Jhalmuri Express a hit at Oval

Angus ‘brings Calcutta flavour to London’

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 12.06.19, 1:24 AM
  • Updated 12.06.19, 1:24 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
As Angus briskly dished out his wares, an assertive Indian, who decided to provide a not entirely necessary running commentary, watched in wonder, as did the crowd gathered around the vendor’s colourful stall Representational picture by Shutterstock

Virat Kohli’s team might have been putting Aaron Finch’s Aussies to the sword at the Oval on Sunday but for Indian spectators (who made up 80-90 per cent of the crowd), there was an added attraction — Angus Denoon’s Jhalmuri Express had rolled into the packed ground.

“Four here,” came one order.

As Angus briskly dished out his wares, an assertive Indian, who decided to provide a not entirely necessary running commentary, watched in wonder, as did the crowd gathered round the vendor’s colourful stall.

Indian: “Where did you learn that — in India?”

Angus (with a smile): “From Kolkata…. I learnt it from the masters.”

He did not say “Calcutta” but “Kolkata”.

It was noticeable the Brit was being environmentally friendly. He ripped up a page from a magazine, deftly rolled it into a paper thonga, just the way it is done back in India, tossed in the jhalmuri, sprinkled some chopped red onions and added a dash of sauce.

Next please.

Indian: “Absolutely, you are doing a great job… you are doing an absolutely great job…”

Indian: “Guys see what’s happening….”

Indian: “I am going to make you famous in India….”

Woman in the crowd: “He is already famous…”

Indian: “Look at the ingredients…man’s got everything here…all the chutneys…that’s imli chutney?”

Angus, who is a bit busy trying to keep up with the orders, confirms: “That’s imli chutney.”

Angus’s performance at the Oval has now gone viral on social media, with even Amitabh Bachchan liking it.

Angus Denoon Duncan — he has dropped the Duncan — is a former chef who has become something of a celebrity in London where he wheels his colourfully decorated cart to festivals and dispenses his spicy offerings.

At £3.50 a portion, the jhalmuri is competitively priced. One food writer was impressed: “Calcutta flavour is brought to London in the form of Bengali street food.

Jhalmuri is crunchy, spicy, sweet and sour, thanks to fresh lime juice, cucumber, ginger, onions, tamarind sauce, hard chickpea noodles, puffed rice and fried lentils.”

He provided Angus’s back story: some 15 years ago, “former chef Angus Duncan made a random stopover in Calcutta and his love affair with Bengali culture began. Readers of The Telegraph, where he was featured in 2013, shouldn’t be too surprised Angus was such a hit at the Oval.

He told the paper: “It was in 2004, I think. I came on via a stopover from Australia on my way back to the UK. I stopped at Calcutta so I could go to the mountains. I went to BBD Bag to buy my ticket and saw the sprawling street food stands there. I was cautious and ate chapatti and sabji and thought what a friendly and relaxed city it was — very different from what I had imagined.”

He returned the following year for a proper experience of Calcutta’s street food.

“One stall that had a place to sit was a jhalmuri stall in front of the old Dunlop Building on the corner of Mirza Ghalib Street and Royd Street near Park Street. The guy was very beautiful to watch as he swirled around his set-up mixing and chopping and roasting... like a dance, and at the end, he produced a bag of mystery to me that tasted wonderful. It was light and fresh but substantial in its effect. I was sold.”

He has tried out street food in other places in India.

“I have spent a few days in Mumbai and I did like the papad chaats they had on Juhu beach. Also outside the palace in Mysore, I had some cucumber chaat, I have never seen elsewhere. The chaat carts of Goa were wonderful with their versions of sev puri and paani puri. But for variety, quality and price, Calcutta is in a league of its own.”

Angus is now in demand at upmarket Indian parties in London.