Kolkata is the third largest city in India and that gives it enough place for lovers of street food to go exploring. Lined along several streets are vendors that serve everything from salads, chaats, chai, fried snacks and full meals. Booking.com described that 67% of Indian travelers pick their dream destination based on the cuisine, food choices in those destinations.
The emergence of food tourism in the City of Joy
It might not be easy to savour all foods available if you are on your own. This has lead to the emergence of a new industry from these food stalls called street food tours. It was a clever and wonderful idea designed to aid tourists, both foreign and domestic, as they discover street food on the sidewalks. The concept of food tourism in Kolkata took off because it was the best and safest way to sample every taste that this city has to offer.
The tour started a few years ago, but has now expanded to include all parts of the city, even small local eateries and local food chefs. It offers a quick run over of back alleys for the more daring tourists as well as reluctant travelers, who aren’t certain about experimenting with foods they’re not aware of. Tourism in Kolkata is operated and organized by volunteers, many of whom are students and share a love for food and the city.
It’s the volunteers that add a personal touch to each tour, offering you much more knowledge than an average tour guide would. These students know a lot about the local culture and cuisine and places where one can find various foods from street vendors, restaurants that only a few know about and decades old sweet shops.
The concept of food tourism in Kolkata is successful as many tourists feel that food is the best way to connect to and experience other cultures. Food tells us a lot about the place that we’re in, the heritage, and its people. It is a new consumer trend seen in the global tourism industry, where about 50% of American travellers choose a destination based on the food it offers.
In India, there are destinations that highlight theirculinary heritage as their main selling point, along with the other attractions.
Growth of Kolkata’s food tourism scene
A leisure traveler is defined as a person who travels to break away from everyday life frequently. The focal point of such travels is to build experiences; in terms of beaches, luxury hotels and food.
Travellers today can share culinary experiences with the rest of world by posting about them online. Other travellers across the world can access these experiences through websites,social media, blogs, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This increase awareness and subsequent demand to experience the culture, cuisine that a destination has to offer.
How a country markets itself can impact the tourist traffic to that place. For example, they focus on cities, mountains and beautiful beaches. Yet, even then, why are certain tourist spots more coveted than others?
Food is now a prime attraction; when someone visits Paris, they will visit the Eiffel Tower but also make time to visit reputed bistro’s to sample the exquisite cuisine available there. They usually get this idea from what other travellers have experienced for themselves and recommend to others. Just like other places like Goa, Delhi, Lucknow, and Hyderabad that receive heavy footfall, the same holds true for Kolkata. Travellers come to Kolkata for the food as much as they do for the heritage and scenic beauty.
What’s on the menu?
Food tourism in Kolkata doesn’t have any fixed route and tour volunteers are willing to take you wherever you go. You can savor foods like papri chaat, rasmalai, samosa, puchka, shondesh, malai chum chum and Vada with Coconut Chutney & Sambar. Of course, there is so much more than what’s mentioned.
After moving on from the street vendors, volunteers may take you to local food eateries made famous over time or by a signature dish. Then, they may even take you to the bigger, five-star gourmet restaurants.
Where costs are concerned, the street food isrelatively inexpensive; this includes all the street stalls that offer you a variety of snacks and dishes. Tipping the guide is expected for the hospitality and time that the volunteers give you.
Could Kolkata’s food tourism scene expand?
There are numerouslocal culinary promotional fairs being held along with art and music festivals. This is a testament to theacknowledgement of this interest in food. Such events are filled showcase music, art,reputed speakers andliterature. In these events, around 8% of focus is dedicated to foods and highlighting heritage restaurants, local eateries, food walks,local markets and food trails.
It even includes cooking demonstrations that are attractive to a lot of tourists today. Tourism organizations work towards good marketing and bettering infrastructure around these destinations. For example, Kolkata’s New Market is a visited spot in the city.
There really is a lot to savor; from the ShorsheIilish, Kosha Mangsho and Chingri Malai Curry to the Rezala and Biryani. Then you have the Misti Doi, Sondesh and Rossagolla to China Town’s Manchurian and Chilli Chicken. If you walk along Tirreti Bazar, you could feast on the morning breakfasts offered there. New Market is a heritage site with known eateries like Nahoums Bakery, Nizam Rolls that offer you much more to explore. Kolkata still has some old colonial era clubs like, Tollygunge Club and Calcutta Club.
Each of these sites offers a culinary experience that is suited to all ages, budget and tastes. What really makes certain places interesting is the story it has to share. Here, each place has food to offer that is built around a certain story and heritage. The story behind each food is interesting enough to keep drawing back visitors to it frequently. The experiences here are enriched by food and they satisfy each visitor.
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These are some thoughts to keep in mind when we think about how a country showcases its culinary delights; of what makes it so attractive to leisure travelers. On a much bigger scale, the food tourism in Kolkata can only grow when there are much bigger players involved. These are the vendors, media, local producers, and F&B stakeholders; who need to collaborate more with the Ministry of Tourism, the State Governments to build a broader channel.