Home to the Hip

India Today - - LEISURE - —Malini Banerjee

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.

SUBIR HALDER

SAN­JAY RAMCHANDRA­N

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