The hot searing sun shone relentlessly, when on a humid day Purba and I started on a trail to see some so called spooky places in Kolkata. Apart from walking miles after miles, what we saw were only our glorious architectural past in a state of slow decay and absolutely nothing supernatural! Deprived, to quench our thirst for knowledge on subjects as gory as Kolkata r Bhoot, we headed to College Street, precisely to DasGupta’s. Post buying books on myriad other subjects than ghosts, all we wanted was to have a cool glass of sharbat to satiate our thirst. And having been denied of any spookiness, I now was desperately determined to drink quite a few litres of chilled sharbat from Paramount to beat the heat! Thus began our sojourn for quenching the thirst for knowledge and sharbat!
College Street is what we call the Boi Para. It is a reminder of our colonial past, the revolutionary and reform movements in the 70s which rocked the history of Bengal. Both sides of the road are dotted with book stalls dealing with antique and rare books to notebooks sold per kg to test papers of the last 10 years on all imaginable subjects to Benimadhav Sil’s almanac. Walking towards Paramount, the first thing that we came across was the akher rosh wala, with the basic machine atop a wooden cart, which crushes the sugarcane and churns out delicious juice with a dash of lemon for that zing. Priced at Rs.10 each, it was divine, and to people parched – absolute nectar!
Paramount hadn’t opened when we reached there so we took a u-turn and walked back. Enroute we came across a kancha aam porar sharbat and pudinar sharbat stall. Looking at each other with shining eyes, we stopped and pondered on exactly who will try what! I decided on a kancha aam porar sharbat. Aam porar sharbat is an absolute Bangali must in hot and sultry weather. It is green mango roasted then made into a puree with a dash of mint and then mixed with water. There is a distinct taste of crushed bhaja moshla; the slightly tangy and sweet taste of this sharbat is a perfect thirst quencher and is said to be really good for the summer.
Purba tried the pudina r sharbat. This was the fresh and tangy mint sharbat. It was piquant and salty and had a sharp undertone of rock salt peppered with roasted and crushed cumin seed and an overtone of refreshing lime. Both the sharbats again came for Rs 10 each!
Indian Coffee House in College Street. Well, what can one say about it that hasn’t already been said? We stepped into the cool and hallowed precinct of the famed building. There is something palpable still in the air of this iconic café. Dutifully ordering for the famous ‘Infusion’ and ‘Cold Coffee’ accompanied by Moghlai Paratha and Chicken Kabiraji, we sat back. The Cold Coffee did not let us down, its bittersweet creaminess as good as it used to be. And the infusion too remains the same. Dark as the devil, and hot as hell!
Stuffed, somebody else would have probably given up the idea of further sharbat. Not us! We are Women of Words. Dutifully, we retraced our steps to Paramount! Getting a place to sit in Paramount can be a constraint as there is not much space. I believe the ‘Certified by Zomato’ is perhaps the only thing that has changed in the décor in the last many decades in this nearly epic shop. Purba had the Green Mango Cream and I had the Daaber sharbat, or the tender coconut water refresher. The green mango concoction was made of raw green mango mixed with sugar syrup, lemon and some yoghurt. The daaber sharbat was the water of tender coconut with wedges of the tender coconut flesh or shaansh as we call it, with heaped ice cubes. This daaber sharbat was originally created under the aegis of the famous scientist Prafulla Chandra Ray. The list of famous patrons hangs on the wall of this homemade sharbat shop. You will always keep coming back to taste more, or carry home some of the bottled delights from Paramount, which will be completing its century in 2018.
This was the end of our sharbat sojourn, but since I titillated your taste buds with the delectable names and heavenly sagas of various sharbat which had you almost gulping down your throat, let me also share the recipe of n all time favorite summer cooler with you –
The Kancha Aam Porar Sharbat or Aam Panna
- Take 4 medium sized raw mangoes, they should neither be too soft nor too hard
- Wash them and roast them on open fire, ala begoon bharta or begoon pora
- Keep roasting them till all the sides are blackened
- Wait for the mangoes to cool down
- Now wash them and peel the skin of the mangoes
- Make this into a pulp and throw away the seed
- Put this pulp in the blender, add sugar to taste and a dash of rock salt
- Add water according to the desired consistency and whiz it
- Taste (don’t taste too much!) and check if you need anything more.
- Sprinkle some bhaja moshlar guro on top and serve chilled with couple of ice cubes!
- Optional – you can add twigs of mint or pudina pata while making the puree in the blender
There are so many varieties of summer coolers - bel, tormuj, tentool etc. what’s your favourite? Have a great recipe? Please share ASAP! The sun in Kolkata shows hardly any sign of relenting, and I really, really need a tall and chilled one!!!
Love and Light