Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gastronomic Delights - another name for Durga Pujo

Pratima at RK Puram Kalibari Pujo
Durga Pujo - the annual vacation of Goddess Durga when she comes visiting her parental home alongwith her children is a time of joy, festivities and gluttony in Bengal and all those pockets of the world that Bengalis inhabit. Unlike the austerity, fasting and prayers followed through the rest of the country during the autumn Naratras - Bengal alongwith neighbouring Assam, Orissa and Jharkhand erupts in joy. The Pujo is all about new clothes, socializing, reunions, cultural activities and food. Its a carnival of sorts and it runs for five days!!

While the rites and rituals are carried on by pandits the rest of us are kept busy with pandal hopping, participation in dance, music, recitation competitions, catching music and theater performances all of course accompanied by liberal doses of chops, cutlets, moghlai parathas, radhabolobis and many, many kinds of mishti.

The beginning of this gastronomic 5 day extravaganza is rightfully marked by Anando mela. An unique culinary competition where participants make their signature dishes and showcase the same at the pandals. The categories are pre-decided and marks are given for both taste and presentation. A MasterChef competition of our own which has been famous from long before Gary brought it to notice that homemakers can cook excellent food.

The ladies having set up wares wait for the judges to arrive
At Deepanwita, Dwarka which is my parar pujo (neighbourhood pujo - while everyone pandal hops, there always is one pujo you belong to. In my case its Deepanwita) we had three categories - Veg, non-veg and Sweet dish.

Bated breath
Practice, discussions, procuring of ingredients all happen well in advance and on the day of the competition women with family and friends in tow walk into pandals carrying casseroles filled with the yummiest dishes possible from their kitchens. Foodies like us make a beeline for the stalls once they are set up, to taste, lick and critically analyze everything.

Patishaptas, cakes, brownies, Hyderabadi cuisine, vada sambar, Goan specialities and more was available for us to gorge on.

The satisfied smiles on the faces of the ladies who had soon covered and packed their wares indicating that they had sold out was a separate story all together.

All self respecting pandals always have a variety of food stalls operating through the pujo days - and this is in addition to the fruits & sweets prashad distributed in the morning and bhog (a different menu each day) served to everyone for lunch. I told you food is if not the center then only slightly off center to the right.

This year we were delighted to find an unassuming Royal Chick Chop serving delicious veg and non veg snacks at Deepanwita apart from other chat, kebab, ice cream, chuski and other stalls. What made Royal stand out was the authenticity of the taste and the care they took to check if customers were satisfied with everything.
Kolkata style rolls - konno katha hobe na

Yummy Moghlai paratha - keema and calorie filled, but who is complaining?

Crispy flavorsome cutlets - just my thing

The Sugar candy man - some things are eternal

A chuski is a must after the spicy stuff from the kebab counters

So there is vegetarian fare too

Kebabs all set to be grilled over a charcoal fire and served piping hot with mint chutney and lots of love

Vegs grillables - we welcome our non bong neighbours who are off non veg due to Navratras

Pan - a must have after all that stuff 
 As I sit and write this post and go through all the pictures captured during the past few days I yet again wonder at the tenacity and patience of those who set time aside from their everyday lives come together and plan & execute these huge opportunities for all of us. A big vote of thanks to everyone in the Pujo Committee for everything.

Asche bochor aabar hobe - it shall all happen again next year...

till then...Jai Ma!

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