Sunday, May 31, 2015
STREET FOOD OF JAMSHEDPUR:
Jamshedpur is a beautiful industrial town and had been home to many Bengalis since JRD Tata first set up the Integrated Steel Plant here sometime in the year 1907. Since then this little town was hub for huge Industrial growth as many other factories, from Tata group as well as other companies were set up.
I have been going to Jamshedpur since long, often to visit relatives and now mostly on business tour. This was the first planned township I had seen and I was enchanted by it’s beauty and cleanliness. The city had attracted a huge Bengali population over the years and many of them had made this city their home. Since this was small town and almost everybody worked in TATA group, there was a strong communal bonding and lot of socializing between families. Anybody from Jamshedpur would vouch for that. Unlike large cities, this city had very limited means of entertainment, so people mixed with each other a lot and that formed a very strong connection between families and with the city.
Since I have been travelling at regular intervals to Jamshedpur for some time, I started exploring about the street food that the city has on offer. Being a Bengali dominated city, I was certain that I will not be disappointed. So my search did yield some results, though admittedly I did not come across many. However I am trying to collate them in one page to give my readers and prospective travellers to Jamshedpur as to what they can expect.
One word of caution though. There is nothing I found which could be turned as ‘outstanding’ in culinary standards or something extraordinery. I did not expect so. I never for a moment tried to draw a comparison to street foods of Kolkata, that way it wouldn’t hold a candle. But at the same time what I found also didn’t exactly disappointed me. I went out with an open mind to taste whatever is on offer. Most of the places were suggested by my friends and acquaintances from Jamshedpur. For most of them it’s not just about food but fond memories of a city they love, Most of them are now spread out at different places in India and abroad, but when they talk of the egg roll from Shera, or the chilly pork from Franks, their eyes twinkle as sweet memories flood in. That’s the essence I tried to feel and I have not biased myself on the taste and the quality alone.
My search is still on and if my readers who are / were from Jamshedpur or been there, can suggest more places which might have escaped my search till now, I will be gladly exploring. So read on.
Sakchi Bazar; Jamshedpur
If you happen to walk down Sakchi Bazar area in Jamshedpur in the evening you will be greeted by the intoxicating aroma of chicken being grilled on charcoal oven. The source is "Balbeer Grilled Chiken" or "BGC".
Do not let images of KFC outlet come into your mind. "BGC" operates on a humble pushkart at the road corner. You will see heaps of marinated chicken on the aluminium bowls. You can order a full chicken or choose to have a breast or leg piece. Chickens are continuously being placed on the wire mesh over the glowing charcoal and grilled to perfection. Two attendants are always busy turning over the chicken pieces and fanning the fire furiously at the same time. What comes out is pure bliss. The pieces are soft to the core, juicy and the burning charcoal fire gives it a unique smoky test.
And yes this joint also sales delicious chicken liver fry which is a fantastic accompaniment with drinks.
Set up by Balbeer Singh almost 45 years ago, the outlet remained same all through and of course retained the taste which made it famous. The joint is currently run by ever smiling Harjinder Singh, son of Balbeer Singh. The secret of the taste lies in the usage of special herbs used in margination which is done in curd, precise grilling and of course the garlic chatni that goes with it. On a cold wintery evening having chicken here, basking in the gentle warmth emanating from the charcoal fire, is definitely a unique experience.
One thing I wondered about, we never could be entrepreneurs. Colonel Sanders must have had started a humble outlet like this which later became a global business and brand called KFC. BGC remained glued at Sackchi Bazar on a push kart as it was 45 years back.
A Road; Kagal Nagar
Shera’s shop is rather ordinary looking open place covered by a tin shade on the corner of ‘A road’ at Kagal Nagar, just opposite the Axis bank, Sonari Branch. Many of my friends from Jamshedpur mentioned about Shera’s roll to me umpteen no of times and insisted that I go and try the roll there. Being from Kolkata, the Mecca of rolls, I was obviously sceptic. I had tasted the best here in Kolkata, the likes of hot kati roll on Park Street, Bedwin & Campari at Gariahat, Badshah near new market and of course the father of rolls, Nizams. So I seriously doubted if Shera’s roll would have anything unique on offer for me.
But then I was at Jamshedpur, got free by the evening and my friend Shankar who originally hails from Jamshedpur, was there too. So we decided to take time out, catch up on the old times and upon his insistence headed towards Shera’s roll shop.
The shop is on a corner plot. There are cemented benches and few plastic tables and chairs scattered around. Now it would have been quite a challenge to have the roll sitting at this place in the peak of summer but it has been raining in past few days in Jamshedpur and the weather was quite pleasant.
Sherabhai, the owner is a man in his late fifties who personally oversees the preparation. You can see him in the photo. He is the bald man. He is basically a ‘punjab de putter’ but born and brought up in Jamshedpur only. The shop was started some 32 years back by his brother and he had taken over after his demise. Apart from the roll you get the normal stuff like chicken, curry, tandoori, etc but the roll is his signature dish and he had been maintaining the same recipe over the years and never compromised on the quality which made him so popular among the locals. In fact if you ask any auto driver to take you to Shera Bhai’s roll shop, you need not give him any more direction.
Now is time for few words about the roll. I tried the ‘Egg Chicken’ roll. The parantha is large. I found it bit on the crisper side which is not bad. The chicken is prepared with the special recipe which is Shera Bhai’s trump card. It was marinated in masala & herbs and was sautéed’ on the large tawa before the filling inside the parantha. With a liberal dash of lemon It tasted quite nice. Now I would not dare comparing this with any of the Kolkata specialities which I mentioned above, but it tasted different. It is not about being better or worse but this has an unique taste of it’s own which I did not find anywhere in Kolkata.
You can definitely give it a try next time you are at Jamshedpur.
My special thanks to Shankar Ghosh Choudhury for playing the perfect host and letting me have the opportunity to savour this rather fine roll.
Atthe near Jamshedpur Court:
Most of you wouldn’t be familiar with the word ‘Atthe’. Even I wasn’t until I was at Jamshedpur trying to dig out the street foods on offer. ‘Atthe’ is a special mutton preparation available at a roadside pise hotel near Jamshedpur court. It’s a regular hotel which you see everywhere, mostly found at the business areas of all the towns. They offer cheap and filling meal of Rice, Dal, Sabzi along with mutton, chicken and eggs to the masses.
This one is no different from those ubiquitous eateries, but their signature dish is mutton ‘Atthe’. Office goers, salesmen, visitors to the court and people from other Govt. offices throng this place to savour this special dish.
This is mutton prepared with liberal dollops of desi ghee and Khade Masale in a typical Dehati style. The meat used is ‘Rewazi’ which is high in fat content and found in a fiery red curry. It’s hot and has a rustic taste.Tough not for the faint hearted, tIt’s a heavenly affair to have the curry with rice and juices of Gandhoraj lebu squeezed in.
You can get a full plate and a half plate. The full plate will have four pieces of soft mutton of generous size.