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Kebab-makers reinvent menu

Calcutta’s favourite Cello Kebab has undergone a character change.

To ensure that the slump in demand for chicken dishes does not get in the way of its hit item, Chicken Cello Kebab, Peter Cat has come up with the most obvious variant — Mutton Cello Kebab.

“We don’t want our customers to miss out on Cello Kebab but we also want them to enjoy the freedom of avoiding chicken,” said the owner of the Park Street restaurant, Nitin Kothari.

Peter Cat is still making Chicken Cello Kebab but more and more eateries are re-inventing their menu — with items like egg poach making way for double-fried egg — in view of the bird flu scare. Several food stops are not serving chicken at all.

The High Security Animal Testing Laboratory in Bhopal gave Calcutta and its suburbs a clean chit for bird flu but those eating out are clearly not convinced.

KFC was unwilling to divulge sales figures, but the empty seats at its flagship outlet off Park Street on Wednesday — a public holiday — told its own story. Chicken being the staple on the menu card, patrons have little else to choose from.

“We cook our chicken at temperatures above 170 degrees Celsius, which is well over the minimum temperatures required for safety (70 degrees Celsius),” said a KFC spokesperson.

Mohammad Halim, an assistant manager at Shiraj, predicted: “There will soon be a crunch in the supply of mutton in the city.” The Mullickbazar restaurant did not sell a single plate of chicken biryani in the past two days.

“People are switching to sea food and fish,” said Debashis Ghosh of Mainland China, where the demand for chicken dishes has dropped by 40 per cent.

The owner of Nabab, a roll shop in Gariahat, had a similar tale to tell. He stopped making chicken rolls on Wednesday, after toying with the idea since the beginning of the week.

The slump in demand for chicken has been reflected in its price, while the price of mutton has shot through the roof. From Rs 80 per kg, chicken has dropped to Rs 25 per kg. The price of mutton has gone up from Rs 200 to Rs 250.

The 24 sellers of poultry meat in Gariahat market did not bother to open their shops on Wednesday. “What’s the use? We used to sell about 175 kg daily, now we are struggling to sell five kg,” said Debashis Bagh, while relaxing outside his shop.

Mona Nasker, in the price-sensitive Panchanantala, has, however, hit a purple patch. “With the chicken price coming down, I am selling three times the usual amount and no one is falling ill either,” he said.

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