These are very tough times for those in India who eat beef. Despite this fact, dishes featuring beef continue to be popular throughout Kolkata, West Bengal.
A new fascinating in-depth piece from Scroll dives into the city’s longstanding fascination with beef. “Reality in Kolkata is markedly different from the news. The city has a rich culture of food, many strands of which have always revolved around beef,” writes Shoaib Daniyal. “And till now, this remains mostly unaffected by events in many other parts of India.”
Kolkata’s unique relationship with beef is directly related to the city’s history. The city’s historic Anglo-Indian neighborhoods have long served various beef dishes whose recipes are a blend of English and Indian cuisines. ““Mutton and chicken just don’t give that flavor, you know. Jalfrezi with pepper water, stick or Hussainy curry, ball curry, trotter soup with bread, these are the dishes I grew up with,” former restaurant manager Andrew Lipin, who grew up in the Anglo-Indian neighborhood of Bow Barracks, told Scroll. “They’re all made with beef.”
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Other areas across the city have become known for their own dishes. The restaurant Zam Zam, which is located in Kolkata’s Park Circus neighborhood, has become known for its beef biryani. Daniyal describes the dish as “dry and lightly spiced, just the way a good Kolkata biryani should be.”
But, as Daniyal writes, many people now worry that the city’s relationship with beef is changing as eating cows becomes more politicized — and in some cases, deadly — across India. As rightwing groups crack down on beef eating, some restaurants are either choosing not to serve it or to leave it off the menu and only create the dishes by request. Other eateries use words like ‘tenderloin’ on their menus or deliberately open their establishments in Muslim neighborhoods exclusively.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” one restaurant owner said.