The fit pumpkin writes…
I’m 37, A homemaker ,wife of a computer engineer and a mother of two girls 12 and 4. I haven’t travelled much ,but would love to given an opportunity . My exposure to different cultures of food is only through my friends ,their kitchens , YouTube and travel channels.
In my article , I will write about my love for food and the different kinds of food that I have tasted from the original kitchens of my multicultural friends . No pretence , just real food experiences from real home kitchens.
My Bangla love...
IL start of with a very sweet Bangla friend of mine. We got introduced to each other through a common friend. You know here in the appartment culture we generally make friends through our children . Children of the same age become friends and their mom's become friends too. It's nice you know. In a place where u don't know the local language nor have any relatives , these friends are your life line.
Now to the food. Frankly speaking when i met this bong friend , I had absolutely no idea about Bengali Food except I knew that they eat a lot of fish 😄. I was introduced to mustard oil and this pungent smelling dark yellow oil was a rude shock to my senses. Phewww how do these people bear with this smell was my first reaction. Imagine frying fish in this pungent smell bomb. That was how naive I was . These thoughts were all about to change in a few months I never knew then.
My friend and i met regularly in the common play area with our kids and discuss about our major problems in life ,potty training, flu shots , sleep patterns etc etc etc .. one fine day the both of us realised that we had one thing in common , yeah yeah other than the diapers and preschool admissions , our LOVE FOR FOOD . She had been in Chennai for a couple of years , which made her understand a lot about tamil food. She loves pongal and vada. It sounded so unusual ..." BONG LOVES VEN PONGAL " . 🤣 ..
Days pass by and with my opinions about mustard oil still unshaken , this bong friend offers me a dabba of her mixed vegetable curry to taste . My first impression about the dish was , it looks beautiful ,but will it taste as good as it lookS. I was In for a sweet surprise. The vegetable curry was so mellow , aromatic and beautiful tasting, with a ton of flavour . I was curious to know how this dish tasted so good inspite of her using the signature harsh smelling mustard oil
Mustard oil Gyan -
Then my friend explained . Mustard oil made from the mustard seeds is very pungent in its raw state. When the oil is heated up to the smoking point , the oil Sobers down and turns a much lighter colour. The flavour imparted by this oil to the dishes is unparalleled. No wonder bangla dishes are so flavourful inspite of the minimal ingredients.
Next comes the tadka, banglas use . This is very different from our Tamil tadka which majorly comprises of mustard ,urad dhal and hing. The panch phoran( Bengali tadka) ,as the name suggests is a mixture of five spices, mustard , cumin, aniseed, Nigella seed and fenugreek ( Rai, jeera, saunf , kalonji and methi). The tadka again packs a punch to their dishes. Nigella seeds were new to me. These seeds have such a sweet and addictive aroma to them , but may only go with their kind of dishes . Should try adding them to our style muruku and experiment .
The third part to the dish is the gravy part which is onion ,ginger and green chilli paste. So simple yet delish. This base goes with a lot of their vegetarian and non veg dishes . It's like our south indian coconut base I would say . The combination of all these ingredients are mind boggling . This curry tastes excellent with Roti or luchis. Luchis are Bengali fluffy soft pooris made with maida. Very tasty.
IL name my friend Shona(gold) as this is the commonly used pet name in Bengali. BTW u know most Bengalis have two names, one given and one pet name. So it's like after years of friendship that I actually came to know my friends original name. 😁
The Dusshera feast --
Dusshera is when all our friends wait for shona to invite us home for dinner. Their Pooja feast is elaborate and mouth watering . The star dish is their dhal kichuri ,something like our sambar sadam but made with moong dhal , rice, veggies ,ghee and lots of spices . U have one bite of it and u are in food heaven. 🥰. Yet another unusual dish is the kumro bhaja . It’s a bhajji made from sliced yellow pumpkin. Again never would have imagined that pumpkin was an option for bhajji. The Pooja offerings had a special sweet dish called sondesh , a lightly sweetened cottage cheese sweet. Another dish would be the mixed fruit salad in milk. I don’t remember the other dishes as it’s been 2yrs since shona shifted . Lovely memories.
Tomato dates chutney is another different dish that is mouth watering. Sweet ,tangy and spicy at the same time.
I have tasted quite a lot of her dishes , will name them all but will speak about the unique ones. My top mentions
1. Channar dhal..
2. Peas kachori
3. Macher jhol
4. Prawn chop
5. Dhal kichuri
6. Parwal stuffed with mutton
7. Bengali style chicken biriyani
8. Mixed veg curry with prawns
9. Egg mughalai
10.Bengali fried rice
11 Betki pathri ( wrapped in banana leaf)
12 pabda macher jhol
13. Pork Bartha .
14. Mishto doi
Bengalis are rice eaters and their curries go well with rice. They are carnivores literally. They eat chicken ,mutton , all kinds of fresh water fish , prawns , pork ,squid, octopus, rabbit ,pigeon etc .. the last few are a humorous addition.
Fish holds a special place in a bengali's life . Ive heard her say that during marriages the bride's takes the biggest fish they can find ,in a bamboo basket as a token of love to the groom's place. My friend jokingly told me that she has had a trillion fish heads during her pregnancy . BTW fish heads are a delicacy. The ilish fish is the most sort after fish in bengal and highly priced too. But I dint have the opportunity to taste it. Rohu, catla , pabda,betki and fresh water prawns are the Bengali fishes that I have tasted . The bengali fish curry is called macher jhol . As the name suggests , it literally is fish water. The gravy is watery like our rasam , but very flavouful . The ingredients are few and can be made in a jiffy .
Betki paturi- The betki paturi needs a special mention . The simple betki fish is lovingly coated with a paste of coconut ,mustard , green chilli and wrapped in banana leaf and fried on the tawa . Wat amazing taste. Eat these with hot rice and u will fall in love.
Mutton stuffed parwal- I tease my friend , I tell her Bengalis know how to mix meat with all kinds of vegetables . Who ii n south India would have thought that parwal could be stuffed with mutton And again the process is eloborate and takes time. But again amazing is the word..
Egg mughlai- Bengali street food is famous all over India. Some examples are the gol goppa , ghughni and egg mughlai. The egg mughlai that my friend makes is delicious. It is a thin maida roti stuffed with egg , tomato, cucumber, spices and served with the white peas gravy . Very very heavy . One plate of this for breakfast and I assure you ul skip lunch .
Chicken dum biriyani - My friends chicken biriyani is the best I have tasted so far. This biriyani is nothing like our other biriyani . It's so delicious ,that one would attain biriyani nirvana after one bite .The ingredients are very unique again . Tomato ketchup, milk powder , cashew powder are few of the unique ingredients added here . She makes them in huge biriyani hundis and invites us .
Mishti doi- Now after all these savoury stuff , let me write about the heavenly steamed Mishti doi shona makes . The sweetner used for this desert is nolen gur. Nolen gur is jaggery made from dates. It's so caramelly and rich . Mishti doi literally translates to sweet curd . Milk is mixed with curd nolen gur and steamed in a mud pot. The end result is this deliciously decadent , well set ,thick sweetened curd .. it just melts in ur mouth. Heaven heaven and food heaven .
Pork bartha - s hona is from the north east and so her cooking has a lot of North eastern influence. Her pork Bartha is a good example. You will be appaulled to know the ingredients used . It's just boiled pork ,mixed with raw onions and green chillies and salt. Wierd I thought . My belief stops me from eating pork , but she says that this is one of her favourites . Not surprised. As I told u, they are carnivores .
My love for Bengali food has grown now and I make a few of her dishes at home like the mixed veg curry , chanar dhal, and the veg version of her chicken biriyani . Thanks to Shona for all the lovely food and memories. I have started to understand the language a little bit too . The Osho bosho sound is so sweet and listen to the Rabindra geeth recitations on youtube and u would agree with me. They are like lullabies. Beautiful language with a different accent. I love how the pronunciations of names change in Bengali . Akshay is okshay and ashatosh is oshotosh .. 😄
Bengali cuisine is very vast and differs from region to region inside Bengal itself . I have just covered 1 percent of it and have written about the dishes that I have tasted . Thanks again for ur patience and hope that it was informative.
My dear friends pet name is Teena and her given name is Hoimonthi Roy. Love u girl 💓.
My favourite Bengali food youtube channel is - bongeats.