Written by Adityobarna Mukherjee.
Kolkata is called the City of Joy but if you ask me I would also call it the City of Food. Are you a street food lover? Okay, drop that. Are you a Foodie?
If yes, then Kolkata is a place you should visit at least once to treat yourself to the best food available. Not just street food, the Bengali cuisine is something you’ll remember long after the treatment. Enjoying the food in Kolkata should be on your list of “Things to do in Kolkata.”
Kolkata’s cuisine is so full of surprises that it’ll leave you spellbound after every bite. Beginning with starters to the main course which is followed by the desserts, Kolkata has just so much to offer in a platter that you won’t be able to leave any.
You must have heard of the famous Bengali sweet, Roshogolla which here in Kolkata comes in different, mouth-watering flavours.
I would request all of you to come here at least once in your entire life and taste these palatable dishes and you’ll be praising them for the rest of your life. A desirable addition to this is that the people in Kolkata are very friendly and will do everything to make you feel at home.
To make sure that you don’t miss out on the rich local cuisine of Kolkata, we’ve prepared this list of 20 lip-smacking dishes which is a must-try, if you land here someday.
In this article you’ll find five of each, in the given sequence:
- Main Course
- Street Food
1. Fish Fry
Kolkata’s fish fry can’t be traded for any other starters. You might not like fish or even might not have tasted it in your entire life, but Kolkata’s fish fry has the special ability to make you fall in love with it and you’ll end up asking for one more.
It is called the desi version of the English fish fry because it has a different flavour as the Bawarchees started mixing, twisting and seasoning the western recipes in their own ways due to the unavailability of the western spices.
The crispy fish fry coated with breadcrumbs is made with barramundi fish, locally known as bhetki. It’s served hot with a salad that consists of julienned cucumber, beetroots, thinly sliced onion with a dash of lemon and not to forget Bengal’s famous mustard sauce called Kasundi.
Shingara is also known as samosa but as a Bengali, I would prefer to call it Shingara only. It is a fried triangular shaped pastry that is savoury in taste due to the filing inside which consists of spiced potatoes, peas, cauliflower and crushed peanuts.
Well, just a piece of advice, never go and tell a Bengali that shingara is the same as samosa as the chances of offending them is high by saying this so just don’t.
It is often served with a cup of tea, milk or black, depending on the one having it. It is a trend in Bengali families to serve shingara and sweets to guests with a cup of tea. Shingara with a bowl of puffed rice is considered comfort food for Bengalis.
3. Macher Chop (Fish Croquettes)
What is not to love about a yummy crispy croquette with a spicy fish filling inside? Well, I can’t think of any reason. There are different types of chops starting from vegetable to chicken.
You’ll find a variety here in Kolkata. This chop can be made using different types of fish but bhetki fish is the most commonly used fish to make this. To get lost in its savour, serve hot with tomato ketchup or kasundi and salad.
4. Pav Bhaji
If you’re craving for Pav Bhaji while you’re in Kolkata, you head straight towards Mayaram’s as it serves the best pav bhaji.
It is made with different types of vegetables of choice which are mashed together and then cooked adding veggies like garlic and ginger and finally ended with pav bhaji masala and butter on top and chopped coriander leaves with a dash of lemon. It is served hot with pavs which are toasted with butter.
5. Hinger Kochuri
It is the most common and traditional breakfast recipe in Bengali houses. Though it may look a lot like poori sabji that is not it. Made with only refined flour makes it look white and fluffy.
Along with this comes potatoes cooked in thick tomato gravy which is scrumptious and they together make the best breakfast duo. Though the recipe varies from one place to another, here we add panch phoron [5 spices], salt and sugar as per taste.
6. Kosha Mangsho (Mutton Curry)
This is a slow-cooked, rich in taste Bengali dish which is often served with steamed rice or pulao or paratha as well.
This is an iconic Bengali dish that is cooked on a low flame to get the thick, rich and dark brown gravy and the mutton pieces are almost ready to melt in the mouth. One of the best places to have this is Golbari at Shyambazar crossing in Kolkata.
7. Bhetki Paturi
By now you already know what an important role bhetki plays in Bengali cuisine. It is Barramundi fish smothered with mustard paste and wrapped in banana leaf. Paturi in English means leaf. When served with steamed rice, it’ll make a flavoursome lunch meal. This is a highly recommended and appreciated dish of the Bengalis.
8. Kolkata Biriyani
Kolkata’s Biryani is inspired by the Awadhi style and is a true heart winner. The speciality of the Kolkata biryani is that it comes with golden brown fried potato along with chicken or mutton.
A well-cooked Kolkata Biryani can be eaten as it is without any side dish. The reason behind the aloo in the biryani is that it is less expensive when compared with meat. It’s a dish to be best reviewed, relished and remembered.
9. Aloo Posto
This is a traditional Bengali recipe that is spiced with poppy seeds, chillies and turmeric and is an instantly cooked recipe that makes it a saviour when guests arrive as a surprise. It is served with steamed rice and masoor dal. If you’re a vegetarian and in Kolkata, this is a must-try dish for you.
10. Chingri Macher Malaikari
I seriously had a tough time selecting 5 dishes out of all the delicious, mouth-watering ones. Binding the goodness of prawns and coconut milk, this is a dish all the fish lovers in Kolkata swear by.
It is either made with jumbo prawns or shrimps. It is a subtle and super creamy dish which when served with steamed rice will leave everyone speechless and awestruck.
Roshogolla is well known as the best and most famous sweet of Kolkata. Though it is often eaten after the main course, the people having a sweet tooth will have it anytime, anywhere, any day and just one won’t be enough.
Rosogollas are balls of semolina and cottage cheese dough which is then dipped in sugar syrup. It comes in different sizes and tastes like nolen gurer roshogolla is a treat during the winters. The best place to have it is Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick.
12. Mishti Doi
It is a traditional Bengali dessert made with milk, curd, jaggery or sugar. As the milk is first thickened and reduced and then the palm jaggery is added.
After the milk turns warm the curd is added and this process makes the method of making it slightly different from that of making simple curd. It originated in Bangladesh and is now widely popular in West Bengal.
It is made out of sweetened fresh milk curd and is loved by almost everyone due to its versatility. It comes in different shapes like little balls or cones or circular discs, sizes and flavours like chocolate, pista. The addition of dry fruits enriches its taste even more. Overall, it makes the perfect end to a scrumptious main course.
Here in Kolkata, it is really not easy to find someone who doesn’t like rasmalai. It has the ability to make non-sweet lovers fall in love with its taste.
Rasmalai is basically small balls of chana soaked in malai along with a dash of cardamom. The balls are cooked in milk along with sugar syrup, pista and kheer in it. Needless to say, it is THE BEST SWEET. If you ever visit Kolkata, it is an earnest request to you to try this one.
The best one for the last one. This is made with condensed milk which is slowly cooked and thickened until the colour turns off- white or pale yellow.
It is garnished with rose water, cardamoms, saffron, different dry fruits like almonds and pista and nuts to add flavour and make it a mouth-watering and creamy dessert. The dish is served when it is chilled. It is often served the way it is or along with jalebi or malpua.
I mean I just had to start this list with phuchka or else if not anything, I would’ve regretted not doing so. If you’re from Delhi, you’ll address this as golgappa and if from Mumbai, it’ll be panipuri for you. Phuchka is the lifeline of the people in Kolkata.
From 8 to 80 everyone has their favourite puchka wala [puchka seller]. It has the ability to bring water to your mouth just by the mere utterance of the name. Kolkata always adds its uniqueness in every dish it makes and here too, it did the same.
Bengal’s puchka can’t be compared to golgappa or pani puri or gup chup. The water is spicier and tangier than that is served in other places and for puchka the main ingredients are black tamarind and black chickpeas.
17. Fish Kabiraji
Fish Kabiraji is another delicious and very popular street food which is basically when fish cutlet is coated in beaten eggs and breadcrumbs and fried hence it has a crispy texture to it. Mitra Café in Kolkata is well known for its fish kabiraji recipe. It is served with tomato and/ or Bengali mustard sauce [mustard sauce] and salad.
18. Kathi Rolls
A mouth-watering, lip-smacking dish of skewered roasted kebab wrapped up in paratha. It is rolled up with the stuffing of choice which can be chicken, mutton, egg or paneer along with different spices, sauces and vegetables.
Nizam Rolls in New Market is famous for its Kathi rolls. It is usually served plain but one can also have a bite with chutney or sauce.
19. Jhal Muri
It is nothing but puffed rice combined with different vegetables like tomato, cucumber, carrot, onion, coriander leaves along with chanachur, mustard oil and spices.
It is an instant and tasty evening snack which has also been popular in different parts of the world such as New York and London. The reason for its popularity is its spicy and tangy content. Usually served with telebhaja like alur chop or onion pakoda, it can be consumed as it is too.
20. Mughlai Paratha
Mughlai paratha is a super yummy and filling street food that is believed to have come into existence during the Mughal period prepared for the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.
It is a soft fried paratha stuffed with minced meat, eggs, onions, pepper, etc. Either chicken or mutton keema can be used for the stuffing. The dish is served aloo matar curry or spiced potato curry. One can enjoy this with a curry of choice or tomato sauce.
Feature Image Credit- Orange Wayfarer
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Adityobarna Mukherjee is a contributor at The Strong Traveller and a writer by heart who swiftly makes her way through words. She’s most likely to be found in a cozy corner with a book. She lives to travel and vice versa. Apart from this, she also finds interest in making new dishes as much as finding new restaurants and cafes. A true perfectionist, she loves meeting new people and having a good conversation.