The Chankharpul area of old Dhaka is dusty with the chaotic hustle and bustle of the evening as always. The street adjacent to Amar Ekushey Hall of Dhaka University is busy with people finishing the day's work and returning home.
Some of them stop on the way for snacks before continuing to tackle the crowded street. The not-so-organised street food hubs are all prepared to serve them.
Among the numerous and common street-food snacks, one item in particular catches one's eye easily. A banner above a restaurant named Bongovoj just opposite the Amar Ekushey Hall gate announces the availability of a famous delicacy from the northern part of the country, Kalai Roti.
If you are a Dhakaite and have been deprived of the salty and spicy taste of Kalai Roti with various mashed and gravy items, get ready to visit this restaurant which offers this traditional bread item as its only dish so far.
Kalai Roti is a special kind of bread made of black gram (mashkalai) and other flours. This popular bread is a traditional food item in the Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi regions of Bangladesh. It is eaten with different mashed items like green chilli, red chilli, eggplant, tomato, coriander, and different spicy meat items such as beef, duck etc.
It is a regional delicacy originating in Chapainawabganj, but it is found on the streets of Rajshahi as well. But in Dhaka, this is not a commonly available item.
Maybe that is the reason for the happy crowds climbing the staircase of the restaurant and occupying a seat as soon as possible.
M Sadar Ali Ripan, one of the owners of the restaurant, started this business in November last year.
"Many people coming from different places, but mostly from northern areas, crave Kalai roti in Dhaka. But it was not easy to get it here. So, we came up with this delicious item," said Ripan.
Residents of Dhaka are the main customers here, he added.
The two-storey Bongovoj restaurant has a gas-fired clay stove beside the entrance where the chef prepares smoky bread. The shelves are filled with different types of mashed and gravy items to be eaten with the bread.
On a visit to the restaurant, this correspondent found some customers asking the chef for the recipe of the bread so that they can try to prepare it at home.
All the staff, most of whom are from Chapainawabganj, were busy serving the customers, preparing dough, making the mashed items and so on. They work from 1 pm to 1 am every day.
The restaurant makes 300-500 pieces of flatbread every day to meet the demand.
The owners bring the ingredients from Chapainawabganj to give their bread the authentic taste of the original Kalai Roti.
One flatbread will cost you Tk20 only. The price of the gravy and mashed items vary from Tk10 to Tk80. A plate of duck curry costs Tk120. Mashed eggplant, tomato, coriander, red chilli etc. are also available here.
"One of the best ways of eating this bread is with spicy masalas. But we have to compromise on the spice a bit here in Dhaka considering people's taste. We are always committed to providing the best taste," said Ripan.
The Bongovoj restaurant plans to bring some more popular traditional items such as Adi Chamcham (a sweet item) of Shibganj, Kanchagolla of Natore, Pera, and Raskadam etc.