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The food of Kolkata, India, according to Debarpan Bhowmick


Last Friday at 3:30 p.m., a Cultural Connections event featuring Debarpan Bhowmick, a UNH student from Kolkata, India, took place in the Entertainment Center of the Memorial Union Building (MUB). Bhowmick, who is nicknamed “DB,” gave a presentation about where he is from in India and about the famous Kolkata street food, which Bhowmick said was deemed the best street food in all of India.
Kolkata, according to Bhowmick, is a city in West Bengal, India that is known well for its street food. Bhowmick said that Bengalis loves street food and will eat it at any time and for any and every meal of the day.
“Kolkata is a city that keeps eating,” he said.
He also said that Bengalis value their freshly grown and freshly made food, so much so that it is a big part of their culture. Therefore, Bengalis like seeing their food made in front of them when they order from street vendors.
Bhowmick helped to explain the culture of street food to his audience by showing them multiple videos that he claimed to have watched when he felt homesick in the past. A few segments of the videos were filmed in places that are close to where Bhowmick lives in Kolkata.
“Everybody has their favorite stall,” he said about the many street vendors in Kolkata. “They will argue with the person who says that the stall next to it is better, and it becomes a topic of big arguments. I saw teachers get mad at me in school for saying that one stall is better than the other… I hope it didn’t affect my grade in any way.”
Bhowmick compared the prices of street food to what it would cost in U.S. dollars, and some of the most expensive dinner items that one could buy would cost somewhere around the equivalent of $1.25.
“The only time something might cost [more than that] is if the vendor sees that you aren’t from India,” he joked with his audience.
Bhowmick talked about how dinner in Kolkata tends to be extremely rich in flavor. He said that no dinner food he has seen in America compares to the richness of dinner food that Bengalis eat.
Bhowmick’s favorite category of food derivative of Kolkata street food is dessert. He also recommended “must try” street food to his audience including pani puri, jilipi, alur chop and beguni fritters.
Bhowmick ended his presentation by inviting attendees to make their own sample of a Kolkata street food dish in the kitchen of the Entertainment Center. The dish was jhal muri and included ingredients such as puffed rice, spices, chili peppers, red onions and cilantro.
Cultural Connections, according to Paul Chiarantona, the programming coordinator and advisor for the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS), is a partnership between OISS and the MUB.
“We have a group of international students, and every semester they get to present about their culture,” Chiarantona said. “The students get to choose all of their topics. This [presentation] was all DB’s idea.”
Presentations range in variety according to Chiarantona. In the past, presentation topics have included street food, Persian weddings in Iran and apps in Kenya. Cultural Connection presentations by students happen every Friday in the Entertainment Center in the MUB from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.
Chiarantona pointed out that UNH is a majority white campus with many students coming from New Hampshire.
“Any opportunity you have to hear a true authentic voice of someone who is international or from a marginalized identity, or is someone who you haven’t met before helps make the world seem a little smaller,” he said. “[It] makes people have a greater understanding of the world beyond UNH without having to leave UNH.”
Alexandra Trifan, a sophomore political science and economics major, said that she enjoys trying new food and learning about other cultures, which is what brought her to the event, and that she believes experiencing other cultures can be beneficial.
“The exposure of different foods and cultures helps people grow on an emotional and mental level, and I think that if we have access to different cultures, we will have a better understanding of ourselves and our own identities and also about other people.”
The next Cultural Connections event will be this Friday from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. in the MUB Entertainment Center and will be entitled “Russia from Another Perspective” with Evgenii Vasilev as the featured presenter.

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