Breakfast Of Nihari, Sondesh & History On The Roads of Kolkata

I was in Kolkata last week. My FB friend and a fellow food blogger, Subhankar Ghosh had promised to take me for a very good breakfast. “Please be ready early morning”, I was warned by Subhankar. “They start by 430 in the morning and are over by 630”, another warning. The message was clear that if I want to enjoy a great breakfast, get out and get going early morning. Was it worth the effort?

8BA6C515-DFC2-466B-A5D1-D568BE78F538At the appointed time, we hopped in to a vintage yellow cab (damn, forget to take a picture). We drove through a road which connects the Central Kolkata with the North Kolkata. This is the oldest stretch of the city which is said to be about 400 years old. The first Tram also set its wheels rolling here. It houses the home of legendary Rabindranath Tagore and many other historical buildings (See my Facebook post here)

We landed at the place around 620 in the morning. Subhankar, with a question mark on his face, quickly walked towards the place and then there was a big smile on his face. “Yes, we made it. They are still on”, he declared and we were soon seated.

Sufia Restaurant in Bara Bazar, Zakaria Street

9C84852F-4AE5-4E99-B9A0-0BEA1D59BA56This modest place is bang opposite the iconic Nakhoda Masjid. There was a Bade Miyan sitting outside the restaurant with a huge Degh in front of him. On his one side was a person deep frying some Kachori-like stuff and on the other side there was a E3F180EE-D761-4A43-A5AA-0060F4B70962line up of numbered steel tiffin boxes (was told that these are for supplying delivery orders booked last night).

During this time of the year, they serve Nihari for breakfast and is generally over by 630 (on sundays by 530). Yes, over by this time in the morning.

We ordered a plate of Beef Nihari for each. I was told that it is to be eaten with their special Dal Poori. I insisted on also having a Tandoori Roti, just in case the Dal Poori doesn’t work. Our order came to our table in no time. And it conquered, instantly.

16FC5EEB-4D74-40B7-BE3C-1B38D924E8BDA plate filled with golden smooth curry, having a glaze on it. One big piece of meat peeping out of the sprinkling of chopped green coriander. It was hot and gave out the aroma of typical Mughlai spices. A swirl of spoon in the curry told you that it was smooth as a runny paste. It also revealed chunks of bone marrow in it. The meat was on the bone and a slight touch would bring it off. It had that texture of the meat tissues intact but super soft. A spoonful on the palate (it is difficult to catch the curry in a spoon) and it tickles your taste buds with its well balanced spices. And then two three spoons in succession tells you that it is a class apart Nihari. A morsel of meat is so succulent that it is melt-in-mouth and infused with flavours. I was advised to squeeze juice of  half a lemon in it. My God, the Nihari goes to another level in terms of taste. It is unmatchable…spicy, tangy, aromatic, smooth and flavourful.

Having tasted the Nihari then I tried it with Tandotori Roti. The Roti was fresh and soft. To my surprise, despite best efforts, one couldn’t catch any amount of gravy on to it. It would just slip away. You could only dip in it. But yes, you would want to ditch the Roti and enjoy the Nihari on its own.

Wait, the best is yet to come.

A plate of Dal Poori landed. The looks were that of a Khasta Kachori. These golden Dal Pooris were brought straight from the frying wok outside the restaurant. I picked up and tried to tear a morsel out of it. Surprisingly, it was soft. The looks were of Kachori and the texture of a Poori.

6B2A78FD-1CDE-4C07-822E-C28AF0CCF390I tried a bite of Dal Poori with Nihari. Uummmm !! It was a heavenly combo. The soft morsel of spice infused Dal Poori dipped in the amazingly flavourful Nihari did wonders on the palate. You just can’t stop. I had to order one more helping for myself as one did not satisfy me.

A wonderfully satisfying breakfast of Nihari with Dal Poori is a deadly combo (ditch the Roti and be with this Dal Poori). This may not be a popular brand around yet locals throng it.

Next on Subhankar’s list was an iconic Sondesh Shop which has a historical significance. A little ahead on this historical Chitpore Road, we got down at Natun Bazaar.

Makhan Lal Das & Sons, Natun Bazar

14ACDA8C-983B-4C31-82A7-4385012C3703I was told that this rustic place is more than 100 years old and makes many varieties of Sondesh. They do not advertise and are not a brand like the famous KC Das, Ganguram’s and others. Yet they have a set following and caters to who and who of the city and even far away. They used to cater to the home of the legendary Rabindranath Tagore which still exits in the close vicinity. The Sondesh would only go from this outlet  for the household and the guests at Tagore’s.

The humble place is 24×7 types and has two dimly lit platforms outside. No furniture, no fancy. In fact, it is a traditional outlet and no efforts have been made to modernise it in anyway. Yet, to my amazement, it’s on Swiggy and accepts Amex Card too.

F09223A9-799C-4EAF-8A26-57C83E5BE5F1On the right platform, the owner sits and has two large Thaals of Copper decked up with various varieties of Sondesh. You indicate your choice and you would be served fresh from the adjoining platform where some variety of Sondesh is being made.We asked for a few and  one by one they came.

6614198D-8694-40C9-A713-5648E394690EFirst one was, Ice Cream Sondesh (you read it right). Was taken out from a cast kept in the fridge and handed over to us. This ice cold delicacy had a light strawberry coloured top layer sprinkled with chopped pistachios and had a pale white base. The coolness would tickle your taste buds and the mild sweetness and the freshness of Sondesh will melt in your mouth.

148DA858-3820-40CC-B82B-BE6F66050852Next was Zafraan Sondesh . A golden yellow cube, decorated with silver foil, placed on a butter paper is a delight to watch. The zafraan infused Chhena which is not overtly sweet and was light.  You would want to have at least two.

427723F8-7802-473C-B0ED-96703824DC3FThe hero was the earthy Gur Sondesh. A little dark yellow coloured ball was quite amusing. The outside casing was crisp. Bite it and you get the crunch of flavourful Nolen Gur (date palm jagerry) sweetness. This casing had a filling of soft and spongy Gur flavoured Sondesh inside. A real delight with a punch of Gur sweetness.

A very satisfying round of sweetness at a historical outlet. Great quality, sheer passion and no publicity. I was quite impressed.

59C7FA64-F832-46C5-9BBD-06ACA8B8DBF3This very satisfying and enjoyable breakfast was wrapped up with a Kulhari Chai (tea in an earthen pot) from a roadside vendor. The entire thing was wrapped up in just one and a half hours and I was ready to go for work.

I have been promised to be taken to yet many a places which serve great breakfast in the city. I look forward to these experiences at the cost of ditching my buffet breakfast in the hotel. If you have experienced great breakfast in your city, do let me know. Would be happy to try.

Bon Apettite !!

Rajesh Tara

#MagicofFlavours #FoodBlogger #Nihari #DalPoori #KokataFood #MughlaiBreakfast #Mughlai #Sondesh #StreetFood #KuhadChai #KulhariChai

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