Take seat at this table
One sweltering afternoon, we walk into foodie and baker Tara Kapur's house at Pali Hill in Bandra West. The first thing she serves us is a chilled glass of Thums Up.
“Bengalis love their cola and we want our guests to have an authentic experience,” she adds. On April 12, which is also Bengali New Year, Kapur, along with caterer Roshni Sen, will launch Table Rhapsody, a supper club format of pop-up food experiences. Thus, their choice of cuisine for their first event is obvious.
Clockwise from left bottom: Labra, Kosha Mangsho, daal, lemon wedges-chilli, kasundi. (In the plate) Lucchis, Pumpkin Bhaja, Begun Bhaja, Doi Maach, Demur Devil, Rice. Pics/Sameer Syed Abedi
While we chat, the sharp aroma of mustard wafts from the kitchen. “Did you know Bengali food is the only Indian cuisine that has courses? At our sit-down events, we will introduce diners to the day’s cuisine, teach them how to eat the food, the story and preparation of the dishes, and so on. Our food is a midpoint between home-cooked and restaurant food. It’s neither too light nor too heavy,” Kapur tells us, in between rushed trips to the kitchen to ensure the food preparations are on track.
Labra, a mixed vegetable dish
To give us an insight into the cuisine before we dig in, Sen hands us a jar of mixed, khada masala. “The basic masala in Bengali cuisine is called Panch Phoren, which comprises methi, kala jeera (kalonji) jeera, sauf and rai. Our food is full of green chillies, ginger and jeera but not much of onion and garlic, which is essential in other Indian/Mughlai cuisines. Most of the vegetarian fare is made with mustard and khus khus (poshto),” says Sen, who has organised a handful of supper clubs in Hong Kong, Dubai and Mumbai over the past three years.
By now, simmering sounds and fragrances leave us short of questions. So, we decide to taste the food and find out what’s in store.
The spread begins with a plate of lucchis (flour-based puri), which are fluffy, crispy and melt-in-the-mouth. “Pair this with Begun Bhaja (deep-fried brinjal slices) and some daal,” Sen urges. We comply. Oil trickles down the fried brinjal, which is as authentic to a Bengali preparation as it gets, Kapur tells us with a smile. We wish the slices were finely chopped for a crispier bite. But we have no complaints about the taste, as the aubergine is mushy and earthy, and the pungent taste of mustard goes well with the plant’s delicious, fried skin.
(L-R) Roshni Sen and Tara Kapur, founders of Table Rhapsody. pics/sameer syed abedi
The daal, which is not churned finely to retain whole lentils, contains pieces of coconut and exudes the warmth of home.
We eye the Dimer devil -- a Bengali version of the deviled egg. Similar to a chop, a boiled egg is covered with a layer of mashed potato, and deep fried. The thick covering is deep brown, and holds a tawny mash of potato, followed by the slippery egg white and the yellow yolk. It is bland in itself, but when we dunk it into kasundi (mustard sauce), each texture impresses different taste buds on our palate. The well-boiled egg complements the cumin-laden potato mash.
We move on to the main course with Labra, a mixed vegetable dish cooked with the paanch phorun masala. Since it is khada (unground) masala, each individual ingredient lends its distinct flavour to the five vegetables, including cabbage, spinach, aubergine and potato. Who said Bengalis can’t cook vegetarian food?
In between bites, we dip our morsels into the Raw Mango Chutney which has been treated with a panch phoren tadka. This sour marmalade-like preparation of unripe mangoes is reminiscent of grandmother’s love.
The Kosha Mangsho, which we have with rice cooked with raisins and nuts, is one of our favourites of the day’s meal. The juicy mutton, which has imbibed the flavour of mustard oil, ginger and yogurt, is so finely cooked that it falls off the bone. The velvety gravy shows off the Mughal influence in Bengali cuisine. The rustic aroma offers a hint of the dish’s rich taste of black jeera, yoghurt and lamb stock.
Next, we try the Doi Maach (yogurt-based fish curry) which is a bit grainy for our taste. We miss the finesse of the Mangsho gravy.
Having had Bengali meals only at restaurants, we are impressed to realise that we are not bursting at the seams and have room for something sweet -- an incorrigible habit of the Bengalis.
On the menu today are Nolen Gur Payesh, Nolan Gur and Rossogulla. Giving us a background about the payesh, Kapur says, “In the winter, the date palms are in full bloom, which the natives use to make jaggery. This is used to make payesh, a rice pudding.” The jaggery, unlike sugar, has a captivating, guilt-free sweetness and we lap it up within minutes. The rossogulla, on the other hand, is a letdown, because we’ve had better. Overall, we enjoy the thoughtful trivia, conversation that revolves around all things food, and the warmth of our hosts.
Table Rhapsody is about intimate gatherings, and we think participants will enjoy an opportunity to interact with strangers, meet like-minded foodies and escape a restaurant’s chaos as they lose themselves on this indulgent food trail.
To book for April 19, Call: 98767362012/9820006440