An Odiya cook brings authentic Bengali food to Delhi, via Mumbai. ♦
We’ve had our share of fish fry, mochar chop, and radha-ballabhi at CR Park’s abundant eateries, but the most exacting Bengali epicureans we know usually turn their noses up at the area’s “Punjabified” restaurants, claiming the food is “too spicy,” “too oily,” and “not like home.” So when friends from Tara Apartments tell us about an exciting new Bengali takeaway behind their complex, we waste no time in placing an order.
A glance at the menu of Bengal Delight opens up a vista of possibilities beyond kosha mangsho; here is, for example, aam kashundi kankra (crab made with raw mango kashundi), shorshe mangsho (mustard mutton), kochur loti chingri (prawns with taro), daak bangla murgi (chicken curry with eggs, colonial rest-house style), and peper chatni (made of raw papaya, or peper—also confusingly called plastic chutney for its appearance).
For our first order, we stick to the basics, and aren’t disappointed. A generously meaty kosha mangsho is beautifully spiced, the heat of the mustard oil and ginger tempered with yogurt, and the accompanying luchis are moreish long after they are delivered. A large portion of creamy aloo posto ties everything together; raisin-filled tamatar chutney—which uses only the tang of tomatoes and lemon, combined with the sweetness of dates—is seriously habit-forming.
Pati studied mathematics, but always loved cooking and food—“it’s all about ratios,” he says.
In the following weeks, we have tried—among other things—bans poda mutton (goat cooked in bamboo), and roi macher shorshe (mustard and green chillies hitting high notes in unison over unctuous cuts of carp). Not to mention gallons of tamatar chutney. “Just like home,” declare our Bengali friends, burping in gratitude.
There’s clearly someone who knows his food on the other side of the stove, so one evening we set off to have a chat with Madhusudan Pati, the owner of the delivery joint and the dignified voice on the end of the line when we place our orders. The kitchen is a simple affair at the DDA flats just off Guru Ravidas Marg. A puppy loiters hopefully in the neighbouring plot, while Pati’s adorable three-year-old son peddles his toy cycle in furious circles. Pati is just the gently mannered man we expected him to be; he sits us down at one of two tables in a covered verandah and immediately tells his staff to fry up some fish and bring us thimble-cups of sweet tea. As we dig through the crunchy, breaded crust into the flakey fish, pausing to dip it into a fresh batch of kashundi, Pati tells us about his life.
Originally from Bhadrak district in Odissa, Pati comes from a family of cooks and caterers. “Half the places in Shobhabazar and Shyambazar are run by people from my village,” he tells us. Pati studied mathematics, but always loved cooking and food—“it’s all about ratios,” he says. In 1996, he travelled to Mumbai to make a living for himself, first bunking with other migrants from home. “I went to earn money, but my family are pundits, so when I got there, the others didn’t want me to do any work,” he says. “But I couldn’t just sit around. After some time I managed to get a job as a kitchen helper at the Garware Club, near Wankhede Stadium.”
“I’d love to have a seafood restaurant someday.”
A little over a year later, Pati heard about an interview at a little restaurant in Mahim—“Only Fish”, back then one of the few Bengali restaurants in the city. Only Fish eventually became Oh! Calcutta, with locations around the country, and sister brand Mainland China. Over the years, Pati worked his way around to the Elgin Road Oh! Calcutta, and finally arrived in Delhi in 2005. Last summer, he decided to take the first step towards realizing his dream of having his own restaurant someday.
There have been setbacks, but Bengal Delight has been up and running for a few months now, with a growing base of loyal customers in Alaknanda, Kalkaji and CR Park. The food is so well priced and there’s so much variety, that you could conceivably order it every day. The fish is procured from CR Park’s markets as needed; the kashundi is made in-house; and Pati pays attention to details like using green chillies over red in most dishes. In our experience, the staff of four are an efficient team, turning out complex orders in quick time.
Pati has a vast repertoire and is happy to make Bengali and Odiya dishes from off the menu on request, as well as cater for bigger parties and events. He delivers within a 10km radius—with a minimum order of Rs 1,500 for places on the outer edge of that distance. “I love all kinds of food—Indian, Chinese, Thai, sushi,” Pati says, “but especially seafood of any kind. I’d love to have a seafood restaurant someday.” In honour of that dream, that night we feast on sweet, succulent crab in a thick kosha gravy, daab chingri, and a fragrant chingri marich pulao, with zingy black pepper and bay leaf. And before diving in, we offer a fervent prayer for Pati’s continued success.
Getting there: Bengal Delight, J2/42A DDA Flats Kalkaji, New Delhi, opposite Tara Apartments (back entrance). Call 9718944866 or 7291808203.
This story was originally published on Brown Paper Bag.