I had brief stint with Dabur India Limited. Being a part of HR, my office was at Dabur House, Rashbehari Avenue and beside the famous Tirthapati Institution. On most days, I would order lunch. And that’s when, ruti and Egg torka or egg bhorta from Bacchan Singh Dhaba became a staple for me. One of the days, when I was staying back, I heard about Sankar’s Fish fry. But back then, I used to have a tunnel vision of Chandannagore being a city of best telebhaja in the world. I did not show any interest.
Here is a story of Chandannagore and dimer devil which you may like checking out Link
It took 15 years to reach Sankar’s Fish fry – Address
A lot has happened in between and after 16 years, on an otherwise dull evening, Madhushree I reach Sankar’s Fish Fry stall. There are two sign boards next to each other reading the same. In case you were wondering, The King of fish fry was written in the signboard itself. The address is 119, Rashbehari Avenue. Situated in a corner, dimly lit on the side facing wall, it is adjacent to the lane of Citistyle. There is a high chance you will miss it, if you don’t come searching for place.
The Fish fry at Sankar’s Fish Fry
We went for the sole purpose of tasting a Fish Fry. The store opens at 5 PM and normally remains open till 9 – 10 PM. It is closed on Sundays. I missed asking this question to Sankar da (Sankar Kar) why it remains closed on a Sunday, the apparently best day to do business for food. There were office goers picking up the share of Fish fry on their way back. There were students, there were couples in love, sharing a single fish fry with soft touches on kasundi and there were others. There was a glass display case, which also had chicken pakora, fish finger and others. I asked which are the other delicacies of the place – the gentleman across the counter confirmed – Cheesy chicken.
We ordered the Fish fry and there was no wait time. As this is the show stopper, one doesn’t have to wait and immediately, we were served a piping hot fish fry with onions and Kasundi. An attempt to make it rectangular, yet it was not rectangular and the imperfection perhaps made it perfect. A no nonsense lean mean fish fry, where there were no excess bread crumbs on the surface and it did not like over laden with a thick coating. Most of the places and mainly the roadside vendors, make the mistake of offering a thick perfect rectangular, heavy fish fry with a rice paper like fillet inside. Whereas, this had a crispy outer layer and a thick fish fillet, Bhekti to be precise. In Bengali, we would have normally called it ‘Puru’
The climax yet the post credit scene was more thrilling. Meeting Sankar Da.
Sankar’s Fish Fry is a winner by all means. There is Mitra Cafe which makes a decent one, Prabhash Ghosh of Aponjon of Sadananda Road also makes a good one, then Chilekotha, the Bengali restaurant makes a large diamond fry. I haven’t tasted the others in recent times but definitely not any permanent memories to preserve also. Sankar’s Fish Fry is beside a saree shop called Rabindra, which is also their family shop. His son, Pintu, is there who insisted that we wait for a few minutes to meet Sankar da and readily called his father and asked him to hurry up. After waiting for around 15 minutes, Sankar da comes down. He exchanges greetings and then asks me to wait. He comes back with a plate of cheesy chicken.
The inventor Sankar da and his Cheesy chicken
His long salt and pepper hair strewn over his face like a scientist and with a a twinkle in his eyes, Sankar da says – You won’t get this anywhere in Kolkata, try out. Covered with egg and flour batter, which was crispy with a crackling sound, the first few bites are only with a thick double layered, well marinated chicken. I paused for a breather. Sankar da says – aage jaan, taholei ashol moja (proceed further to get the real fun). A layer of cheese, oregano, coriander leaves with some tulsi pata (Holy Basil) too, carefully disguised between the two layers of chicken is a great surprise. Now Sankar da had to stop, as my words paused and I embarked on my journey.
We made something a fish fry with a cheesy layer in between. Get the recipe here
The Journey of Sankar da for Sankar’s Fish Fry
Most of the good things in life happen unplanned, is it ? Sankar’s family business was of a sweet shop which has now become the saree shop and the current fish fry shop was originally a shingara shop. The sweet shop shutdown and the current saree shop opened and Sankar da started his tele bhaja shop in the adjacent place. He started with a vegetable bonda which had multiple vegetables dipped in Bengal gram flour and deep fried. This was in 1997, in 1998 he started his fish fry. With increasing market rates, he has still been successful to keep the rate at INR 70 and the cheesy chicken also at INR 70. This is most laudable effort.
A genius in his own way, Sankar da perhaps is a true representation. where for once, he didn’t share any plans of expansion and he consciously keeps his shop closed on a Sunday. Yet, he takes pride in inventing and happiness in feeding others and sharing his story.