Delicacies of the East coast have found themselves a special spot in the West coast, with Bombay canteen having picked about 30 different, unique, and salivating dishes from Odisha, for their special menu ‘A Feast from the East’, curated by our very own Alka Jena. An economist by profession, and a chef at heart, she loves cooking and curating brilliant Odia dishes for family, friends, and guests.

The Bombay Canteen team Thomas, Gaurav and Shanon are foodies who love fishing out some lost, unknown, creative delicacies of different states. They came travelling to Odisha and looked for an authentic food experience from the state. After a good long exploration in different districts of Odisha, they wished for a home-cooked Odia meal. The dots connected, stars aligned, and few phone calls led them to Rohit and Rachit, who approached Alka to serve them three Bombay guests, a traditional Odia platter. What happened to be a fun foodie meet, turned into a collaboration with Alka Jena’s Culinary Xpress. 

“I love cooking, I love experimenting with Odia cuisine, and I also love curating different delicacies for people who are not from Odisha. When these boys approached me, which I always will be thankful for, I readily agreed! Anything for Odia food,” she said, recalling the turn of events in her life. She cooked rice, Habisa Dalma, Chhatu Patropoda, Janhi Poda, Badi Chura, Ambula Rai, Macha Haladi Pani, Chingudi Chencha, Charchari, Kaitha Chutney, Khakharu Phula Bhaja, and Rasabali for them.

“They came in, we had a long discussion about food, and then cooked together. It was an amazing experience. Their eagerness to learn about various states’ special ingredients, and methods of cooking was endearing. One of them, from Bengal, agreed to the fact that Odia cuisine is very different from Bengal, which is often mistaken to be similar. The ingredients used are usually same, but what comes out- the flavours, the taste, the texture- is completely different. They enjoyed the meal, and saw a lot of potential in it,” Alka expressed.

What made the entire Bombay Canteen in Odisha event fun, was introducing all homemade and authentic food items- ones they will not find elsewhere. “They decided to introduce some of those items in their menu and approached me for the same. I was on cloud nine! They curated about 70 odd recipes and I had to juggle between my work and my passion for cooking,” she added.

Odia dishes, however, are not served course wise, which posed as a challenge for the team. “Bombay Canteen serves course wise food, so we had to sit and work on all these different dishes and segregate them into different courses, like small or large meals, or desserts, and drinks. I brought in some Grandma’s recipes here, like Macha Haladi Pani and Gota Baigana Tarkari. I tried and tested all the recipes at home first, which was then tried at Bombay Canteen, and approved by some Non-Odias in Mumbai. When we received a positive feedback from them, we started working on it diligently!”

About 30 dishes were picked from a list of 70, based on financial viability, uniqueness, and availability of ingredients in Mumbai. The special Odia menu will be up for sale from November 25 to December 8, 2019. On November 24, people who have pre-booked will get a free experience menu.

Alka finds this a wonderful opportunity and great exposure. “It is not as much about me, as it is about Odia food. The food from our state have always been overshadowed, and compared to Bengali food items, which is unfair. The tastes are very different. This, I am sure, will be beneficial in promoting Odisha and its cuisine. Odisha food is just as amazing, healthy, and mouth-watering as the rest and I am sure, after its journey to the West, it will travel down South and up North as well!”