“I deviated from conventional recipes and followed my instincts,” says food blogger Kalyan Karmakar, who is linked to his Bengali roots and cuisines
The enterprising Kalyan Karmakar (47) studied sociology and holds an MBA. He moved to Mumbai from Kolkata in 1997 and worked as a consumer insight specialist. Today he has become a food insight specialist. Interestingly, since October 2007 he has been blogging about food and has innovatively named his blog, FinelyChopped, which has over 48.6,000 followers on Instagram.
Who introduced you to blogging?
My wife, Kainaz.
What motivated you to become a blogger?
When I started it was simply because I loved writing and eating and wanted to share stories about food. It was a passion and a creative outlet. There was no plan to get anything out of it except a few moments of joy. I was then a middle manager in my market research career and I was a little tired of the routine. I was looking for a creative outlet.
What is your culinary expertise?
I am a self-taught cook. I started cooking after I got married. As newlyweds, it became difficult to manage rent and other expenses. My wife and I were broke and eating out regularly or hiring a cook was neither practical nor possible. So I started to cook at home. Initially, I would ask my grandmother for recipes, search restaurant websites for recipes, and leaf through cookbooks as well. Over time, I strayed from conventional recipes and followed my instincts. I started to experiment.
How would you describe your blog?
My blog is a journal of my life and does not focus on any particular genre. It includes accounts of travels in India and abroad, tales of restaurant meals in Mumbai, stories of home chefs, and my own culinary adventures. I touch Bengali, Parsi, Thai, Chinese, Italian cuisine, etc. I am the author of The Traveling Belly, which is based on my culinary experiences during my travels across India.
How did you experience the pandemic?
The pandemic meant less work ordered, no possibility of travel and therefore less possibilities of discoveries. I used the time to work on projects. In April of last year, I launched FoodocracyForHer, a weekly podcast showcasing the work of women in the food industry. Previously, I had started a podcast called #FoodocracyIndia where I shared stories of popular restaurants from all over India. I have shared easy cooking recipes from our kitchen on the blog and on my YouTube channel, Finely Haché TV. I conducted brand building workshops for home chefs and this culminated in the Home Cheffie Awards 2021.
What was your most successful post?
My most successful blog post is about Brigand Murgir Jhol (Sunday chicken curry). I think it tapped into people’s affinity for nostalgia. Plus, the recipe is simple, and Chicken Curry is a dish that people love to make in all communities.
What is your writing process from conception to publication?
My writing style is that of a columnist or a columnist. I’m writing about things we’ve cooked, something new we’ve tried, a trend that piqued my curiosity. The idea is to have a conversation with my readers through my writing.
Who is your target reader?
My key demographic is 25-34 followed by 35-44. My Instagram audience is 60:40 from women to men.
How to attract new readers?
I show up at my desk and continue to write and I hope this attracts more people who can relate to my area of interest which is daily food. Sometimes I write about issues we face such as the pandemic and the new life it has created, shared memories of our past, stories about food from different communities that show the richness of our food ethic. .
Tell us about Durga Pujo in Calcutta. How important is food to the festivities?
Food is a big part of Durga Pujo. From the mad proshad (diced fruits) served to the faithful followed by a community lunch. On Ashtami, the community lunch or bhog in large pujas is served free of charge to all and is usually vegetarian and consists of dishes such as khichuri, bhaaja, laabra, chaatni and mishti. The food stalls, which pop up near the pandals. They serve jolkhabar (Snacks in Bengali).
Khichuri (2 people)
1.10 tea cup (Ek mutho/ handful) rice. Washed and soaked for at least an hour. Bengalis prefer short grain Gobindo bhog for khichuri. I use the local ambe mor rice in Bombay.
2. Half the amount of yolk moong Dal like rice. For 1 cup of rice, use 1/2 cup of daal.
3. Water: Three times the amount of rice and dal.
4. Condiments: 1 sliced green pepper, 1 dry red pepper, 1 tej pata, 1 clove, cardamom and a little ½ inch cinnamon.
5. Flavor base: 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped ginger, 1/2 tomato, cubed, for spiciness.
6. Spices and seasonings: 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper powder, coriander and cumin powder, 2/3 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon Garam masala powder and 2/3 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
7. 1 teaspoon of refined oil, 1 teaspoon ghee. Bengalis prefer ghee made with cow’s milk.
8. You can also add seasonal vegetables. The potatoes are a must.
Heat the oil. Add chili peppers, Garam masala and tej pata in the casserole. Add the ginger and tomato followed by all the vegetables. Add pre-roasted dal (Roasting: heating washed and drained dal on a hot pan on fire until raw dal browns a little). Add the rice, spices and seasoning.
Add water and cook. It may take about 20-25 minutes. Cover the pot with a lid. Check and add water in between if it dries. A pressure cooker speeds up the process. Once done, add the ghee on top and sprinkle a little Garam masala powder.
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Posted on: Sunday, October 10, 2021, 7:00 a.m. IST