Kalyan Karmakar writes about how kachoris, guntur idlis and an ordinary iced-tea can transform your life.
Image credit: Courtesy Finelychopped.net Jan 10, 2017 · 11:30 am Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri Share Tweet Email Reddit Print Share Tweet Email Reddit Print Food blogger
Kalyan Karmakar’s favourite eatery in Lucknow doesn’t serve biryani or kebabs. It isn’t even a restaurant. Traveling through the city, Karmakar happened to chance upon tto chance upon the Vajpayee Kachori Bhandar, a small store that sold kachoris – a deep fried Indian snack. His curiosity tickled by the long queue of customers he saw outside, Karmakar stood in line, waiting for his turn to try the perfectly flaky or khasta kachoris.
“A man from the shop called out to me and gestured that I could move up to the front,” Karmakar recalled. The man later introduced himself as Manish, inheritor of the family kachori-business, and as it turned out, a distant relative of India’s ex-prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
One bite later, Karmakar said, he knew he was experiencing the defining culinary moment of his trip through Lucknow. The crisp kachoris were served on a plate of sal leaves, accompanied by a tangy chickpea curry,
“Everything was perfect. Right from the consistency of the crust, the seasoning and the wholesomeness.”
This meal, and meeting Vajpayee’s relative, form one of the anecdotes in Karmakar’s recently published book, The Travelling Belly, about the street food of various Indian cities and restaurants where one can sample their local cuisine.
A food blogger since 2007, Karmakar’s blog, Finely Chopped, is a delicious and detailed directory of the food stalls and eateries in every city he has travelled to. Reading the posts he has published over the years, his evolution from a mere food blogger to a food writer is evident.
The difference between the two may not seem like much anymore: Diners Instagram every plate they eat, captioning each picture with expertise borrowed from the judges on Master Chef. But with each entry, Karmakar’s descriptions on Finely Chopped reveal a nuance and refinement of palate, a willingness to engage with food not just in restaurants, but also in every day life.
“I began to write not just about the eateries I went to and the dishes I ate there, but also the people I met, the places I travelled to, the dishes I cooked,” he writes in the introduction to his book. “What started out as a place to vent became a place for me to celebrate my love for food instead.”
The Travelling Belly begins in Kolkata and ends in Mumbai, the two cities closest to the writer’s heart. The first speaks of nostalgia – sneaking a mutton roll after school at the paarar dokaan, or neighbourhood shop; splitting a single plate of mutton biryani with four or more college friends.