Food


“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

Art, Family, Food, Leisure

An Afternoon In Kolkata Book Fair


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indexI was returning from Gangtok on a two-week holiday from my institute after our third-year examination on February 1. My mom was in Kolkata to attend her friend’s daughter’s marriage followed by her routine medical checkups and consultations. So, I joined her in Kolkata. After her checkups and consultations at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, on February 2, we decided to go for the Kolkata Book Fair (কলকাতা বই মেলা) in the afternoon. One of my friends Manali also joined us there. The fair is being held at “Milan Mela” near Science City on E.M. Bypass. Two years ago, while returning from Kumbh Mela we couldn’t visit the book fair as that was the last day and I didn’t want to miss the chance this time.

International Kolkata Book Fair is a late winter fair in Kolkata. It is a unique book fair in the sense of not being a trade fair – the book fair is primarily for the general public rather than whole-sale distributors. It celebrates international literature and reflects India’s much-loved reading tradition. The Kolkata Book Fair, recognised by International Publishers Association, Geneva, is also the largest Book Fair of the world in terms of visitors.

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It’s reported that the last year’s edition of International Kolkata Book Fair was visited by around 2 million book-lovers over 12 days and books worth Rs 200 million ($3.25 million) were sold. It is the world’s third largest annual conglomeration of books after the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair.

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The focal theme this year was Great Britain. The fair was divided into five big pavilions. Each of the pavilions contained different publication houses from India and abroad. The pavilions were very large and had mammoth collection of books from almost all subjects and interests one can imagine. I could not visit all of them but I visited two of the pavilions. One of them was containing British publishers like Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, etc. The Oxford stall was no less than a usual Oxford bookstore having books ranging from kids fiction categories to business books. They even had comics of great Japanese series like bleach and one piece (my favorite).  There were stalls especially for research books  covering every field from biomechanics to elementary physics and astrophysics.

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In the other one, there were stalls for local publishers like Ananda Publishers, Dey’s Publishing, etc. These stalls had basically all the Bengali books and novels ranging from Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray to current writers. There were separate stalls outside the pavilions. Other than that there were small stalls of different bookstores outside of the pavilions. This book fair could feed needs of every reader. it’s truly a paradise of book-lovers.

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The delicious attraction of this book fair was the food court — the gastronomic section where variety of snacks, sweets & confectionaries and other food items were available. There were outlets of Dominos, Kathleen, Laziz, Roll’nRoll, Alibaba etc. Some famous restaurants of Kolkata had also opened their stalls there.

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Mind-boggling varieties of dishes — very difficult to choose

They were serving delicious, mouth-watering dishes like fish fry, chicken rolls, prawn chilli to biryani and even different flavored patishapta (Indian style crepes stuffed with sweet fillings).

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Mom and Manali looking liliputs :-)

There was even a tall guy standing on sticks, wearing a menu card of one of the food stalls in the food court, inviting people to the stall.

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WP_20150202_018The other attraction of this fair that I found out interesting was different forms of artwork which I saw there. It was amazing to find artists actually working there on the spot and painting bottles, clothes and many different things that we generally dispose off after use.

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This actually proved a good point in reusing the refuse. The idea is very inspiring and I was excited to see them doing that on the spot. This is good for our nature and sustainability.

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An artist busy in creating a masterpiece

I love reading books and was very thrilled to be there. We visited many pavilions but couldn’t visit all of them due to paucity of time. We bought a Kindle for my dad — it is for his birthday gift. I bought several books. I wanted to buy more books but couldn’t buy more as we had to go to our home in Ranchi next day. I missed my dad very much as he is fond of books and he loves reading books. The time was too short although we were there for more than 4 hours. Any number of hours — even a full day is too short for this book fair. I felt bad that I could only visit two halls.

A good book has often been called a man’s best friend, or as Groucho Marx puts it, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Atri Bhattacharya has rightly said: “The Kolkata Book Fair (KBF) is a phenomenon. Large. Crowded. Noisy. Intellectual. (Oh, very intellectual!) Musical. Gastronomic. Artistic. Controversial. Chaotic. Resilient. In its own way, it encapsulates the character of its city and its most visible tribe: The literary Bengali.”

Celebration, Festival, Food

Republic Day 2015 in Baghdad


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India celebrates January 26th every year as her Republic Day to mark the date when the Constitution of India came into force. The constitution was adopted on January 26th, 1950 with a democratic government system. It was this day in 1930 when the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress.

The Indian embassy in Baghdad organizes the flag hoisting ceremony on the morning at the embassy residence and a reception in the afternoon. I received emailed invitation to attend the ceremony and reception a week ago. The Indian embassy and the residence are in our neighbourhood. I walked from my office to the embassy residence for the Flag hoisting ceremony scheduled at 8:30 am.

Today is the 66th Republic Day of India. The Flag hoisting ceremony started with hoisting of  the Indian flag by Ambassador H.E. Ajay Kumar followed by singing of national anthem by all the Indians present there. There is a very small Indian community in Baghdad. Most of the Indians in Iraq are in Kurdistan region. 

Flag hoisting at Indian Embassy in Baghdad on Republic Day. #26January

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

It was then followed by reading of the President’s message to the Nation by the Ambassador. The printed message of the President to the Nation was also given to the attendees. The embassy arranges for breakfast for the guests of the ceremony. They served us nice hot pakoras, falafel and tea. We had some small chat with Ambassador Ajay Kumar, HOC DV Singh and others and then I returned to my office. 

With Indian Ambassador and HOC at Embassy residence in Baghdad after flag hoisting on #26January

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

This time the reception is scheduled at 5:30 pm. For last several years the reception was from 3.00 pm. I went to the embassy residence at 5:20 pm for the reception. The reception was attended by dignitaries from other embassies, Iraqi political establishments and a tiny cross-section of the local Indian community in Baghdad. National anthem was played. Speeches were delivered on India-Iraq relationships. The function ended with Indian dinner that included Chicken Butter Masala, Chicken tikka, Paneer, Dal, Pulao & Paratha besides other side dishes. The meal was supplied by a restaurant run by our friend Vivekanand inside International Zone.  We also had a nice chat with our friend Akhtar as he was waiting for his car to arrive. Akhtar is a frequent visitor to Baghdad as he is running a business here.

I walked back to my home in the evening. It’s a very sad evening for me as it was this evening ten years ago when my mother left us for her eternal abode. We were then staying in Jamshedpur as I was then posted there. I miss you, Maa!

I wish Happy Republic Day to all my fellow Indians. Vande Mataram! Jai Hind!

Celebration, Food, Friends

It’s A Nice Afternoon — Last Of 2014


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Jaya and Babai were urging me since yesterday that I must celebrate the beginning of the new year. I earlier planned to welcome the new year in solitude, staying in at my home.

In the morning Subhash informed me that he has arranged for a Masgouf lunch at Iraqi Hunting Club along with his department colleague Nadia. He said that only we four people will be there — three from his department including him plus me.

Today being the year-end, I was busy in my department to ensure that the deals are complete, accruals are properly assessed and booked, and securities are marked to market, etc. Anyway, as I finished, we rushed to the club. Nadia & Russel were already there waiting for us. By the time we reached there, the fish was ready to be served.

We enjoyed the fish along with khubuz and fried rice. We had nice chat over our lunch. The lunch was followed by tea. In Iraq, no meal is complete without tea. Tea is also called here as chai! We were sitting on the side terrace and enjoying the sun.

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The sun started it’s last journey towards the western horizon for this year 2014. It started becoming a bit chilly so we had a round of coffee — turkish coffee. After settling the tab, we started walking out through the lawn.

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New Year eve without whiskey is incomplete. We went to the alcohol shop inside the club. To our dismay, we  found that they have run out of stock of single malt whiskey. So, we returned with Chivas Regal.

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Another activity of New Year eve is wishing and responding to New Year wishes from friends and family. These are a few such occasions in our mundane, busy life when we connect to our near and dear ones. We used to make cards or buy cards, write the messages and send them but now we do it on Facebook & Twitter! I feel that we are losing the personal touch in our relationships.

Thanks to Nadia & Russel for being with us in the afternoon and making the last afternoon of 2014 a different and of course a special one.

I had an amazing 2014. Now let’s see you top that, 2015!

Food, Friends

Masgouf For Lunch Today


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Subhash called me in the morning asking me whether I am interested for having masgouf for lunch today, then he would ask his department colleague Nadia to arrange for it at the Iraqi Hunting Club. I immediately consented for it as it’s been a long time that we enjoyed the Iraqi delicacy — Masgouf. It is a traditional Mesopotamian dish, it is an open cut fish grilled and spiced with salt, pepper and tamarind. While keeping the skin on, it is then brushed with olive oil. It is de facto considered the national dish of Iraq. Baghdad prides itself of making the best of the Masgouf.

Nadia placed orders for masgouf beforehand so that the fish would be ready by the time we go for our lunch. Cooking of Masgouf takes long time sometimes up to 3 hours depending upon the size of the fish. Generally when ordered, the carp fish is taken out of the water tank and killed by a quick blow onto the forehead with a small rod. It is then partially scaled, slit up the back, cleaned the guts out and flattened the bodies. After sprinkling sea salt onto the fish, it is carried over to a fire pit and propped on their sides against iron stakes plunged into the ash to roast against the flames. By roasting the fish vertically with the open side facing the fire, the oil seeps into the ashes, leaving salted, seasoned fish meat. The fish is cooked until most of the fish’s fat is burnt out, as the carps are typically fatty.

We went for our lunch after 3.00 p.m. We were joined by our a few other colleagues. The fish were yet to be well-cooked and crispy on the outsides. We waited for around half an hour. The fish were served on a big tray garnished with lime, slices of onion and pickles and served to us on the table after covering them by large khubz — flatbread to keep the fish hot.

Masgouf was quite tasty. I think that it gets the extra taste from the smoke that goes into the flesh of the fresh fish while cooking it.

Thanks Nadia for arranging Masgouf lunch for us.

Food

Zerde — A Turkish Dessert


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Today, Ibrahim brought zerde to our office. Zerde is a Turkish dessert, a sort of sweet pudding from rice that is colored yellow with saffron. It is a festive dish popular at wedding, birth celebrations and during the sacred month of Muharram. Zerde differs from rice pudding insofar as it is prepared with water instead of milk.

Had zerde in morning. Thanks @ibrahimaku. It was nice and sweet.

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

There’s a rice pudding with a similar name – zarda in South Asia, which is made by boiling rice with orange/yellow food coloring, milk and sugar, and flavoured with cardamoms, raisins, saffron, pistachios or almonds. The name Zarda comes from Persian and Urdu word — ‘zard’ meaning ‘yellow’, hence named since the food coloring added to the rice gives it a yellow color. Zarda is typically served after a meal. In India and Pakistan also, zarda is often served in weddings as dessert.

Thanks Ibrahim, it was nice and sweet.

Family, Festival, Food, Religion

Annakoot — Mountain of Food


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Annakoot — Mountain of food — is celebrated in observance of the episode in Sri Krishna’s childhood, in which He gave protection to the cowherd clan of Vrindavan from the wrath of Indra and humbled Indra in that process. The cowherd, their wives, children and cattle jubilantly surrounded Sri Krishna. They were awed by His superhuman accomplishment and celebrated Sri Krishna’s feat with a sumptuous feast. Thus began the tradition of Annakoot.

Gaudiya Math (pronounced as Mutt) in Allahabad also celebrates Annakoot. Baba — Jaya’s father — planned to visit the temple at the Gaudiya Math with all the family members for the worship on the day of Govardhan Puja. It’s the next day after Diwali. This year, it’s celebrated on October 24. Baba is a regular visitor at this ashram.

The Annakoot or the Govardhan Puja celebrations take place on the first day of the month of Kartik which is the first month of the Hindu new year — Vikrami Samvat. The Monsoon season has come to an end and new harvest has been brought in from the fields and grains and cereals are plentiful. To thank the Lord for the good year that has just ended, plenty of delicious foods are prepared and offered to the Supreme Lord.

According to legends, Lord Krishna taught people to worship the Supreme Controller of nature, God, specifically Govardhan, as Govardhan is a manifestation of Krishna, and to stop worshiping the God of Rains, Lord Indra. For Annakoot, a mountain of food is decorated symbolizing Govardhan mountain said to be lifted by Lord Krishna to save the people from the wrath of Lord Indra, the demigod in charge of rain.

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Annakoot

The devotees gathered in the temple, listened to religious discourse given by the swamiji maharaj and sang kirtans. A communal worship in the form of an Aarti was performed.

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We all sat on the floor of the temple hall with other devotees in rows and enjoyed the Annakoot prasad, and bhog offered to Lord Krishna. We prayed to Lord Krishna and returned home. Baba was very happy that we all family members went to the temple and had the prasad and bhog.

Annakoot at Gaudiya Math

A photo posted by Jagrata Roy Choudhury (@jagrataroychoudhury) on

Family, Food, Leisure

Dining at Alfresco, Kolkata


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On 16 October 2014, I came to Kolkata with my parents for my mom’s health check up at Quadra Medical Services, Hazra Road.

My dad booked at Great Eastern Hotel in Dalhousie for our stay tonight. It’s the oldest five-star hotels in all over Asia and its establishment dates back to 1840s during the East India Company rule in Kolkata. The hotel has been in top charts since then. The location of the hotel is very good as it’s in the heart of the main business district of Kolkata. All the big and reputed companies have their establishment around.

The hotel is quite huge with three separate restaurants. One of them is on the lobby named Alfresco, which is a multi-cuisine restaurant accompanied with a café. The hotel is now managed by Lalit group.

We walked in there for our dinner. Well it is a very beautiful restaurant. As the name literally suggests ‘outdoor’, all the arrangements are like sitting in the outdoor porch or a tent with circular glass cane table and cane chairs complemented with sweet chirping of birds making you feel sitting at a garden in the open. The ambiance made us feel good. My mom was tired of the journey started feeling refreshed there.

We had a hard time discussing the menu since there were a lot new dishes on the menu card. Finally we settled for ‘mushroom cappuccino’ soup for my dad and me and my mom had ordered for hot and sour soup as she doesn’t like mushrooms. As the name mushroom cappuccino soup it was served in a cappuccino cup, yah truly in a cappuccino cup with cookie shaped baked breads! The innovative cappuccino was a rich, earthy soup made with mushrooms and served exactly like cappuccino. The froth and color was very much similar to the cappuccino that we generally have at the café. The presentation was awesome. The innovation was really appreciable.

Having dinner at Alfresco

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Along with that they served some breads and green salad. Also we ordered for chicken Caesar salad which was equally delicious.

But for us, the star dish for the dinner was the traditional Bengali dish: ‘posto murgi’, which we ordered in the main course. The concept of posto (poppy seeds) murgi (chicken) is truly awesome. The idea of posto with some non-vegetarian item is really novel and a peculiarity of Bengali cuisine.

Posto murgi — chicken cooked in poppy seed curry

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

The taste of the “posto murgi” — chicken in poppy-seed paste — was even more delicious than I had expected. Along with that we had preserved breast chicken which was chef’s special. It was a chicken steak along with steamed omelets. We had fresh lime soda (sweetened) before leaving the restaurant. The food was so great that I would say that this place should be visited once again for enjoying the foods here.

I’m loving it!!!

Family, Food, Heritage, Leisure, Travel

India Gate at Night


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India Gate is the pride of Delhi. An imposing structure, the gate was built in memory to the of the 90,000 Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during World War I.

The India Gate is a war memorial located astride the Rajpath. 13,300 servicemen names, including some soldiers and officers from the UK, are inscribed on the gate.

The India Gate, even though a war memorial, evokes the architectural style of the triumphal arch.

India Gate at night

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

In 1971, following the Bangladesh Liberation war, a small simple structure, consisting of a black marble plinth, with reversed rifle, capped by war helmet, bounded by four eternal flames, was built beneath the soaring Memorial Archway. This structure, called Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, since 1971 has served as India’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

During the night, India gate is dazzled by floodlit and the fountains nearby are lit up with colored lights. People throng the lawns around the India Gate in the night.

We went there yesterday to enjoy the splendor of India Gate.

There are many vendors selling tea, ice creams, chanachur, toys etc.

We had tea there.

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We spent sometime there and returned after having dinner at Pindi Restaurant in Pandara Road, New Delhi. We had lovely chicken dishes and then returned to our hotel.

Dinner with @judhajitr and @jagrataroychoudhury at Pindi in Pandara Road, New Delhi

A photo posted by Indrajit Roy Choudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Food, Friends

Lunch With Colleagues


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My colleagues told me in the morning that they are planning for a lunch for the Investment Department and Back Office department. They requested me to join them too. Some of them decided to join with their spouse.

The lunch was planned at Bestoon Samad Restaurant nearby. I agreed to join them. It would be a nice way to meet my colleagues outside the boundaries of the formal atmosphere.

The table was booked by Zaid. Ibrahim volunteered to take us and drop us in his car. I got OK for our visit from security too.

After 3:00 p.m. we went to the restaurant. Although the restaurant is some 15 minute walk from our residence, but the car took a circuitous route due to some traffic restrictions in the neighbourhood. We were around 14 people gathered for the lunch. Zaid, Mustafa and Rana were accompanied by their spouses. Zaid came with his son too. He’s a lovely boy and very cool also. He has no inhibitions. He even came to my lap for quite some time.

Rana’s husband was sitting beside me. We met each other for the first time. Dia — Rana’s husband — is a nice guy. He’s presently doing his doctorate on complexities in architecture.

Our lunch started with soup and salads accompanied by huge Iraqi qubooz. The main course followed after we finished our soup and almost through our salads. I opted for chicken barbecue. We finished our lunch with tea.

After our great get together over lunch, we left for our homes. Ibrahim dropped us at the gate. Thanks guys for making my afternoon with nice company and good food.

Food, Friends, Leisure

Dinner With Indian Ambassador


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Yesterday, while talking over phone Mr. Dharam Veer Singh, HOC, Indian Embassy invited us for dinner. Mr. Singh is a nice, friendly person and I agreed immediately. He again called me in the afternoon to confirm our presence in the evening at the residence. It’s so nice of him. He also informed me that he’s now getting posted at Atlanta in Georgia (USA).

We reached the residence of the ambassador at 7:00 p.m. We had nice chat with Ambassador Ajay Kumar, Mr. Singh and Mr. Ashok Rawat, Consular over scotch whiskey followed a heavy dinner.

There was kaju barfi in dessert! They said that they got the barfi just today. It was fresh indeed. Kaju Barfi is an Indian subcontinent dessert. Kaju literally means Cashew nuts and Barfi is a type of Indian sweet.

We didn’t realize that it was almost 11:00 p.m. We wished them Good night and walked back to our residence.

We hope to see Mr. Singh again before he leaves for Atlanta. I wish him all the best in his new assignment.