I faintly remember a story I had been told as a small child, where a Queen asks the King how much he loves her, and in reply the King says that he loves her as much as Salt. And this greatly angers and upsets the Queen as salt is something too mundane and common, not even remotely deserving of being compared to her, she feels. And that is when the wise King brings an exquisite meal for his beloved wife, albeit without any salt in the food. The Queen tries taking a morsel of this and a morsel of that, and then bursts out laughing at her husband’s folly. And that’s when she realised the worth of salt. And this is what I was instantly reminded of when I was told that in Bohri culture, every meal is to be started and concluded with a tiny bit of salt, to respect this most basic yet irreplaceable part of any savoury meal around the world. So ‘Salt’, the one of a kind eatery near Golpark, Kolkata which serves Bohri cuisine, could not have been named more aptly. Not only is it the only regular restaurant offering Bohri in the city, but in fact in the entire country to do so! So when I heard of this place, I was literally jumping with excitement.
The place isn’t very big, but has been done up tastefully, in green and white, without much unnecessary clutter. The gracious hosts had planned to present their signature Bohri dishes in the gigantic Thaal to us, something that all of us were new to. The Thaal is basically a huge platter, filled with a large number of dishes, both sweet and savoury, meant to be shared and eaten together by a group. Here at Salt, it can be customised to contain the various dishes from their menu, in varying quantities. It should preferably be for a minimum of five people to share, for which the minimum per head cost will be around 500 INR.
Another very interesting thing about Bohri eating which I found out was that unlike how we have always been taught to have the desserts last, here the sweet and the savoury are to be alternated to keep changing the taste. Suits me perfectly, I had thought, when I came to know, as it meant that I won’t have to wait for desserts while constantly reminding myself to leave some tummy space for sweet endings.
I tried a great many of their signature dishes. And most of them were so unique that it would be futile to try and describe those. My favourite was undoubtedly the big bowl of Mutton Haleem. Haleem is served in only a handful of restaurants in Kolkata, that too only for a few days around Eid festivities. So it being a part of the regular menu here was a delight for me. Also, the viscous, almost pasty Haleem is nothing like anything I have had before in the city. Second in the line of my favourites was the Murg Malai Salli, a skewered kebab with a fluffy egg washed exterior, which somehow reminded me of our good, old Kobiraji Cutlet. Another dish definitely worthy of mention was the Daal Chawal – Palidu Chicken. It was a layered rice dish with daal and chicken folded inside the layers, and topped with crispy, caramelized onions. Of the sweets, the Date Palm Hales was my hero, and I couldn’t resist going for one spoonful after another of it 😚.
Salt is one place which I will visit again and again. And would also recommend it to anyone who cares to listen. Especially if one is looking for a budget meal with family or for something the country hasn’t tasted much before.