Home to the Hip
Unlike many household cooks, Iti Misra didn’t learn her recipes from her grandmother. “My grandmother was a zamindarni and did not go into the kitchen,” says the 77-year-old home chef who is bringing authentic Bengali cuisine to some of the country’s hippest ‘modern Indian’ restaurants.
After winning fans with the dinners she hosts from her home in conjunction with Traveling Spoon (the AirBnB of culinary experiences), the former British Airways sales executive, known as ‘Iti Aunty’, imparted her knowledge to wellknown chef Thomas Zacharias and his team during a pop-up at The Bombay Canteen in May. And this month, she’s consulting with chef Dheeraj Verma of Monkey Bar to create a special ‘Next Stop Kolkata’ menu for Durga Puja—an homage to the city’s street food.
“I feel Kolkata is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the country. Unlike other cities, the street food here is not local food but food from various migrant ethnic groups and states. So you see food from Uttar Pradesh, China and Tibet, South India as well as Mughlai and, of course, a little bit of British influence as well,” she says.
A traditionalist, she’s not throwing quinoa into anything, and she insists that Bengali dishes have to be served in “the right order”. That means starting with something bitter like eggplant with neem leaves or methi, then moving to mildly flavoured dishes like a dal and some delicate-flavoured vegetable like lau (bottlegourd). The spicy stuff comes next as “one has to build up the spice bit by bit”. Then something sour acts as a palate cleanser before the dessert, like a paayesh.
Next Stop Kolkata will be held at Monkey Bar, Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Dellhi and Kolkata from October 4 to 21.