New Year or ‘Nobo Borsho’ is the day of new beginnings for Bengalis. Shopkeepers stow away the old ledger and open a new one after seeking divine blessings. Families deck up in new clothes and head out to the nearest fair. However, as with almost all Bengali celebrations, the most important aspect of the celebrations is food. In Bangladesh, the demand for Panta-Ilish, fermented rice with Hilsa that has been fried or smoked (Bhorta), is so high that the Government was forced to ban fishing of Hilsa. On this side of the border, the New Year is celebrated with a lavish nonvegetarian feast featuring delicacies like Chingir Malaikari and Kosha Mangsho. Restaurants across Hyderabad celebrate this occasion with a special menu for the diners. Here’s a look at some of them.
Borsho Boron – United Kitchens of India
United Kitchens of India is hosting a sumptuous feast featuring signatures from its Bengali menu as well as a few exclusive dishes for the ‘Borsho Boron’ festival. I was happy to have been offered a small role in the festival as one of the curators of the menu. The appetisers include classics like Veg Chop, Dimer Chop, Beguni, and Mughlai Parota as well as a few surprises like Fish Orly and Randhuni Murgi. Fish Orly, a light and crispy batter fried fish preparation, are not as popular as the iconic Fish Cutlet but it’s no less delicious. Randhuni or wild celery seeds is a distinctive spice that’s used in many iconic Bengali dishes. Randhuni Murgi is an UKI experiment to showcase the same flavours by using it in the marinade for a chicken appetiser. The main course selection at UKI reads like a greatest hits collection of Bengali cuisine – Luchi, Mishti Pulao, and Steamed Rice accompanied by Aloor Dom, Moonger Dal, Phulkopir Kaliya, Kosha Mangsho, Chingrir Korma, Sorshe Maachh, and Murgir Jhol. With so many options, even simply tasting everything on offer is a bit of a challenge. And you should definitely spare some appetite for the desserts platter that features Kacha Golla, Nolen Gurer Rosogolla, Payesh, and Sitabhog. The ‘Borsho Boron’ at UKI is priced at Rs. 749 for lunch and Rs. 799 for dinner (both prices all-inclusive), and with a selection of almost two dozen dishes, it offers incredible value for money.
Barsho Baran – The Park
The Barsho Baran festival at The Park is being helmed by the sister duo of Sarbani and Swarnali. I was invited to a preview session where I had the opportunity to interact with Mrs. Swarnali Pal. She’s a passionate home chef with a great knowledge of the cuisine and quite an attention to detail. Although she has grown up in a family with influences from both Eastern and Western halves of Bengal, most of her recipes showcase the flavours of East Bengal. The appetisers include a selection of popular Bengali snacks and street food – Singhara, Echorer Chop, Fish Fry, and Dimer Devil. While all the starters were quite good, the Fish Fry was an absolute delight. The highlight of the meal, however, was the main course selection. Getting your Shukto can be a challenge. This traditional bitter-sweet gravy is cooked in milk with an assortment of vegetables including bitter gourd and raw banana, and sundried lentil dumplings. Getting the balance of flavours and textures right is quite a task, but Mrs. Swarnali Pal pulled it off with aplomb. She was equally at ease with the Mutton Kosha, Doi Maachh, and Aloor Dum. The thali is priced at Rs. 1199 (plus taxes). Mrs. Swarnalis’s sister Sarbani is flying down from Kolkata for this festival, and apparently, she is quite a Biryani specialist. Apart from the thali, The Park will also offer a Biryani and Chaamp combo along with desserts for Rs. 899 (plus taxes).
Too Maach Bangla – Radisson Blu
Radisson Blu Plaza at Banjara Hills is hosting a ten-day Bengali Food Festival called ‘Too Maach Bangla’. The festival is being curated by Chef Dev who hails from the small town of Birbhum in Bengal. The menu for the festival will change every day – but the composition will remain similar. The starters selection for the tasting menu included well known Veg Chop and Chhanar Chop, as well as dishes like Kathaler Kathi Kebab (Jackfruit Tawa Tikki), Bahari Kebab (minced chicken kebab with bell pepper and capsicum), and Batasa Maachh Bhaja (small fried fish fritters). The chief attraction in the main course is the aromatic and moist Kolkata Biryani with potato and mutton. Other highlights include Shukto, Aaloo Posto, Chhanar Dalna, Bhetki Paturi, and Mutton Kosha. Chef is also planning to showcase a range of popular Bhortas from Eastern Bengal. Bengali desserts on offer include Misti Doi, Rosogolla, and Sondesh as dessert. The festival is a part of the regular dinner buffet priced at Rs. 1250 (taxes extra) and will continue until 21st April.