(Image credit: Jennifer Qishan).
Many of these restaurants around the capital of West Bengal once offered cheap and comfortable meals to homesick migrant workers. There are only a few left now.
It’s easy to miss the narrow entrance to Hotel Sideshwaria Shram, which sits quietly in the back alley of Kolkata’s Sir Stuart Hogg Market (New Market), but the scent of mustard oil-grilled fish guides you to the door. It’s rush hour and the restaurant, one of the few remaining Pis hotels in Kolkata, is packed with gills. A pile of rice on a plate of banana leaves is accompanied by a bowl of vegetables, fish and meat. The accountant sitting between the stairs and the dining room keeps the score for all serves. When a hungry office worker takes a break for lunch, the seats on the marble table fill up one after another.
Ritasen, the fourth-generation owner of this luxury hotel, hastily managed the floor. “We’ve been running this place for the past 93 years and the flow of customers hasn’t stopped. Even the former mayor of Kolkata was having lunch from our hotel,” she said.
The Pice Hotel welcomes more than 300 customers a day and all servings are accounted for at the end of the meal (credit: Jennifer Kishan)
The name of the Spice Hotel is Hindi “Paisa“-Minimum Indian Rupee. Named for its cheap, healthy and homely meals. In the early 1900s, the cityscape of Kolkata, a bustling metropolis, was filled with immigrants. Flocked, dozens of hotels scattered around. These workers were mostly middle-class single men who didn’t know how to cook and missed the comfort of their family’s kitchen. The Pice Hotel was a homesick of these. It provided both friendliness and nutrition to young men.
The service of Pice Hotel is unique. Meals are served on a plate of banana leaves to customers sitting on the floor mats.The recipe was strictly traditional and often included dishes such as: alu posto With poppy seed paste kumro phool bhaja Made from pumpkin flowers and mild spice shrimp chingrimacher malai curry With coconut milk. Prices and menus change daily depending on what is available on the market that morning. Everything up to the last lemon sliver (and banana leaf) was individually priced to keep overhead costs low and avoid waste.
Tables and chairs have replaced floor mats, but the services of these Pis hotels have not changed. Visitors can still enjoy the habitual experience of eating on a banana leaf plate, and a regular three-course meal is still cheap at around 200 rupees (a little over 2). Even today, everyone, from Indian workers to foreign tourists, can step into these traditional eateries according to old-fashioned rules and recipes and taste arguably the most authentic Bengali cuisine in Kolkata. I will.
Hotel Sidheshwari is located behind the Stuart Hogg Market in Kolkata, where it used to be the accounting firm of the Lanirashmoni Estate (credit: Jennifer Kishan).
“Currently, Pis hotels are accompanied by many urban romanticisms, but for nearly a century their position in the gastronomic world of Kolkata has been low-cost and balanced for the low-income group. It was to serve food, “said food historian Tanushley Baumic. The coffee house for British residents was the first retail store in India. However, Bhowmik added that the pice hotel stands out as “the city’s first commercial indigenous dining area.” “As the economy moved from agriculture to industry, people moved from rural to urban areas, and these hotels were born to meet that need.”
Many pice hotels started out as kitchens messbaris, Cheap boarding house for students and office workers. Inheriting Hotel Mahal from his grandfather Nandalal Dutta, Sandeep Dutta talked about the beginning of his Pis Hotel as part of the famous presidential boarding house on Ramnas Majumda Road in northern Kolkata. “In 1917 my grandfather started this boarding house for students who came to study at the best educational institutions nearby,” he said. “When the boarding house was eventually closed, I turned the kitchen into a restaurant.”
Hotel Sidheshwari Ashram also started in the early 1900s as a Messe Bali for workers from nearby towns and provinces. “By 1936, my dad decided to open the door to outsiders to expand his business during the lunch break. For those who go to the office looking for something too when setting up the menu. I decided to include the option of Heavy. Kobirajihor – Our specialty – is a light fish curry with a vegetable medley.In the summer we serve aam shol machch, Spicy mango and mustard curry fish with little spice. “
Meals at the pice hotel are traditionally served with banana leaves (credit: Jennifer Kishan)
Peace Hotel is known for its surprisingly wide range of dishes served for both lunch and dinner. Hidden in a quaint corner of Rushbehari Junction in South Kolkata, the 106-year-old Tarnniketan Hotel serves 15 fish dishes daily. bhetki paturiMarinated fish fillets steamed with banana leaves. Citol Kosher, Spicy clown knife fish curry; and famous Bengal delicacies iIlish macher jhol, Hirusa fish cooked in a mellow mustard gravy sauce. Arun Dev, who has been running the facility for the past 42 years, says fish egg fritters are especially popular.
Dining in a luxury hotel is different from most dining experiences in Kolkata. A list of products for the day and their prices is neatly written on the blackboard at the entrance of each hotel. The waiter can rattle the entire list from memory. Tables are usually shared, but each seat has a separate invoice. Most hotels only accept cash.
Bengali cuisine is elaborate, including at least seven dishes. “The food here can be eaten on the course-you will be served first Sukto, It is a bitter vegetable curry. Next comes leafy vegetables. Next is the lentil curry, where you can add fritters and simple vegetables. Then fish, meat, and finally sweet chutney cleanse the palette and take you to dessert. ” From bitter to sweet. For visitors, these choices may seem daunting, but a little help from the waiter can be a great help in finding the right combination. It’s cost-pocket friendly, “Bhowmik said.
A fresh menu is posted daily on the blackboard at the entrance of the Pis Hotel (credit: Jennifer Qishan)
During the Indian independence movement in the 1940s, luxury hotels offered more than just cheap food. History enthusiasts and regulars of Young Bengal hotels in the Kidapore region of Kolkata, Gotam Bath, how these hotels can be a cause of freedom by offering cheap or free meals to free fighters during this time. I talked about how I contributed to. Just a stone’s throw from the bustling College Street junction, the Swaddinbarat Hindu Hotel, originally known as the Hindu Hotel, was a hideaway and a secret meeting place.
“The front line of the hotel was a trick. There was a back door inside the room and a secret passage outside,” said Vivek Kumar Singh, who now runs his grandfather’s facility. The movement Starwart, including Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, was a regular visitor.
Some owners have named the hotel to show political trends. After independence, Shin’s grandfather MN Panda added “Swadhin Bharat” or “Free India” to the name of the hotel. And Talapada Guha named his hotel the Young Bengal Hotel after the Bengal Freethought Movement, which contributed to social reform.
Customers dine at shared tables in luxury hotels, and each seat is numbered to match the invoice (credit: Jennifer Kishan)
History is soaked in, but most luxury hotels have been unable to keep up with rising food prices and changing demand in modern cities. Many have closed and are an important part of Kolkata’s food history. Guha once ran three luxury hotels in the city, but only the Young Bengal Hotel survived. Guha’s granddaughter, Pritha Ray Bardhan, told me about the challenges associated with keeping the place running when food and overhead costs are skyrocketing. “We had to raise our prices to make sure our food quality wasn’t compromised, and we can float,” she said.
Even for Sen, who runs Hotel Sidheshwari Ashram with his sister-in-law, Debjani, the road has never been easier. “Office congestion has decreased year by year as some offices have been moved to the suburbs of the city … once we had twice as many customers, but now the situation is different,” she said. Some have attempted to move to digital food delivery platforms, especially during the pandemic, but the fees charged by such services are often not cost-effective.
Despite the hiccups, most of the remaining pice hotel owners remain resolute. Sen still wants both his daughter and niece to continue this matrilineal inheritance. And with determination and sadness, Singh of the Swaddinbarat Hindu Hotel said, “Even if we are at a loss, we want to carry on the legacy of our grandfather. There are some precious things.” explained.
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Pice Hotel: Lifeline for hungry workers in Kolkata
Source link Pice Hotel: Lifeline for hungry workers in Kolkata