Food, Guides

Our Favourite Chicken Dishes in Calcutta

When you live in cold, wet Oregon some thousands of miles away from your boyf, you regularly experience what I called “foodpangs” or busts of painful craving for a dish you have enjoyed with someone you love. This list started off as a random conversation with Aninda on a night my taste-buds were aching for some Calcutta-style Chili Chicken. I ended up making a dish that my father often makes and talking to Aninda about chicken dishes we had enjoyed on our weekend eating sprees since December 2014 when we started dating. It was an interesting list-making that drew very different reactions from both of us; while Aninda was oohh-ing and aaah-ing and planning the next trip to the eateries, I was sinking deeper into a chasm of helpless hunger and making loud slurping sounds in the air. It was weird, alright, but my roommates were out that night and I ultimately ended up making some extra-spiced Chana Masala. So here you go, in no particular order:

1. Chicken Shapta at The Blue Poppy, Middleton St.

Blue poppy shines when you join them in embracing their fiery ambitions. It is somewhat ironic that a dish tracing its roots to the snowy landscapes of Tibet can be this lip-smackingly hot. Thin slices of chicken fried till golden are generously paired with shredded chili peppers and onions, and presented in a light sauce that is the perfect balance of sour, sweet, and umami. No turmeric means the dish has a rather pale colour but what it lacks in looks, it makes up in taste by unfurling fireworks as you place a spoonful in your mouth. Pair it with their burnt garlic fried rice. Fair warning though, not for the fainthearted!

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Field Notes: New Orleans


“Be safe in that city,” an elderly man had warned me before getting off at Baton Rouge. His warning had triggered the anxiety monster in me. The sky appeared moonless and I tried to remember what Joyce, the owner of the hostel I stayed at in Houston, had told me: Never let it get the better of you. The bus slithered on like a nocturnal reptile on what seemed to be raised causeways over swamps. Before long, I was standing with my over-packed backpack outside the Greyhound Station debating if I should wait for a bus or call an Uber. The air lingered on the lip of freezing. I had decided on exploring the south to appease my heat-loving tropical self but apparently cold winters have an unhealthy attachment to me. When I arrived in Corvallis last year, the city ended up in the throes of a rare snow storm and now the Big Freeze was rattling America’s bones. Stunned by abnormally low temperatures, iguanas were dropping from trees as far south as Tallahassee. A massive opalescent clock hung like an overripe fruit against the damp sky. Ten minutes later as I was booking a cab, a bus screeched to a halt in front of me and I hopped on. It took me less than an hour to realize that I’d fall for this city, that I’d long to come back. With their slatted windows, ornate ironwork, and brightly painted exteriors, Clare’s neighbourhood was full of some of the most beautiful homes I’d ever seen. Before ringing the bell and being introduced to New Orleans’ famed shotgun houses, I stood quietly on her porch and ached for Calcutta.

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Destinations, Guides

When to Visit West Bengal

With its head high up in clouds perched on Himalayan peaks and its toes in the tropical waters of the Bay of Bengal, West Bengal is unlike any Indian state. Numerous rivers crisscross the flat plains that are redolent with paddy, then golden wheat and corn. Acres of bright yellow mustard. Every summer, we rode the Darjeeling Mail from Calcutta up the spine of the state to the township of Siliguri to seek relief in the murmuring rain of the foothills. My grandparents lived in a town named Haldibari. Once a rickety train with green cars and open windows chugged from Chilahati across the border in Bangladesh to Haldibari. During the annual Huzur Sahib’er Mela hundreds rode the train. Further down, in Malda where my father’s grandparents settled post partition are memories of Bengal’s Islamic past. There’s so much unexplored treasure in the Bangali’s backyard, places we are yet to visit and cultures we are yet to taste. The countryside is peppered with ruins of erstwhile rajbaris, marvellous temples, and folklore. Bankura, Aninda’s maternal home, and the famous temples of Bishnupur boast of the region’s architectural brilliance. Throughout centuries, Bauls, or minstrels, have been traveling from village to village in Bengal’s heartlands thrumming their ektaras and singing folksongs. Further west, in Purulia one can see geological features of the Chota Nagpur Plateau and partake of tribal celebrations. The land fans into an estuary in the south, into a wilderness of crocodile infested mangrove and transforms into a dynamic landscape governed by tides. The Sundarbans is as beautiful as it is treacherous. Rivers swallow islands and entire villages vanish overnight but it is also from these tiger-infested forests that you can see a lunar rainbow. Rural Bengal’s culture, especially along the porous border with Bangladesh, is shaped as much as by its native populace as it is by immigrants. When my ancestors arrived from riot torn East Pakistan to Malda, they were sheltered by a Muslim family, distant relatives of the family of Ghani Khan Choudhary. The border ran right through their courtyard! Bengali culture is a celebration, an amalgam of Hindu and Muslim cultures, a culture that Bengalis are proud of. Even our biggest religious festival, Durga Puja, is more a carnival than a set of strict laws governed by religious ideas.

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Destinations, Food

The Bangali’s Guide to Goan Food

It is no secret that the Bangali loves to eat but more often than not we see our brethren meticulously searching for eateries that serve Bangali food in the most non-Bangali of places, say for example, in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. Far from Bengal and its redolent plains, we found by the Baspa a tiny establishment with a board that announced “এখানে বাঙালি খাবার পাওয়া যায় |” A group of delighted Bengali tourists marched forth towards this miracle while their children, visibly depressed at the prospect of being fed more bhaat dal, tried hard to make their voices heard to their parents who oblivious to the delicious local food they were missing shut them with the ubiquitous chup kor!

To encourage fellow Bangalis to embrace the world of foreign foods, we have devised the complete guide to navigating the menu at a Goan eatery. Enjoy a laugh and a glass of feni while deciding your order!


Ambot-tik: For the one that loves onomatopoeia. Ambot-tik is how your tongue clicks against your palate when you put something tart in your mouth. Balance it with sweetness and let out a sigh before biting into a chunk of seafood.


Balchão: Pickled shrimp relish that’s fiery and finger-licking delicious. Though it might sound like a goon from Uttar Pradesh, it is originally from Macao.

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Destinations, Photo Essay

Finding Home in Austin: East Side Art Walk in Photos

“There’s a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas.” Willie Nelson, the erstwhile musician, author, poet, activist (and a whole lot of other things) said this about Austin one night. I came across this quote for the first time when I was trying to figure out what to do in Austin. I wanted to see this new place, but I also wanted it to remind me of home. I wanted a definitive answer to an age-old question. “How do you make a home out of a foreign land?”

I started understanding Willie’s answer a little bit when I came across this mural.

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Home Is Where You Find Love (‘Til Death by Federico: 1201 E 7th St)

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Travel Advice

The Anxious Traveler

I arrived in Austin and had a panic attack on the street. Alone and hungry, sleep deprived from flying overnight from Portland, I had gone out in search of food because the hostel I was staying at wouldn’t let me check in early. It was hot and my body found it tough to adjust to the temperature difference. When the maps on my phone started malfunctioning, I called Aninda on the brink of tears. It wasn’t the first time. I had a panic attack on my third night in Gangtok and I wasn’t even traveling alone. My aunt and I had spent a beautiful day hiking to Enchey Monastery and gorging on plump chicken momos but later that night, something triggered me. I slept through most of my first day in Bangalore because the anxiety wouldn’t let me embrace the newness.

I tend to panic in unfamiliar situations. Over the years, I have found out that I do not enjoy the first few days in a new place. Far from faces and streets I am accustomed to, far from my established routine, my brain goes into non-compliance mode and instead of savouring the unknown, I stumble into intense longing for familiarity. It’s a strange homesickness but more for an idea of home than for a real, physical home. I attribute my panic attacks to a generalised fear of the unknown. The first few days in a new place are distressing. It is more intense when I am traveling alone. I also suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder which means I have difficulty interacting in a social setting. As a traveler, it is an experience I seek but pushing the limits and striking up conversations with people I do not know can be both debilitating and rewarding.

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Destinations, Food, Guides

Shillong Pork Trail: Where to Find the Best Pork Dishes

What the lord is to people with Jesus in their hearts, lard is to foodies with pork in their hearts. Seasoned pork enthusiasts would agree that with experience and maturity, one tends to seek out dishes and recipes that are less about processed meat (this DOES NOT mean I am letting go of my breakfast bacon) and more about local recipes that incorporate traditional cooking ingredients, sensibilities and style and offer bolder flavor profiles. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya and home of the Khasi, Garo and Jayantia people, is offering me a tasty look into an array of pork dishes, which have eschewed the continental cold cuts and have embraced the spicy and saucy gravies of Indo-Tibetan cuisine and the tangy and tasty curries from Khasi family staples.

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