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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