Adding a contemporary flair to timeless tikkas
Kebabs are a staple for many countries and many states in India. Each area has its preparations with unique hotness, texture and meats. Most of the pocket-friendly kebab joints in Kolkata are associated with Mughlai restaurants. The food here is a little sweet in taste and few dishes are famous all over the city.
However, it may not represent the pan Indian flavours. For trying affordable kebabs with flavour profiles from all over the country, I narrowed down to 'Charcoal Kebaberie'. 'Charcoal Kebaberie' is a cloud kitchen that probably is the only 'Kebaberie' you can find on the online food order apps.
Paying homage to the rustic traditions of the tandoor and adding a contemporary flair, Jawanda and Naphade are at the helm of 'Charcoal Kebaberie', a cloud kitchen specialising in everything tandoori, operating from Sarat Bose Road, available on all delivery apps.
Baluchi Dahi ke Kebab (Rs 150), Mushroom Ghee Roast Tikka (Rs 220), Goan Cafreal Tandoori Chicken (Rs 250), Tandoori Chicken Phuchka (Rs 200), Dal Bukhara (Rs 250), Charcoal Matka Mutton (Rs 500), Thecha Naan (Rs 75).
The menu includes classics like the timeless tikkas and the quintessential chicken tandoori, alongside a variety of kebabs that show off the diversity of food culture from around the world. What caught my attention was that the main course was packed in traditional 'matkas' (pots or handis) signifying sustainable packaging and supporting homegrown businesses. It was a refreshing change from the plastic overload in normal food delivery packing.
As kebabs are a dry item mainly served as starters, I ordered 2 vegetarian and 2 non-vegetarian options to taste the diversity on the platter.
In the vegetarian starters, I tried the Baluchi Dahi ke Kebab first. The kebabs were like little fried pillows with a flavourful filling. Actually, hung curd flavoured with garlic and mild spices was wrapped in bread and fried to give this unique starter. It was accompanied with a garlic flavoured chutney.
The Mushroom Ghee Roast Tikka consisted of caps of two button mushrooms joined together with a filling of spices and cottage cheese and then grilled in ghee with tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves. The meaty mushroom flavour with the filling and tempering was actually a riot of flavours and authentic Tamil aftertaste.
In non-vegetarian starters, the first was Goan Cafreal Tandoori Chicken. As the name suggests, whole chicken marinated in an old-school traditional Portuguese cafreal marinade was cooked in a charcoal tandoor to perfection. It was a beautiful union of Punjabi and Goan flavours. Must try!
A unique thing on the menu that I got was the Tandoori Chicken Phuchka. The filling, in this case, was hand-pulled tandoori chicken and the paani was smoky flavourful butter chicken gravy which was accompanied with finely chopped onions, curd and sweet tangy chutney. A true innovation!
In the main course, I stuck to the most basic northwest Indian order - dal, meat and bread.
The Dal Bukhara was indeed very good. Urad dal soaked overnight with milk was cooked over a slow fire with a reduced tomato base to give it creaminess and smokiness. Bull's eye!
The Charcoal Matka Mutton was packed in a 'matka' or 'handi'. The covering was traditional with an atta roti that sealed the flavours. Taking indirect inspiration from the spice blend of the traditional Bengali style mutton kosha, the dum cooking had given it a smoky twist.
The Thecha Naan was a soft naan with traditional Marathi seasoning of Thecha. It was spicy and tasted quite like a green chilly naan.
WHAT I LOVED
The search for spicy, flavourful and pan Indian kebabs in Kolkata takes one to various extremes - from expensive posh five-star restaurants to the rustic regional dhabas. Only a very few places balance the affordability, quality and authentic pan Indian taste. I loved that 'Charcoal Kebaberie' managed to score very well on all three accounts.
Ranging from traditional Goan masalas to Andhraite tadkas, streetside Maharashtrian and Rajasthani chutneys to Thai, Italian and Mexican style marinades - all married to the smoky flavours of the tandoor, this place
does unique things. If you want real good tandoori food presented well, which is also pocket-friendly, this place is for you.
(The columnist is a food connoisseur who loves experimenting with culinary delights and a career bureaucrat in the IRS Income Tax)