Come to Kolkata and tell people that you don’t like sweets; there is a very high chance that people, especially Bengalis, will question your sanity! “E babah! mishti khaona? (Oh my God! You don’t like sweets?!)”
In a city that lives on nostalgia, a dessert is more of an emotion than delicacy.
The food culture of Kolkata has been influenced by several immigrant communities over time and like every food, this one also has a story to tell.
In a time when eateries’ definition of ‘good food’ has shifted from taste to looks, LifeBeyondNumbers team visited Kolkata‘s 116-year-old Jewish bakery Nahoum and Sons Pvt. Ltd, which is a complete old world charm for foodies and it is the simplicity that sets its class apart from the rest.
If you are new to this city and looking for this confectionery, just mention the name- people will guide you automatically to this bakery. Located at New Market, the décor of the bakery hasn’t changed an inch- be it the teak wood furniture, classic-style glass displays or the flooring.
The inception of this family-based confectionary business can be traced back to 1902. It is the brainchild of Nahoum Israel Mordecai, a Baghdadi Jew who used to sell baked treats door-to-door from a small outlet in this city. While most of the bakeries focus on improvising the classic recipes, Nahoum’s age-old family recipes are well guarded and stood the test of time for over a century.
The exquisite taste of iconic fruitcakes, rich macaroons, brownies, rum ball cake, cashew nut rings, and lemon tarts are enough to explain the rising Nahoum’s fans in the city.
The store was set up in 1916 where it stands today in the city. It was Mordecai’s grandson, David Nahoum’s decision to keep a limited range of items, in a time when diversity in food was highly valued. Sadly, David passed away in 2013 due to health issues, and now his younger brother Issac Nahoum is looking after the family business.
Jews arrived in Kolkata in the late 18th century and the city was home to about 4,000 people of the community, but sadly, today the count has narrowed down to 18 families.
“We used to supply cakes to the government houses. When the Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher came to Kolkata, he was served Nahoum’s fruit cake and he said it was the best cake he has ever tasted,” recalls Issac.
At first, their famous sweet treats were popular with the British and Anglo Indians, but in a short time, it became famous with the locals too. Even today, their clienteles are on the rise because this bakery always sells high-quality products at a low cost.
To suit the changing tastes of the locals, this bakery has introduced garlic bread, samosas, vegetable patties, chicken patties, and pizzas. Now they have 130 products from which you can pick your favorite and 14 employees, who take care of the business with love.
The European-styled cakes served in this bakery is sure to impact your senses and will definitely leave you hungry for more. On asking whether Nahoum and Sons will shut down anytime soon, Issac says with a humble smile, “I am King Lion now, I have young lions and they have cubs. We are not shutting down in a long long time.”
Nahoum’s always believed in the policy of excellence. Till date, they use the best ingredients and their secret age-old family recipes to create the perfect blend flavor and texture of the sweets. The bakery is planning to expand the business on an international scale and very soon there will be a website too.
On asking Issac about his age, the witty old man says, “I am 45 years old plus taxes.”
Just days before the Christmas, one can see the real crowd, when people line up and impatiently wait in front of the store to grab the Yuletide treats.
Now if someone tells you “people eat with their eyes”- shut them up, and tell them, it’s all about the taste!