Each Para/neighborhood in Kolkata has their local celebrity Phuchkawalah/Phuchka-seller. They are the most sought-after street food. Phuchkas, also known as Golgappas or Panipuris elsewhere, are not only a popular street food in many places in India but also in Nepal and Bangladesh. Though we get Panipuris in many places in Dubai, the Bengali variant Phuchka is very different. And obviously not so easily available elsewhere.
I’m glad that Wikipedia considers the Kolkata’s Phuchka to be ‘the king of this variety of snacks, compared to its cousins like Golgappas or Panipuris. The filling is made by lightly mashing boiled potatoes with black salt, salt, some spices, a generous portion of tamarind pulp (made by mashing ripe tamarind in tamarind water), chilli (powder/chopped/boiled & pasted). The Tetul Jol/Tamarind Water is made by mixing tamarind and spices/salt and making a light and tart liquid with water’.
The filling of Phuchka in Kolkata is different with Aloo/Potato, so is the Tetul Jol/Tamarind Water which smells of Gondhoraj Lebu/Bengali Lime. This Gondhoraj Lebu or the Bengali Lime remains elusive in the shores outside the shores of Bengal. Even visits to the Bangladeshi market in Sharjah doesn’t bring much success. So I try to substitute the Thai Kaffir Lime leaves for the faint aroma of Lime.
Panipuris in Dubai:
We get Panipuris in many places in Dubai. Obviously they are not sold at every street corners like they are available in Kolkata. And the ones that are sold are more palatable to the Indians hailing from other Indian states but Bengal. The following are a few restaurants where you’ll find Panipuris -
- Bombay Chowpatty – Trade Centre Road, Karama, Dubai; TEL: +971 4 396 4937/ Bombay Chowpatty has also opened in Dubai Media City and has a stall in the Food Court in Lulu Hypermarket Al Barsha
- Bikanerwala – Karama; Tel: +971 4 3968813/ Food Court, Lulu Hypermarket, Quasis; Tel: +971 4 2987030/ Al Wahda Street, Sharjah; Tel: +971 6 5537933/ Also opening in Al Barsha
- Chhappan Bhog – Trade Centre Road, Karama, Dubai; TEL: +971 4 396 8176
- Puranmal – Bur Dubai, Dubai (Opposite Dubai Museum); TEL: +971 4 351 1466/ Trade Centre Road, Karama; Tel: +971 4 3968486/ Website: Puranmal Sweets (puranmal has been added on the suggestion of a reader)
Phuchka in Vivekananada Park – World famous in Kolkata!
Phuchka for me has to be in Vivekananda Park in South Kolkata. And from the one and only one Dilipda. This doesn’t take away the credibility from other Phuchkawallahs who are almost like local celebrities of each locality. This time I set out with my gang – the Z-SISTERS, husband, also Mum-in-law in tow to capture Dilipda’s Phuchka in pen, paper and picture! Damn the car breakdown in Easter Bypass and hopping into a Taxi – the interiors of which were to fall apart even if we half-sneezed. Obviously a little bit of drama added to the taste explosion that Dilipda’s Phuchka always bring in.
Dilipda, The Celebrity
Dilipda is very famous. He’s also the epitome of name-dropping! ‘Ei to Bipasha Basu bollo aar NDTV eshe hajir!/Bipasha Basu mentioned me and NDTV came running!’ or ‘Debosree to kurita Phuchka khabeyi khabe!/ Debosree will definitely eat 20 Phuchkas!’ or ‘Konkona amar kaach theke Phuchka Moshla niye jay!/Kankana takes the Phuchka Masala from me!’
Bipasha Basu, Konkona Sensharma being famous Bollywood film stars while Debosree is our star from home – Tollywood film industry. Clippings of many more stars and starlets, newspaper cut-outs adorn the backdrop of Dilipda‘s stall. It’s like a little indigenous Wall of Fame!
This clipping from The Telegraph reveals that this is the most sought-after street food haunt of most of Kolkata’s celebities. A place where they are not disturbed and enjoy their ‘common man’ escapades in peace!
Dilipda, The Beginning of History
Dilipda is the 3rd generation of Phuchkawallas settled in Kolkata. His great grandfather had hailed from Bhagalpur in Bihar, a neighbouring state of Bengal. His food stall – Maharaja Chaat Centre has been serving Phuchkas exactly at the same spot for the last 35 years. Before that his stall was in the Safari Park inside the Lake that adorns the Southern Avenue. When Kolkata Municipality banned them from selling there in 1980, all the street food vendors shifted base to Vivekananda Park. Even today the kiosk looks the same and smells of the same spice that used to explode my senses when I used to go all the way to Vivekananda Park to satiate my Phuchka craving!
At a rate of 1,000 Phuchkas served daily to 100 people, he has been feeding atleast 12,500,000 Phuchkas so far! No mean task at all. Deserves a standing ovation. And I owe this to him – for all the Phaos/Free Phuchkas that I have demanded from Dilipda in my lifetime!
Dilipda arrives daily at his stall at 3pm in his small blue cycle van which he terms a as his BMW-Mercedes. Back in his Tollygunge house his family helps in making around 2,000 fresh crispy Phuchkas every day. And the different types of water that accompany the Phuchkas and the other snacks that he serves – the Telul Jol/Tamarind Water and the Phuchkar Jol/Phuchka Water. Along with the minute detailing in the variety of fresh garnishes. The water is prepared fresh daily, he says. And he also prepares it with Mineral water if informed earlier for all his NRI (Non-Resident Indian) customers who are very fragile in their digestion capabilities where road side food is concerned! He also warns ‘Ota oto kintu tasty hoyna!/It is not that tasty though!’… probably because some dust and grime has to get into street food to make it what it is – non-replicable!
Category – Snacks; Cuisine type – Indian Road-side
If there can be a category like that!
Coriander seeds – 1 kg
Cummin Seeds – 200 gm
Cloves – 10 gm
Cardammom Sticks – 50 gm
Mouri/Fennel Seeds – 200 gm
Jowan/Ajwain/Carom Seeds – 50 gm
Dry roast the above and pound them/grind them coarsely to a powder.
Tetul Jol/Tamarind Water
For 1 lt water -
Salt – 1tsp
Black Salt – 1/2 tsp
Phuchka Masala (the above) – 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder* – 1/4tsp
Tamarind Paste – 10gm
Lime Juice – 2tsp
Raw Mango Paste – 1tsp
Gondhorjaj Lebu/Bengali Lime – 1 tsp (You may use Kaffir Lime for the aroma)
Coriander leaves – chopped – a bunch
Mint Leaves – chopped (optional)
*Red Chilli Powder – Dry roast Whole Red Chillis with Salt and then grind them into a powder
Flour – 500gm
Baking Soda – 1/2 tsp
Ajwain/Jowan/Carom Seeds – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
White Oil – 1 tsp
Knead the above into a dough and make small flat cakes from this dough and fry them in white oil till crisp.
Atta/Whole Wheat – 800gm
White Flour – 100gm
Shuji/Semolina – 100gm
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Knead the above into a smooth dough, make small round balls and flatten them into thin circular sheets with rolling pins and fry in white oil till they are fried into crispy and hollow Phuchkas/Puris.
For 6 potatos -
Phuchka Masala (the above) – 2 tsp
Boiled Chickpeas – 1 cup
Crumbled Phuchkas – 6 pieces
Crumbled Papris – 6 pieces
Green Chilli Paste – 1/4tsp (optional)
Salt – a pinch
Black Salt – a pinch
Tetul Jol/Tamarind Water – 150ml
Boil Aloo/Potato with skin. Peel off and mash thoroughly with Phuchka Masala and Green Chilli Paste (optional – depending upon taste), Salt and Black Salt, Tetul Jol/Tamarind Water along with the crumbled Phuchkas, Papris and boiled Chickpeas.
The Method of Eating Phuchkas
A small hole is made into the fried crispy round Phuchka and the filling is put inside. Then the Phuchka along with the filling is dipped into the Tamarind Water and served to the Phuchka-hungryyyyy onlooker! Bite into it crunchily, spilling the Tetul Jol/Tamarind Water along the line of your mouth and anxiously wait for more. It’s perfectly okay to salivate a bit!
Enjoy the pictorial journey into some historic Phuchka eating… Dilipda making Phuchka, Mum-in-law turning assistant and writing down the recipe, the famous Aloo Makha/Mashed Potato that go into the Phuchkas as filling…
Dilipda’s Phuchkas are relatively more expensive than other places. After all he’s a local ‘brand’!
Phuchkas come at a cost of Rs 2:50/piece; Dahi Phuchka comes at Rs 40/plate (6 pieces of Phuchka); Aloor Dum comes at Rs 40/plate (10 pieces of Aloo/Potato) or Rs 20/half a plate (5 pieces Aloo)
The famous Tetul Jol/Tamarind Water… ‘Arektu jol dao pleaseeeeeee…../Please give me more Water!‘ This is the ultimate. The taste of this Water can make or break the Phuchka. Like I have mentioned before - he also prepares it with Mineral water if informed earlier for all his NRI (Non-Resident Indian) customers who are very fragile in their digestion capabilities where road side food is concerned!
This is also a very popular variant – Dahi Phuchka – where Dahi or Yoghurt is poured on top of Phuchkas with filling!
Churmur is the crumbled version of Phuchka. It is an appropriately spicy sign-off to the Phuchka – broken down into pieces so as to reach each and every cell and every core! This dish must have originated from utilising the left-over Phuchkas, but now have earned it’s reputation as a main dish by itself.
Aloor Dum/Spicy Potato
The sign-off… Debt Repaid!
When we used to eat Phuchkas in our childhood, we always hankered for Phaos or free Phuchkas. The number of Phaos determined the generosity of the Phuchkawallahs. Dilipda must have given many such Phaos to my friends and to me. I hope my article repays all my debt to him. You can reach him on his mobile on +919231657931 and he can dumbfound your guests in any party or a wedding reception. When Kolkata is engulfed by the festivities of Durga Puja, Dilipda’s stall is open throughout the night and feeds upto 2,000 Phuchka-cravers.
He may be a Bihari from Bhagalpur but he’s a pride of any Bengali Kolkatan. Time has stood still as he’s been feeding his Phuchkas and Aloor Dum to a generation which includes my parents to the IPad generation that includes the Z-SISTERS. He hasn’t changed. His next generation is equipped to carry on the mantle that was passed to him from his grand father. Thank God for that!
While you enjoy seeing the photographs, I request you not to use them. Somethings don’t change with regards to Phuchkas – for example, the expressions. They are always the same when one gulps the Phuchka down. You are always wide-eyed with the lips forming an unbelievable ‘Oh’. Even if you eat Phuchka everyday of your life, each Phuchka still gives the same sensation – as if you are hit by it for the first time! Or the 2 common sentences that follow this gulping down mechanism -
‘Dilipda, aro jhaal dao please/Give more spice Dilipda!’ or ‘Dilipda, aar jhaal diyona baba!/Don’t give any more spice Dilipda!’
Unblogging it all… Ishita