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Bengali Food Bloggers Interview – Kalyan Karmakar

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You have read about our Bengali Food Bloggers Interview. We did a set of 6 interviews with various stars of the Bengali Food arena. Its been almost eighteen months and so we just thought of adding some more new names to the club. So,  to  start with here’s Kalyan Karmakar from Finely Chopped.

About Kalyan

He is a Bengali who moved to Mumbai more than a decade back.

Grew up largely at Calcutta and was at UK and Iran before that. Just like most Bengali he loves food, loves to write, loves to chat, loves to pontificate and all of these came together in his blog. His blog is almost a personal diary where he writes about the places he eats at or travel to, the dishes he cook,s folks whom he eat with and people he meet as he eats.

The blog is now three and a half years old.

Do you taste-test everything you make? Who is your guinea pig?

Yes I do eat everything I cook.

Guinea pig? Well my wife. My friends whom I call over to our house.

Most of them, including my wife, have returned for seconds

Tell us about your most loved food discovery

Asian Food. I just love the food of the Orient. The colours, the freshness, the textures, the flavours.

Specifically the discovery of the food of Malaysia. I had written Malaysia off after my first trip there. I saw it with a tourist’s and business traveller’s eyes.

Having read this a Bengali couple settled there then, whom I didn’t know, invited me over to stay with them. I returned to Malaysia and as promised, Arindam and Sasha  opened my eyes to the culinary wonders of Malaysia.

Travelling to different places and seeing them through the world of food gives me the greatest highs.

That’s as Bengali as you can get eh?

With your prolific food activities, how do you balance work, blog and personal life?

I guess you always find out time to do things that you are passionate about. I write about things which are a part of my life. I look for food stories when I am out. Write about them the  moment I get some time. Often at night. It happens. I have not given it much thought.

Your favourite kitchen equipment/appliance

My mortar and pestle. I was looking for this for a while but couldn’t find the right one.

Then I went to Chiang Mai where I attended a cooking class. There were these most astounding mortar and pestles there. Asked the instructors on where I could get it. Went to the market they pointed me to. Haggled with a sweet chubby little Chinese girl and walked back to the hotel with my prized possession.

This mortar and pestle was made with stone from Kanchanaburi close to where the River Kwai (from the movie) is. I got it back to India after paying for excess baggage. Is the pride of the kitchen and I use it very frequently for making things as diverse as Thai curry pastes to fresh Italian basil pesto mixes

One ingredient that frightens you the most? Why?

Vegetables! My sense of confidence just deserts me when I am at Lallu’s, the local vegetable shop, and I often have to ask them to identify things for me

No red blooded Bengali man really digs vegetables so it is always a bit of a challenge for me to find out more about vegetables and play with them. In fact I have recently started a vegetarian recipe section on the blog.

My wife, a Parsi, is even worse than me when it comes to vegetables

10 must haves in your fridge

  1. Good cheese 2. Asian sauces – soy, fish, chilli, sriracha 3. Cold cuts 4. Fresh water fish 5. Milk 6. Desserts (not there as often as I’d like) 7. Juices

Look honestly I can’t think of ten because I live in the Mumbai suburb of Bandra where I get everything at my arm’s reach so I don’t bother to stock up

What would you eat for your last supper?

Bengali food I guess – Rice, rui machher mudo daal (daal with fish head), alu bhaaja – thick potato fries the way my mom makes them, doi posto ilish (Hilsa cooked in curd and poppy seeds), kosha mangsho (slow cooked mutton). Loads of mishti for desserts and a chocolate cake

Which celeb chef would you invite for dinner? Why?

Anthony Bourdain. He has hung up his chef’s gloves and is a writer and TV show host now but he is my biggest inspiration. Would love to just be in the same room as him forget cooking for him.

Hope this doesn’t get me a restraining order

List your 5 favourite posts from your blog. Which one of these you like the most, why?

This is the point in the interview which reminds me of seedy interviews on Doordarshan and film mags of Hollywood playback singers or actor. Of the “yeh sab hi mere bachche hain “types

Well honestly the ones I enjoy the most are around experiences I enjoy the most. Good food of course. Great discoveries. Some fantastic people that I met.

I’ll try to choose 5 which are top of mind:

  1. Baara Haandi – Mumbai
  2. The phuchkawallahs outside South City Mall, Calcutta
  3. The markets of Chiang Mai
  4. My first day at Penang and losing my Durian virginity
  5. With the Hendricks at Sydney, Sydney fish market

I am going to add a sixth because I just love this guy – Ustad the Jalebi- Wallah

Tell us about some of the people you’ve met while working on your blog

Well to start with I have made some of best friends in recent years through the blog.

I assume you are talking more about folks who are in the ‘business’ in which case you have Vikram Doctor, food writer from Mumbai, Rushina Munshaw Ghildayal , blogger and writer from Mumbai, Xanthe Clay and Maunika Gowardhan who are food journalists, bloggers and chefs from the UK and Anjan Chatterjee of the Speciality Restaurant Group whom I met at a book launch.

Then there are some very kind folks whom I have not ‘met’ but I have interacted with quite a bit  virtually – blogger turned author turned TV personality Simon Majumdar, blogger and journalist Robyn Eckhardt of Eating Asia, Marryam Reshii and blogger  food writer Pamella Timms, both from delhi.

Gosh that’s quite a bit of name dropping.

Other than Bengali Cuisine, what cuisine interests you the most?

Asian or Oriental

  1. Recommend 5 food blogs (some Bengali, if possible) to our readers

Well here are 4 Indian Bengali blogs I follow. Ironically none written out of Calcutta

  1. Bong Mom’s Cook Book
  2. Kichhu Khon
  3. Preeoccupies
  4. Cook like a Bong (no really!)

Which leaves number 5 and that  goes to Eating Asia. This is actually my favourite blog. Has everything I like – travel, food, the Orient, great pictures, the personal touch, going beyond the usual…

 And finally, 5 fav festive dishes

Ei re, am not a very ‘festive’ person nowadays. Mutton pulao daal of Parsi weddings, Luchi chholar daal of Bengali weddings, sorpatel from Goan and East Indian Christmas celebrations, biryani from my Muslim neighbours post Bakhri Eid, birthday cakes?… can’t think of any other.Possibly because I don’t really look for special occasions when I eat.

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Remembering 2010 – A Year Gone Past Well

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“Here’s to the bright New Year, and a fond farewell to the old;
here’s to the things that are yet to come, and to the memories that we hold.”

Here’s another new year and new hopes in mind. But, before we usher in the new year with new posts and recipes in our blog, its time for a little backward journey to the year gone past.

As we stepped into this new year, I would say the last year was another year of learning and gaining new experiences. The main aim for 2010 was to gain a niche in the blogging world, and yes we did it.

I would say 2010 was a good year!

In the kitchen there was definitely more to learn. I shifted from Bangalore to Kolkata, now I had the direct access to my mom’s kitchen and whatever she cooks, especially the authentic Bengali recipes. Be it the lotiya vada or the lotiya shutki, dim posto sorse or dimer malpua – 2010 taught me there’s definitely more to Bengali recipes than just panch phoron and posto.

We published our first e-book, Saradiya Rannabati – one that became an instant hit among the Bong food lovers with a first month download crossing thousand. The Cook Like a Bong Facebook page launched in 2010 nurtures a community of more than three thousand Bong foodies with thousands of active users each month who share their comments, recipes and feedbacks. The page has more than 270 recipes contributed by the users.

Nurturing the idea of the Top 7 Bengali Food Bloggers since the end of 2009, we completed the series of interviews of the masterminds behind the best Bengali food blogs on the web. Thanks to all the good ladies to share their valuable time and making our idea a fruitful venture. There were also guest posts from various bloggers and non-bloggers that we featured. We would love to receive more such appetizing recipes and ideas from you all. If you have any unique recipes in mind, cook it, click it and send it to us. A special thanks to all those wonderful people who found us worthy of receiving awards for our work.

For the first time, Cook Like a Bong got the opportunity to review the ready to cook products of Gits Food, a product review on Gits Karai Sutir Kachori was thus published. Next was a restaurant review idea when I won a voucher for a meal for two at Fava, the Mediterranean Restaurant from Food Lovers Magazine, Bangalore.  And of course the Mainland China Cookbook review, a book worth buying and archiving.

Professionally, I am in the verge of gaining a masters degree in Biotechnology, and had an incredible learning experience from my teachers, friends and family. One of my aims in the last year was to develop my photography skills. The stepping stone was 4 of my photographs getting featured in Bangladesh tabloid – Bhorer Kagoj, view more Kumartuli photographs. I started using more of natural lights to photograph my subjects rather than clicking photographs at night with a higher exposure to get the effect of sun light. 2010 gave me the first opportunity to have a taste of wild life photography in the jungles of North Bengal. Photographing tuskers with a search light at the middle of night in the dense forests of Hallong was an experience worth remembering.

Somebody quoted, “He who breaks his resolution is a weakling. He who makes one is a fool.” There aren’t any resolutions for this year, but of course there are some goals to fulfill in 2011, and much more to learn. We would love to know about your comments and feedbacks for our blog, please do comment on the post or write to us through email.

We would love to thank our readers, friends and family for the support they had ushered on us. Wish you all a very Happy New Year!


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