Bengalis live to eat. The otherwise docile and peace loving people can be at loggerheads when it comes to food. The Bengali cuisine is dominated by sweets and meat. Though Bengalis are known for their obsession about fish, the community equally loves every other form of meat. Unlike other parts of India, Bengalis love to have their meals with lots and lots of side dishes. Yes, we love every form of cuisine, but when it comes to traditional Bengali food, nothing else can score more. Let us have a look at what Bengalis love the most.
Lets start with dessert!!! Simply because Bong mishti is the the crown of Bengali cuisine and each one of us has a favourite.
Bengalis have a sweet tooth like no other community. Sandesh is a confectionery made from chhena (paneer). Though it is available throughout the year in every sweet shop of the state, yet winter is the time for which people wait eagerly. The reason? Nolen gur. Nolen gurer sandesh can light up the dullest moments with the softness and the aroma, not to forget the heavenly taste. This class of sandesh is available only during winters and can be as cheap as Rs.5 a piece.
The very famous rasgulla originated in Orissa. This is the cutest dessert, little white balls made of cottage cheese and dominated every Bengali household. Rasgulla originated in the 19th century and has been a cult dessert ever since then. It is best eaten when served hot. Many sweet shops actually have long queues outside them with huge demand for freshly prepared hot rasgullas. In the suburbs of Bengal, rasgullas come as cheap as just a rupee per rasgulla.
This is the evergreen dessert on any Bengali birthday. In fact it is a custom down in Bengal to taste payesh or rice pudding on birthdays. The strange part of this custom is that the mother of the birthday boy or girl should not taste the dish. Poor mothers, we say! This is a very time consuming process but the outcome is heavenly yum!
And finally comes the king of all, mishti doi. This sweet yoghurt is a Calcutta special. This little knight comes shining in a bhaar (earthen pot) and holds the capacity to please the Bengali more than an ice cream! This thick sweetened yoghurt is so smooth that it almost melts in your mouth and is a must have for every Bengali with a sweet tooth. No wonder why celebrities from across the globe never give mishti doi a miss whenever they are in Calcutta!
If you want to embark on a foodie adventure – next time you are at your local bengali sweet shop ask to sample – jol bhora, kaccha golla, shor bhaja, langcha, and lobongo latika. Your tatse buds will be delighted!
Authentic Vegetarian Dishes
This daily dish in Bengali households is a sweetheart. Potato dominates the side dish section of a Bengali meal, but poppy seeds and potato blend together to make a deadly dish. The seeds are ground with water and then cooked with potatoes. Aloo posto is as easy to make as it sounds. Visit any authentic Bengali restaurant and order a Bengali thali- aloo posto is a sure-shot item on the list.
One will not find the mention of shukto in most of the Bengali cuisine related articles on the web. But the total foodie community cannot do without it at all. Shukto is a bitter sweet preparation of innumerable vegetables with emphasis on the bitterness. It is eaten with alu bhaja (fried potato) and rice. It has its own unique art of preparation and a strategically planned recipe goes into the making. A lot of spices, ghee, mustard paste and vegetables (except cabbage and tomato) and hours of cooking under careful observation – these are that make shukto a cult dish!
This is a unique Bengali preparation. Mocha is the banana flower which has its own distinguished taste. The deseeding and cutting of the flower is an art in itself. The hint of sweetness of the mocha is blended with coconut or coconut paste and cooked for a long time. This slowly evolves into what we call mochar ghonto and just before putting off the flame, few spoons of ghee and garam masala are added to it and seved with hot plain rice.
Dhoka is a kind of pakora made from lentils. The taste is on the sweeter side but one can make the dalna or the curry in any way he wants. The specialty of the dish is that it is made without onion and garlic, but when you taste it, the presence of these two essential vegetables will not be missed at all! This dish is generally consumed by Bengali women on days of pujas and fast, as it is completely pure and awesomely delicious at the same time.
Meat and Fish Delicacies
Golda Chingri or Malai Curry
Golda Chingri or lobster is a hit with the Bengalis and when it is cooked in malai (coconut milk), it instantly soothes the taste buds. The malai lends the rich and velvety texture to the dish it is famous for, though some prefer a coconut paste over the milk. This is a classic Bengali dish. The fun part? There is no fixed recipe of this particular dish. Best served with rice or pulao.
Wondering what is special about this? It is chicken or mutton gravy without adding water. Sounds simple? You got to take a spoonful of it and let the spices engulf you slowly. This one again, does not have a recipe, but in whatever way it is made, it always taste heaven. One can have kosha mangsho with almost everything, rice, chapatti, parathas, puri, jeera rice, pulao, fried rice, biriyani and what not? The only requirement is tha the dish has to be really hot and spicy.
Fish cooked in yoghurt or doi machh as Bengalis call it is so dear to them that they can finish a plate of rice with just this one dish. It can be cooked with most fishes. The sweet and tangy flavor of the yoghurt enters deep into the fish and makes it really soft. This is so yum and tasty that you are likely to find it in most Bengali weddings. It is best eaten with rice or pulao.
Lucknow and Hyderabad have their own versions of shahi biriyani. But Calcutta’s biriyani scores far more on the taste ground. This biriyani is famous for its piece of aloo or potato and is far lighter and less spicy than the other two. The tradition of aloo in biriyani was started by the last Nawab of Lucknow when he came to Calcutta and used aloo instead of meat. The tradition stayed back, thank god for hat and we are blessed with the best biriyani in the country!
Ilish or Hilsa fish is as dear to Bengalis as dhokla is to Gujratis, beef is to Muslims, butter chicken is to Punjabis… You get the drift right? Ilish is often referred to as the king of fishes and is available in monsoon. Bengalis do not mind the sky high prices and are ready to spend half of their monthly income on ilish. They consider it an investment. Ilish paturi is fish smoked with spices and wrapped in a banana leaf and tied carefully. The fish is marinated with mustard paste and wrapped in the leaf and then again cooked. Such is the class of the dish that one is most likely to find this as a part of the menu in the upper middle class and high profile functions. Mishti Doi
Spotted enoying Bengali food
By: Titli Basu
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