Phuchka! Doesn’t the name sound funny or the mouth starts watering as soon as one hears the name of the heavenly street food? Well, obviously it is not the same reaction received from health conscious or hygiene freaks. But Kolkatans have an eternal love affair with Phuchka and its soul sister Churmur (a concoction prepared from mixing and mashing the potatoes with spices). A person might not find a STD /telephone booth nearby but will surely find a Phuchkawallah (a vendor selling Phuchka) at every interval, in front of schools, colleges, shopping malls, markets and localities in Kolkata.
The best thing about Kolkata is undoubtedly Phuchka, as this street food is a unique blend of Bihar
and West Bengal’s delicious food inventions. An individual or tourist might have tasted Paani Puri in Mumbai
or Gol Gappa in Delhi
or Gupchup in some other metro cities of India but surely Phuchka beats them all in matters of taste and delight.
It is an interesting sight to behold that a Phuchka stall is always crowded at all hours of the day with foodies gobbling the yummy treat from the paper dish in which it is served. College or school students form the biggest customers of this amazingly tangy snack prepared with mashed potatoes and spices dipped in tamarind water.
The fascinating part of this awesome snack is its unbelievable price (normally Rs. 5/10 for 5-6 phuchkas) along with the delight crunching inside one’s mouth spiced with tamarind water spilling out of the round crispy fried snack with a hole in the middle. A conversation often heard among the Phuchka vendor and a customer is Takai Kota
/ how many phuchkas for 10 rupees? Or Fau Debe
/ i.e. will you give an extra phuchka/ free phuchka.
No one knows when Phuchka came to Kolkata
nevertheless it is a common phenomenon to dab in the forbidden delight (mainly hygiene concerns) on all festive occasions, even marriage ceremonies where it makes a noble presence. The very sight of the vendor peeling potatoes and mashing them with his hand followed by mixing up the spices, the fresh scent of coriander leaves, the tangy tamarind water makes a person forget all hygiene issues and run to the stalls.
It’s a huge mistake for tourists and foreign tourists who on a visit to Kolkata do not taste this sinful snack. In fact daily and repeating customers always get a special discount and greeted by the ever smiling vendors who create this lip smacking treat.
So much is the fervor and enthusiasm in Kolkata regarding Phuchka that Times of India selected and recommended few famous Phuchka joints for its admirers. The staple evening food or favorite snack of Kolkatans can be tasted in various places like Victoria Memorial
, Russel Street, Vivekananda Park, Burrahbazar and many more. Most of the vendors inherited this art of making the snack from their fathers, for example Krishnakant Sharma’s roadside stall in front of Vardhaan Market in Camac Street area of Kolkata.
The yummy snack is sold at Rs. 20 for 6 phuchkas rich in taste due to the blend of pudina, lime and tamarind. Dilip Da’s phuchka stall bordering Vivekananda Park in South Kolkata is crowded all the time for the essence of lime, dates, mango pulp and pudina
chutney served with the phuchka. Food lovers can also visit Nankuram Gupta’s stall in Russell Street who came to Kolkata from Uttar Pradesh
30 years ago to sell this snack or taste specially prepared Jain Phuchkas near Triangular Park in Chakraberia locality of South Kolkata.
There are other stalls and joints as well in B.K Paul Avenue of North Kolkata where the treat is served with a punch of onion, New Alipore, Lighthouse Cinema in New Market area etc. in fact some stalls use mineral water to prepare the tamarind chutney and some insist on cleaning their hands with sanitizers each time they exchange currency.
For hygiene freaks, theirs is a clean variety served at Haldirams and Shiv Sagar Restaurant in Camac Street. But the unique taste and street side experience cannot be felt in these AC restaurants where the Phuchka is served in a plate.
Unfortunately this tangy yet juicy delight is terribly missed by Kolkatans who moved out for job and other purposes, as nowhere can they find a replacement for Kolkata Phuchka! They might satisfy their desire by gulping down Paani Puri or Gol Gappas (prepared with pulses and spices) but the distinct taste of Phuchka are not to be found anywhere except Kolkata. Phuchka is a mystic snack and its’ love affair with Kolkatans will continue forever.