Satiate your Bengali food cravings at Bhojohari Manna
One afternoon, I had a craving for Bengali food that is authentic and pocket friendly. Without much ado, I called up Bhojohari Manna and placed my order. There is hardly anyone who has not heard about this brand in Kolkata, but I decided to review it so that uninitiated readers could give it a shot.
Located at a few places like Ekdalia, Salt Lake, Esplanade and some other locations, Bhojohari Manna has become quite famous. There are many imitations of the brand in and around the city but the real outlets are not many.
Jumbo Golda Chingri Malaikari (Rs 340), Deshi Pabda Shorse (Rs 220), Chicken Dak Bangla (Rs 215), Khejur-Amsotto (Rs 55), Bengali Pulao (Rs 120), Plain rice (Rs 95).
The food arrived in non-fussy simple white containers. There was no effort put into the presentation and I could guess that it's a place like Dhabas in Punjab that survive solely on the quality and taste of food. No fancy décor or flowery presentation. Food. Great food.
Chicken Dakbangla was the first dish that I tasted. During the colonial era, the rest houses on the 'Dak' (mail) routes were referred to as Dak Bungalow or Dak Bangla. These Bungalows had their own poultry that was specially prepared for the British officers/important travelers halting there for night stay. The cooks in these Bungalows used to prepare country style chicken with hard boiled eggs and potatoes in freshly ground whole spices that were locally found.
This well marinated Chicken Dakbangla of Bhojohari Manna that I ordered, cooked in whole spices, was extremely flavourful and the aroma was infused in the egg and potato too. I have tried the Dak Bangla chicken many times but this one was addictive. Spicy and tender, this restaurant does the dish right which is very simple, but difficult to recreate.
Next in the order was Pabda Shorshe. In this dish, the whole pabda fish is cooked in freshly ground mustard paste or Shorse-bata. Pabda, an Indian freshwater Catfish is not just yummy, it is extremely healthy too being a rich source of Omega 3. Pabda is a very delicate fish which should be handled carefully while cooking. Luckily, Bhojohari Manna cooked it to perfection, neither over-fried nor undercooked. The pungent gravy, tender fish went very well with plain rice. The combination is soul food material.
The Chingri Malaikari served at the place was traditional, cooked in coconut milk and spices. The king of prawns and the pride of Bengalis, Golda was cooked perfectly. It is the fine taste of this dish that made this dish historically very popular with the British and Bhojohari Manna maintains the authenticity. However, I found that the prawn was not very fresh and I have had much better Malai curries elsewhere.
The Bengali Pulao was an aromatic slightly sweet, yellow couloured Gobindho bhog rice with raisins and cashew nuts and was a perfect complement to Chicken Dak Bangla.
I ended my typical Bengali lunch with Khejur-Amsotto chutney. It was sweet with a punch of sourness prepared with dates, mango preserve and tomatoes in jaggery, with addition of cashews and raisins to make the chutney richer. However, many times I have had thicker pulpy chutneys with chunks of dates and mangoes. This one I saw was syrupier and less like a preserve. Still, taste wise it was blissful.
WHAT I LOVED
Just like the Dhabas on Delhi-Chandigarh highway that serve great food at affordable pricing, Bhojohari Manna serves authentic Bengali food that is cooked well and priced better. The chicken dakbangla was finger licking good. The fish was homely and the pulao was heartwarming. The prawns could have been a tad better but the meal was overall very pleasing.
What I particularly liked was that dishes were available in portions, which becomes convenient for a solo diner or an office break lunch.
If you want to have a properly cooked, delicious, value for money Bengali meal, Bhojohari Manna is a must try. There is no effort wasted on fancy packing or presentation, but the food is the USP. When you finish the meal, there is a grin of satiation on the face that is hard to hide.
(The columnist is a food connoisseur who loves experimenting with culinary delights and a career bureaucrat in the IRS Income Tax)