kept separately. As a result, you can request it made as per your liking, leaving, and adding elements that you dislike or like.
Traveling around the city, you can get an idea of its love for food by how open the locals are to “foreign” cuisines, provided they are appetizing. Momos are now an integral part of Kolkata’s street food culture, and you will find them on the streets and in restaurants. In fact, one of the leading momo chains in India, Wow! Momo has its base in Kolkata.
For a truly memorable experience, though, gourmands should head over to Tiretti Bazaar to have scrumptious authentic homemade momos and other delicacies like fish ball soup, pork pies, and bao, prepared and sold but Kolkata’s “Indo-Chinese” population.
Chops and Cutlets
The Kolkata chop is a direct descended of the British croquette that one can still find in several Gymkhana clubs around India. While pakoras and cutlets are snacks enjoyed by Indians on the whole, in Kolkata, the chop is regularly consumed throughout the week and relished by the young and the old.
Moreover, the choice amongst these delicious deep-fried bites is mindboggling, ranging from the ball like chop to the flatter cutlet, having fillings such as potatoes, aubergines, fish, mutton, chicken, egg, shrimps, and more. You will find chops at street vendors, but for the very best, eat at Kalika, Mitra Café, or Campari.
With West Bengal winning the “Geographical Indication” status of rosogulla, it is only right that you have it while visiting Kolkata. Available at sweet shops in every part of the city, rosogolla is a ball-shaped, juicy dessert made with chenna dough.
Sweet and syrupy, it is the perfect way to end any meal and can be had at any time of the day. The best places to have rosogolla in Kolkata are Annapurna, KC Das Grandson, and Chittaranjan Mistanna Bhandar.
When out and about exploring Kolkata’s culinary scene, it is well-worth experimenting with its street food alongside visiting some of the legendary restaurants. Either way, you will find that the food in Kolkata is subtle in appearance but packs a hard and delicious punch that is sure to impress even hardcore culinary connoisseurs.