Baati Chokha

I should start with a cautionary advice that this is an awfully dreary and boring post. And the worst part is, even if I know it, I could not do anything to make it better. Readers, forgive me for once for being so dull. These days I am walking around with my finger dipped in far too many pies. And my creativity is running at an all time low.

Even though I have never lived outside Calcutta so far, I am quite proud of the cosmopolitan trait of my life. Most of my friends and acquaintances are non-Bengali and they hail from different states of India. I speak more Hindi and English than Bengali these days. And I often find myself quite intrigued by the quirky diversity of mixed-ethnic Indian culture. Be it food or fashion or language or music, I am always going through a continuous process of learning about cultures that I don’t belong from. What’s life without a mission anyway?

Out of the handful of my close friends, one is from Bihar and it’s him I first came to know about Baati Chokha from. He currently lives in Calcutta and this North Indian village themed restaurant is one of his favourite food destinations. So it was his idea to take me out on a dinner date and acquaint me with his native cuisine. I never tasted authentic Bihari food myself and hence jumped at the opportunity.

Baati Chokha is vegetarian restaurant situated at the FD block in Saltlake city. It’s not a very big or fancy place, but quite popular among the Calcuttans owing to the great ambience and food quality. Oh yes, I had looked it up on Zomato before visiting. My obsessive compulsive control freak nature is always at work and doing unnecessary research on trivial things has become a permanent habit of mine. Zomato had told me that this place is high on demand and hence the waiting time is on the higher side. The waiting area is nicely decorated with khatiyas (cot) to go with the theme. And while waiting you can watch the cook making littis on the traditional clay ovens or chulhas. However we didn’t have to wait as we were the first customers of the evening.

The interior of Baati Chokha is quite immaculately decorated that would give you the false vibes of being in a village, except the modern, tiled floor. The walls are covered in clay and decorated with traditional North Indian painting and motifs. My companion pointed out at the piece of mirror on the clay wall that it is a familiar sight in any village house of Bihar. However this is not exactly a Bihari restaurant. For all I know, Bihari people are not boring vegetarians and they have got some really amazing non-vegetarian dishes. Baati Chokha is more for those north Indians who survive on trees and grass. God knows how though.

Most of the names on the menu card were alien to me so he did the ordering. We ordered a dish named Ulta Pulta for starter. Ulta Pulta can be called the desi version of a veg pizza. Different vegetables and paneer (cheese cube) are cooked on the base of bason (gram flour).

The menu card
Ulta Pulta
The pickles
On main course we ordered Baati, Chokha and Daal. (I wanted to order the thaali though) Now let me tell you that previously I had no idea what a Baati was. Baati means bowl in Bengali so I thought it was some curry cooked in a bowl. But my misconception ended shortly thereafter when our order arrived at the table. Baati is nothing but grilled flour balls with stuffing inside. We had ordered two different types of baati, paneer and sattu (gram flour). Of which the later is the traditional one.
Although they look like small ping-pong balls, they are quite heavy and just two balls were enough for me. Er.. no pun intended.

Baati and Chokha
The chokha was a little bit spicy for me, too many chillies. But it was delicious. And so was the daal. It was one of the best daals I had so far.

There are five-six dishes on the dessert list and only the name of gaajar ka halwa was known to me. After a brief discussion, we zeroed in on moong ka halwa as it seemed to be the safest option to my friend. Personally, I could order the entire list. Dessert is always my favourite part of the meal.

This was probably the first time I thoroughly enjoyed a vegetarian meal and I am definitely going back for more. I have got to try out all the dishes. OCD again?