It’d been quite sometime that I’d been conversing with Pritha Sen on many food-based groups on Facebook. It intrigued me that the knowledge she had to share about heritage cuisines was immense and moreover about the Goalondo steamer cuisine in general. A couple of friends who had the chance to be at here pop-up of Goalondo steamer cuisine in Delhi had come back to me raving about it. This was on Fowl curry which has gone down the annals of food history. One dish that I had to relish to know what it was all about.
Thankfully Nabanno, which has been slowly changing the course of East Indian/Bangladeshi food landscape in Hyderabad is hosting her for a pop-up on the Goalondo Food festival. We happened to be at a preview of the pop-up before it opens it’s doors and all I can say, I’ve come back pleasantly surprised and satisfied. It’s not what I expected in head and so much more.
The evening started off with Pritha Sen giving us a brief about the food and what to expect. I’ve been too reading up a lot about it for quite some time on stories I could lay my hands on. The food author Mujtaba Ali makes great mention of the Goalondo Fowl curry which has been described as one of the brilliant dishes he’s come across. The womenfolk of Bikrampur were famed across Bengal or their cooking. In pre-independence era, people had to break away at Goalondo to continue on their journey to Dhaka. But for that they had to take the steamer boat overnight to Narayanganj to continue their journey. The Goalondo Fowl curry cooked on those steamers had become popular among the passengers and a legendary dish. The curry till date is cooked still on the Naf river steamers.
In most of the eastern states at that moment of time, people wouldn’t partake chicken. So the fowl could be any other bird being the common water fowl to wild fowl. But Pritha Sen makes use of country chicken for her fowl curry.
The pop-up at Nabanno by Pritha Sen boasts the best dishes that she’s had the chance to encountering along her heritage food journey. Khoi er Bora is a fried balls made of khoi (popped rice), saunf. It leaves a lingering taste of coconut soon as you gulp it down. The khoi is used widely in East India which made this dish quite interesting. The Smoked Bhetki is simply brilliant. There are no words to describe the loveliness of this simplistic dish which was also born aboard the steamers. Beautifully smoked with puffed rice and gud (jaggery), the smokiness is exceptional. Also make a light note of slathering the fish generously with butter and give your diet conscious mind a little bit of rest.
The Masoor Dal is like soul food if you’d ask any person who hails from East India. This was the time that I finally lay my fork, spoon and table manners to rest as I partook the food with my hands. To be had with white rice, the Masoor Dal is inspired from the rustic village of Dhaka. It’s tasted a little similar to the Dalma to me, but without the Haldi.
The accompaniment for the meal is with Mulor Paturi, which is essentially a paturi of radish cooked on a tawa. These dishes are hard to come across in any household, leave alone a restaurant which makes it so much more wonderful to relish. A very rustic style of cooking indeed. Those who can handle the mustard, do go ahead and indulge in some extra mustard oil dressing on top to bring out the flavors better.
Now to the star of the pop-up, the Goalondo Chicken Curry. The chicken is slow cooked and is generously doused in lots of spices. The essential phenomenal taste is provided by the backdrop of shrimp paste use in the curry. But the paste leaves no pungent smell but something divine that will leave you wanting for more. The best part is the curry as Syed Mujtaba Ali in his words had rightly aid ‘a fiery thin red curry’. I loved the Parshe Roast which amazed me by the fact that I was having it so differently. I’ve always had the Parshe Roast with a generous coating of masalas paste. But here the coating was distinct in it’s use of caramelized onions till brown giving it a little sweet spice taste.
Continuing on the East Indian food journey was the Dohjem. A very north-eastern style of making pork made by the Khasi hill tribes using copious amount of masala made with black sesame and spices . There is so many more wonderful dishes on offer like Tel Beguni, Macher Dim Bhapa and lots more.
The Goalondo Steamer Cuisine pop-up by Pritha Sen at Nabanno is a must visit. Leaving the delicious food aside, these are some famed dishes which are hard to come by. A beautifully constructed menu and the Goalondo Chicken Curry is definitely one of the best chicken curries I had the chance to relish. You might/might not board the Goalondo steamer boats but a gastromical romantic journey here is guaranteed.
You can read more about the legendary dishes of the Goalando Steamer here.