So why is this about New Market and Nizams? Because this one is about wafting memories that have since floated down from the legendary open market in Kolkata, right down to the suburbaness that is Andheri West. This one is about the memory of singing along with Shahrukh in his Main Koi Aisa Geet Gaoon, from the much overlooked Yes Boss from a matinee at Roxy to move towards the back alleys of New Market to the food mandala that resides there. Ah yes – fresh out of Elite, guiltily enjoying the tackiness of one of the foremost creature films that hit India : Anaconda – The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (oh yes, I liked it! I am man enough in admitting it! ), and then moving almost in default – to that institution called Nizams. The rolls – the heavenly rolls. The porotha , yielded by flour, fried lovingly in oil, splattered with the fried chillies, onion and other madness, filled with red juicy nuggets of mutton cubes- tossed in marinade of a hundred recipes, and then garnised with lemon squeeze and sauces. Served hot! Or the biriyani – mutton biriyani! Grains of basmati – glittering in saffron-yellow sunshine, bristling lightly in ghee (not too much), married with a plethora of spices, adorned with a piece of potato and the egg and then digging deep and you find those chunks of lamb – tender and sumptious… all served with the lemon wedges, slit chillies and onion rings (although given the current scenario, the onion may be a disappearing number). Ah yes – Nizaams biriyanis and rolls, served in the New Market Mohalla , in a the communal table or the curtained private ‘femily room‘ – depending on if you are with your fresh love of school (‘female party’ as uttered by the liveried waiters) or your gang of dudes from your neighbourhood! Good times of Kolkata!
This post is not about Nizams. Or New Market. But its about rediscovering rolls and Kolkata style biriyani in the town of Andheri West, in Mumbai.
A few years back, when my mind and pallette was suffering from withdrawal pangs of how the Kolkata roll was diminished by the hugely overhyped (and may I add grossly inferior) Frankie in Mumbai nagariya, Rahul and another ex- colleague of mine from STAR, Sayan – told me about this cart joint called Bhimas in Andheri West, that apparently served up rolls Kolkata style.
‘Go for it – Almost like Kolkata rolls’ Sayan said
‘You dont have to speak much modon, this guy just hands out the stuff. No chitchatting. Its more of the silent strong treatment type. Do your business and leave ‘ said Rahul! (I had this overwhelming feeling that I was a dog being trained!!)
‘Where exactly is it?’ I asked salivating
‘ Its close to the Andheri gurudwara…” said Rahul and Sayan in chorus, knowing fully well that I am a newbie in Mumbai and would have no clue where this aforementioned gurudwara would be.
( And then Rahul went back to ragging me, the lowly management trainee I was then!… Good times! )
Fresh in Mumbai then, and goaded by the promise of a Kolkata Nizaam reverie, I had gallivanted to the haven to taste the delight. Let it be known now, it was ok- decent, given that nothing of the sorts existed in Mumbai anywhere else. I happily gorged on a few and there in hangs a tale!
Now , its been 4 years in Mumbai and I have shifted base in Andheri West from Santacruz. One sultry evening, while passing down Oshiwara, I noticed this non descript road-side stall ambitiously titled Kolkata Konnection. The Karan Johar nomenclature form aside, it drew my heart strings! Could it be a roll shop which borrows more from the city rather than just a name? I explored.
” They say you will forget Shiraz and Nizaam rolls after you have ours”, ambitously proclaimed the owner (incidentally he is not a Bengali). I tried it, and from therein lies the basis of this post.
Kolkata Konnection is truly a slice of life Kolkata rolls. Made in the same style as I have grown up seeing in Babughat, Park Street , Lindsay or any of those nook and corners of Kolkata, there arrived the white paper wrapped Indian tortilla, stuffed generously with irregular cubes of juicy chunky meat, with sauteed onions and chillies, smacked with sauces. There is also, I suspect, a dash of chat masala along with the mandatory lemon squeeze. Freshly from the tawa, it was handed to me , a beckoning of sorts to bite into a promise. So I did! It was – well- Kolkata taste buds all over again. Not the Nizaam fare, not the Shiraaz fare, but still pretty darn good… I am a person who believes in excess, so I had ordered the double egg mutton roll. Loved every lip smacking part of it!
I succumbed. Kolkata Konnection had me hooked and now a challenge was thrown to taste more. Quickly scrolling down their one pager pamphlet menu, revealed all kinds of chop-cutlets, biriyanis, gravy accompaniments, and surprise of surprises – Moghlai Porotha. I decided that the biriyani should be put to test.
A word on Mumbai biriyanis. So this rice artifice that goes by the misnomer of biriyani in Mumbai is not – lets face it – what it should be. Any self respecting fellow who has tasted the real fare in Shiraz or in Dilli Darbar will know what the Lucknowi Biriyani is all about. Its not a pulao wearing multi coloured hues, not adorned with paraphernalia like dry fruits and doesnt have a dump of masala with the meat safely ensconced in the bottom. And the biggest piece of deceit – they dont have the aloo! No siree – that aint biriyani the way its meant to be! Its just not cricket!
But here I was, suitably encouraged with the gastronomical delight that was the roll, so the mutton biriyani was the call. Five hungry minutes later, there came the dish laden with the good stuff. A generous mound of rice, smelling divine, with the all important aloo peeking through. The smell itself was sign enough. I jumped into it with unabashed glee. The rice was soft and had absorbed the masala very well, the saffron aroma wafted through in every mouthful, the aloo was perfectly boiled and the mutton – wallahh! not hard at all, not too soft that it loses its texture too soon for you not to enjoy its juices- just perfect! It wasnt too spicy, the flavours of the rice and the meat and the marinade worked together to create this drowning feeling of sumptiousness that was this biriyani. Well done- the battle was won! I was advised by the now-over zealous owner to try it with the Rezala. I did, on a later visit – but that’s another story. Suffice to say, the biriyani in itself was a triumph!
So thats the story about Kolkata Konnection. I have a special account in my name in their home delivery clientele, I also get an extra aloo by special request. So that’s Kolkata Konnection – my walk back to the Nizam and the Shiraz days, to New Market backyard, to ultimatelu a delicous memory. To the good things of life!
PS: I also tried their Moghlai Parotha. Not the best, but will do! There is also Hyanglas in Lokhandwala that serves all of the above. Much has already been spoken about it. While it was good when it first launched, its now slowly on its descent. And their home delivery sucks! (And then it sucks some more!)