A rare treat for Delhiites, flavours from a long-gone era, when Bangladesh was a part of India, were on the platter by award-winning Chef Madhumita Mohanta
The only thing that I knew about Bengali cuisine was machher jhol and rosgulla, until this fest. Popularly known as the ‘kitchen queen of India’, the Chef’s speciality is Bengali cuisine. Chef Madhumita Mohanta is the Executive Chef at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata. She has been honoured as ‘The Best Lady Chef of the Year, 2017’ and ‘The Best Chef in Kolkata’ by Times Food & Nightlife Awards 2018.
Considering her family is rooted in the eastern state, we looked forward to this dinner and we were not disappointed. There were dishes galore and the fest was ending with the dinner we were having. Only a glutton could have bit into the vast menu, so we let the Chef decide what came on the table.
While kebabs and grills are nothing new to Delhi, the sumptuous mixture of Channar Chop was something else. A crispy crust and soft inside, stuffed with yum cottage cheese, we could have finished an entire meal on these. But there was also Gondhoraj Mangsher Chop. These were rolls, ‘some real rolls’ stuffed with fish and mutton.
Before beginning the meal, Chef Mohanta had explained that tomatoes were not part of the meal in pre-independence India. So, the curries were made of onions, took a longer time, and had a more sweet flavour. Coconut was also used a lot. And the Anglo-Indian culture being strong in that area, the community had a canteen where they got a huge thali of mutton curry with potatoes and rice for ‘an anaa’. This was now a Railway Curry and we loved the flavours and the taste. I am not a mutton eater but this one I couldn’t resist for the mutton was soft and a full potato cooked with this tasted really good.
As the Chef’s parents belonged to east and west Bengal, she had incorporated a special fish and prawn curry from the two regions. Seafood was common in Bangladesh, as the country had more water than land. People traveled by steamers, added Chef Mohanta.
While we dug into these delectable dishes with luchhi, we found more interesting stories with the Chef. The sacrificial lamb was cooked in a ginger paste by the Brahmins; onions and garlic weren’t used. Red onions were normally caramelized for curries which took a long while and gave the sweet flavours.
And we ended our meal with mishti doi.
While you may have missed this meal, the hotel chain has a series of Chef’s Pop-Ups lined up in its hotels. The idea is to bring flavours and regional cuisines of each city to the other.