Paratha and Mutton Kosha at Shivaji Park, Mumbai
Called The Bombay Sarbojonin Durgotsav (‘sarbojonin’ meaning “for all people”), this is the hoi polloi Durja Puja destination, known for its tall idols and Bengali vendors selling everything from books to food. The paratha served with mutton ‘kosha’—mutton curry cooked in a dark brown gravy of onion, tomato and garam masala—is close to the authentic dish served in Bengali households. Some of its famous stalls are manned by cooks who come from Kolkata, and Murshidabad and Midnapur districts of West Bengal.
Mutton biryani at Maddox Square, Kolkata; and Kashmere Gate, Delhi
The biryani at stalls outside the Maddox Square pandal, in south Kolkata, is cooked in Awadhi style, but with additions such as boiled eggs and potatoes. The mutton is well done and mixed with fragrant, saffron-flavoured rice. Served on paper plates with plastic spoons, diners usually prefer teaming up this dish with a light gravy of chicken or mutton called ‘chaanp’.
Big helpings: Stalls outside the pandal at B-block, CR Park, New Delhi. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
The mutton biryani at the Kashmere Gate puja pandal is usually made by a cook who specializes in the kind of biryani that’s available in the vicinity of the Jama Masjid and Hazrat Nizamuddin on any regular day. The portions are generous, but the rice and meat are surprisingly light on the stomach.
Kolkata Kathi Rolls at College Square, Kolkata; and B-block, Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi
Kolkata’s chicken and mutton rolls are famous. A plain paratha is stuffed with filling, usually chunks of chicken, mutton or paneer; layered with fried egg, and garnished with onion, capsicum, green chillies, with a dash of lime. College Square, close to Presidency College, is one of the most congested areas in the city and is known for a number of pandals. Devotees cover this street on foot and the rolls serve as food on the go.
At a stall set in the heart of New Delhi’s Bengali neighbourhood, the Kolkata Kathi Roll caterers dish out, what are unanimously voted as the best Mughlai paratha rolls in the city. A typical CR Park and Durga Puja delicacy, the paratha comes stuffed with an array of spicy fillings, including egg, paneer, potato and chicken, but the most sought-after dish is always the Mutton Mughlai Paratha.
‘Bhog’ at the Lokhandwala Durga Puja, Mumbai
The most extravagant Durga Puja in Mumbai, this is patronized by singer Abhijeet and is high on Bollywood quotient. Yet, it is the antithesis of an elitist affair. Every day, the puja ‘bhog’ is cooked for more than 2,000 people and distributed free to anyone who reaches there just after the morning rituals. ‘Bhog’ is a traditional east Indian meal served to the gods during religious ceremonies and distributed among devotees after the actual puja ends. It consists of khichdi cooked in ghee, a sweet tomato chutney, stir-fried mixed vegetables (all cooked without onion and garlic) and ‘payas’ or rice pudding.
‘Bhog’ being served at actor Rani Mukherjee’s invitees-only family puja in Santa Cruz, Mumbai.
‘Phuchka’ at Matri Mandir, Delhi
In an area otherwise known for its street food, Sarojini Nagar wears a festive look during the Pujas, as a record number of ‘chaatwallas’ set up stalls of authentic Bengali-style chaat and ‘phuchka’—a version of the north Indian ‘gol gappa’ and Mumbai’s ‘paani puri’. The ‘phuchka’ is characteristically different in its spicy potato and tamarind water filling.
Fish Orly at Mela Ground, Delhi
An offering from Kolkata’s famous Bijoli Grill Caterers at the Mela Ground puja, this is a variation of fried fish. Coated with rice crisps and deep fried, the fish and butter orlies are big favourites among the Capital’s pandal-hoppers.
(Shruti Chakraborty, Sanjukta Sharma and Aveek Datta)