Bengali street foods or Kolkata street foods have their own charms. Anybody who is an outsider of Bengal would invariably know about the famous junk delicacies that streets of Kolkata have to offer. From fried to baked to steamed- you will get an array of varieties, when it comes to Bengali fast food in Kolkata or even in other towns of Bengal.
The biggest USP of Bengali street food is that it has taken inspiration from diverse cultures and blended it accordingly to suit the local palate. If you love something tangy and spicy, then you must dig into phuchkas or like anything crispy and hot, then a mughlai paratha with mandatory potato curry is more of your type of poison. If we list down the five famous street foods that Kolkata has at its disposal, then the list will look like as follows-
It is is a typical street food from Kolkata.The word Jhal-Muri means ‘spicy puffed rice’ and is prepared from masala puffed riced mixed with spices and mustard oil.The taste of this food is further increased by adding green chillies , chopped onions , peanuts and lime juices.In fact,It is popular spicy evening snack of the Kolkata people.It can be compared to the bhelpuri of Mumbai in overall appearence.What is special about it is that it needs no cooking.
The origin of rolls in Kolkata might be a blend of truth and fables but all the more an interesting story to hear. It’s said that during British Raaj, a chef in Nizam ( the legendary mughlai restaurant chain in Kolkata) had invented a quick breakfast menu that would save the time and energy of babus who used to frequent Nizam for hurried breakfasts before the rush of office-hour. The chef had taken ideas out of crispy parathas and hot kebabs (it was a staple diet for many British officers during mornings) and merged them together- thus making kathi rolls where cooked/charred meat chunks with onion slices and chilies were stuffed inside a rolled paratha. From thereon, the fame of Kolkata rolls caught up the fancies of gourmets like a wildfire.
If you are in Kolkata, you will get to see that every street, lane or by-lane has its own roll vendors. But if you are looking for a classier taste inside your roll, then do head towards Park Street where Kusum and Kolkata Kathi Roll are two roll corners that are enjoying cult statuses over the years. Apart from that- Nizam, Shiraz, Aminia, Zeeshan, Alibaba are some of the Mughal & North Indian restaurant chains that will cater to you with traditional as well as fusion rolls. What’s more, if you are health-conscious, then the emerging brands of healthy rolls and wraps that are gaining a steady popularity among Kolkatans, will also win over your taste buds with their healthier rolls varieties.
Though it’s assumed that North India/Bihar is the birthplace of phuchka (which is more popularly known on a national level as golgappa), there are many who swear by the out-of-this-world taste of Kolkata phuchkas. Like rolls, stalls of Kolkata phuchkas are everywhere, from the venue of a wedding to the Ganges Ghats or maidan. Even the new-age, swanky shopping malls of Kolkata have their own phuchka platter at their food courts. Whether you like dahi-phuchka, phuchka chaat, mitha phuchka or the simple and basic phuchka with tamarind water, the city of joy is a goldmine for phuchka lovers. To give the same-old phuchka a new twist, the chefs of Kolkata five-star hotels now have phuchka filled with vodka, thus tickling with the taste buds of the connoisseurs.
In South Kolkata, Vivekananda Park and Rashbehari Avenue are two popular spots where many popular phuchkawallas set up their temporary stalls every evening. In North Kolkata, College Street is the place to be for the phuchka aficionados who throng the pavements of boipara every afternoon to hunt down their favorite phuchkawallas and gulp down those crispy, wonder balls filled with spicy stuff and served with tongue-burningly tangy tamarind water.
There was a time when momo was a faraway delicacy to most of the Bengalis. Only once in a year, when they used to visit the hills of Darjeeling or Sikkim, then only they got to eat those heavenly dumplings that come with the customary broth. But over the years, the momo-craze has flooded the street food market of Kolkata and even West Bengal. It all started with chicken momo and veg momo, but now momos have gone through a make-over and you can get to choose among the varieties such as- pan fried momo , prawn momo, fish momo, chocolate momo, paneer momo, momo burger to name a few.
When once only the rolls/chops/jhalmuri stalls used to rule the walkways of Kolkata, now you can see an eruption of momo stalls there. So much so is the popularity of momo among youngsters of the city that, the sizzling shopping malls were forced to include momo in the menus of their food-courts. On the other hand, the old alleys of China Town are celebrated for their momo-laden breakfast carte de jour that can be found every morning in the footpaths of Tangra.
Dhosa (or dosa) and idli are counted two of the hot-favorite street foods in Kolkata and over-all Bengal. Not only as junk foods, but these two are life-savers for many office goers as well as college students who look for cheap-yet-filling foods during their daily lunch hours. There was a time when the small towns of West Bengal had witnessed the dosa vendors direct from Chennai frequenting the streets during afternoons, with their thelas or vans including all the equipments and dosa/idli batter, and upon on-the-spot request, they used to fry instant dosa/idli and served it with the regular samber and chutney. But with the change of time, dosa and idli have undergone a sea-change in West Bengal.
In Kolkata, you will have the freedom to select from some crazy fusion that is taking place with the menus of dosa and idli. While the street vendors still have retained the same menu, the restaurants are coming up with recipes such as paneer dosa, chicken dosa, fried dosa, butter idli, mini idli and so on. South Kolkata is the hotbed for dosa-idli joints as well as street vendors. If you are on a diet but still looking to taste a sample from Bengali street food, then look no further than a plate of piping hot idli or crispy dosa.
There was a time when Biryani was considered as a full course meal. But those days are gone. Now the regular sight that can catch your fancy (especially if you are new to Kolkata) is that in the Kolkata-streets, biryani is sold right next to phuchka and rolls. Though the hardcore biryani enthusiasts may raise their eyebrows in unison about the standard and the sacredness of the original biryani recipe which is now hard-to-find from the street vendors; there is no denying the fact that selling biryani as a street food has made it all the more accessible to people who prefer cheap food. The specialty of Kolkata biryani is that the non-veg one comes with a large piece of potato and one boiled egg thus pampering your palate with an assortment of tastes and flavors in a single meal.