I decided to start off the year with a two-week trip to the motherland – Kolkata, India. Although my family thought I was crazy for snapping more pictures of food than of people and landscapes, I’m glad I have these mouth watering visuals to hold me over until my next visit. So I begin my Kolkata’r Khabaar (which means Kolkata’s food in Bengali) series!
For those of you who have been involved in an Indian wedding, you may have noticed that depending on whether you are a part of the groom’s party or the bridal party, the experience as a wedding guest can be completely different. North Indian weddings generally begin with the arrival of the baraat, with the groom riding in on a white horse, his friends and family dancing alongside him to the rhythm of the dhol as the bride’s side greets them with offerings of sweets and blessings. Although traditional Bengali weddings are more low key and somber, we also share the concept of greeting the bar jaatri (or groom’s party) and treating the jamai, or son-in-law, with extra hospitality. Lucky for the jamai, the special treatment often continues even after marriage and visiting the wife’s family becomes an occasion to look forward to. My brother’s wife’s extended family happens to live in Kolkata and when we are there, I get to tag along with my brother to his in-laws’ posh So-Cal (South Calcutta, get it?) flat to sit back and relax as we are offered a never-ending stream of cold and hot beverages, street snacks and homemade confections, and, of course, an elaborate multi-course meal. In this post I will attempt to highlight how awesome it is to be a Bengali jamai (or his sister).
The meal started with peyaji, which are made with onions, or peyaj, and deep fried in a flour batter, similar to onion pakoras.
Then we moved onto the vegetarian course – white rice, masoor dal (lentils), and a delicious mixed vegetable dish made with spinach, potatoes, peas, and black gram lentils (bori, in Bengali). Additionally, I squeezed fresh Gandharaj lemon, which is similar to lime, on my rice and dal.
Next we were served the biggest shrimps I have ever seen in my life, they must have been approximately 10 inches! Due to the size, we wondered if it was lobster, but the texture was as thick and the flavor as rich as shrimp. The shrimp was cooked in a spicy malaikari (malai meaning cream, and kari meaning curry), flavored with the staple Indian spices – garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili powder, and simmered in coconut milk. We were also served shaboor papad, a papad made of tapioca pearls, a crunchy contrast.
For dessert we indulged in a cool chutney made with stewed tomatoes, sugar, and black peppercorn seeds.
After lunch we probably sprawled out on the living room couch and fell into a deep slumber and fantasized about the next meal. Or maybe that was just me…
It is officially that time of year—the holiday season. There’s nothing like Christmas and New Year’s in the West Indies. Between the pepperpot in Guyana and the palm trees decorated in lights in Trinidad, the home food, warm weather and laid-back ambiance makes us wish we could escape the cold and head back to the Caribbean. Most of us, however, cannot “take holiday” and find ourselves hungry for fresh dhal puri and doubles. But, thanks to these Indo-Caribbean food bloggers, we can bring the motherland to our kitchens.
From Diwali mithai specialties to curry chicken, Matthew is creating a name for himself as a young Guyanese food blogger. He makes a great effort to incorporate Hindu holidays and traditions on his Instagram account, in conjunction with the customary foods and sweets associated with these religious events. However, his expertise does not end there, with new and alternative recipes for classic dishes such as curry chicken and bhara, Matthew takes center stage sharing both traditional Guyanese dishes as well as specific religious dishes made for festivals. His most popular YouTube video, with 1.4 million views, features his grandmother and focuses on the best tips to make the softest Guyanese paratha roti. In addition, his YouTube account is home to many videos offering guidance to Indo Caribbean cooking. Find recipes at @mattews.guyanese.cooking
Natasha Laggan of Trini Cooking with Natasha is wildly popular throughout the Caribbean and the U.S. With humble beginnings, Natasha credits her love of food to her family’s business. She speaks of the nostalgia home food provides her as she reminisces memories of her grandmother’s cooking and helping her mother make sandwiches early in the morning. Featured by Forbes, Natasha grew her Facebook following quickly throughout the pandemic by posting old YouTube videos. Today, she has more than 1 million followers on Facebook and over 200K followers on YouTube. She uses her passion for cooking and Trinidadian culture to bring easy-to-follow recipes to viewers. Her following has now reached the West Indian diaspora globally as she has also become a brand ambassador to two well-known food companies. Follow the food expert @trinicookingwithnatasha.
With over 100K followers on YouTube, Ria is quite the expert when it comes to making roti. Her dhal puri, sada roti and paratha roti tutorials have over 1M views! However, her expertise does not stop there. Of the 180 YouTube tutorials, her recipes vary from curry to other Trinidadian favorites like macaroni pie and pigtail soup. Just scrolling through her YouTube page makes your mouth water. From doubles to classic Trinidad bakes like pound cake and sweet bread, she provides precision and anecdotal commentary while guiding you through the familiarity of home food. Check out Ria’s page at @cookingwithria.
Known as Chef Devan, Devan Rajkumar embraces his Guyanese Canadian heritage by creating recipes combining flavors of both the East and West Indies. His love of food has allowed him to expand his role to judge in a popular Canadian cooking show: Food Network Canada’s Fire Masters. His cooking often blends the flavors of multiple cultures but also creates the classic recipes of his motherland. With a multitude of interests, Chef Dev uses his social media platform to connect with followers by sharing various aspects of his life that go beyond cooking. His most recent YouTube video provides a trailer for an upcoming video “Tastes Guyana” which shows him exploring Guyana from the inside, specifically deep parts of the inner country. To learn more about Chef Devan follow @chefdevan.
Reshmi is the chef behind the growing blog, Taste of Trinbago. A Trinidadian native who now resides in Texas, she uses her love of food and Trinidadian culture to share hacks, tips and easy recipes with West Indians throughout the globe. She finds a way to simplify traditional West Indian meals, that we once watched our elders make with curiosity. From holiday specialties like black cake to Diwali delicacies, Reshmi has brought vegetarian and non-veg recipes to followers in an extremely accessible way. She even posts recipe cards on her IG highlights for followers who may need written instructions. Her IG profile is a mix of various West Indian foods while also sharing bits of her life and even her secrets to baby food. Follow her @tasteoftrinbago.
These are just five Indo Caribbean food bloggers sharing their secrets to easy cooking. The once very daunting recipes and food instructions our parents gave have been simplified by most of these bloggers through video, voice over and modernized recipes. We no longer have to estimate a “dash, pinch or tuk” of any masala. We are just days away from Christmas and this is the perfect time to find the best-suited recipe to make that paratha for Santa.