Sunday, April 11

A little bit of the northeast in Kolkata

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Shillong Point on Ballygunge Station Road is a tiny, three-table gem

I was a callow teen went I first went to Shillong. I don’t remember much of that trip, barring the fact that I was struck by its scenic beauty. I went back a few years later, and that sojourn is etched in my memory. I had my first drink (a bottle of beer, which promptly did me in), walked around the town on my own, heard some nice music being played at street corners by young men on their guitars, and ate some memorable food.

That is why, I suppose, I am still greatly fond of the food of the northeast. Apart from nostalgia, it is also because the food is simply cooked, yet delicious. Plus, the cuisine includes various kinds of pork dishes.

In Delhi, there are some excellent eateries that offer northeastern fare these days. But I was surprised when my friends in Kolkata took me to one such eatery in their city when I was visiting last week. Run by two Assamese partners, it is called Shillong Point and is located in the Ballygunge area (20/1/1 C, Ballygunge Station Road; 9830316747).

The restaurant is a tiny, three-table affair. The menu card includes many popular Naga and Khasi dishes. It offers, among other things, Naga-style pork cooked with lai pata, chicken with bamboo shoot, galoh (soupy spinach rice) and Naga-style fish with bamboo shoot wrapped in a banana leaf.

My friends had already visited the place, so they knew what to order. We asked for a plate of Dohneiiong (pork with black sesame, ₹330), pork with bamboo shoot (₹330), dohklieh (pork meat salad, ₹150) and tungtap (fermented fish chutney, ₹50).

Our food came to our table, and we focused on the dishes. The salad — a preparation of pork meat (including the brain, we were told), chopped onions and ginger — was delicious. The taste of the ginger lingered on, and it was a light starter that whetted our appetite. I love pork with black sesame and this one didn’t disappoint me. The gravy was thick and flavourful, and the pork — nicely fatty — had soaked in the juices. I mixed it with the rice, and made a great meal out of it.

The pork with bamboo shoots was red, hot and tasty, and I loved the sharp aftertaste of the chillies in the gray. The fish chutney, on the other hand, set the tongue on fire. I just had a tiny bit of it, but it was enough to make me want to call 101. The dry and fermented fish had apparently been prepared with the famous — or infamous, depending on your own Scoville Scale — bhut jolokia chillies. For dessert, we asked for the home-churned ice creams, which turned out to be surprisingly good. They had two varieties — butterscotch and vanilla —and both were nice and creamy and not too sweet.

What made the meal special was the discussion with the cook-cum-server, a long-haired, music-loving young man called Imon. He used to work in Kasol in Himachal Pradesh, and dreams of cooking Italian dishes for food lovers in the near future.The next time I am in the city, I hope I will be able to share Imon’s culinary dream.


Source: The Hindu

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