Savory Culi­nary De­lights

Bangladeshi food in­cor­po­rates cook­ing tech­niques and a va­ri­ety food, Ben­gali cui­sine of­fers a a num­ber of re­gional in­flu­ences, of spices. With a rich blend of ex­otic su­perb culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence.

Southasia - - Cuisine Tradition - By Zu­fah An­sari Zu­fah An­sari is an un­der­grad­u­ate mar­ket­ing stu­dent with a strong writ­ing in­ter­est in cul­ture and so­ci­ety.

More of­ten than not, tra­di­tional culi­nary se­crets of a coun­try dis­tin­guish it from oth­ers around it. Ex­clu­sive re­gional dishes en­tice true con­nois­seurs of good food, from around the world, to val­i­date the supremacy of taste and blend of in­gre­di­ents that make a par­tic­u­lar cui­sine stand out. Over the years, Bangladeshi cui­sine or what is com­monly known as Ben­gali cui­sine has piqued the in­ter­est of food lovers. What makes this cui­sine so in­ter­est­ing is its true re­flec­tion of the ge­o­graph­i­cal and the cul­tural meta­mor­pho­sis that the coun­try has ex­pe­ri­enced. With time, not only has Bangladesh’s na­tional iden­tity evolved but so have its peo­ple. The tra­di­tions and in­flu­ences em­bed­ded in the cul­ture of Bangladesh have had a strong and dom­i­nant in­flu­ence on the way the cuisines of the coun­try have emerged.

Given Bangladesh’s ge­og­ra­phy, the pres­ence of rivers, hu­mid­ity and heat has led to heavy con­sump­tion of sta­ple items like rice, meat, fish, co­conut, yo­gurt and spices. The cul­tural in­flu­ence how­ever, is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of two ma­jor fac­tors: re­li­gious fac­tions with a pre­dis­po­si­tion to vegetarianism and the his­tory of the re­gion and the rulers it has had.

A typ­i­cal Ben­gali Mus­lim house­hold is likely to pre­pare a day’s menu with three to five dishes in a par­tic­u­lar se­quence so that the blend of fla­vors is har­mo­nious.

Dishes are served on a Madur (mat) or Patti (mat­tress) while in a Ben­gali Hindu home the food is served in

Kasha (bowls). A strong Mon­go­lian in­flu­ence of the 16th cen­tury has left be­hind Mogh­lia dishes such as ke­babs, kof

tas and biryani. In the same cen­tury, the Por­tuguese also in­tro­duced veg­eta­bles into Ben­gali cui­sine and Euro­pean traders im­ported vari­a­tions of chill­ies and to­ma­toes. De­spite all the in­flu­ences, the rea­son why the coun­try has such a di­verse yet strong iden­tity of culi­nary of­fer­ings is the Bangladeshi cul­ture of ap­payan (hos­pi­tal­ity) that ex­plains the ob­ses­sion with cook­ing and adapt­ing to new fla­vors.

When com­par­ing Bangladesh to its neigh­bors, a clear dis­tinc­tion ex­ists be­tween the way recipes are pre­pared in West Ben­gal (Kolkata) and the East ( Bangladesh), which em­bod­ies the prepa­ra­tion meth­ods prac­ticed in Chit­tagong and Dhaka. Both re­gions dif­fer in their way of us­ing the es­sen­tial spices. Fish and prawns are both pop­u­lar but are in­te­grated de­pend­ing on pref­er­ences and avail­abil­ity. The East prefers the use of fresh water fish and the se­quence of a meal con­sump­tion starts from the bit­ter to the sweet while the West prac­tices the com- plete re­verse.

Meals are gen­er­ally con­sumed di­rectly with fin­gers, which serves as an im­por­tant part of rel­ish­ing any meal, al­low­ing the tex­ture and each in­gre­di­ent to be­come part of the savory ex­pe­ri­ence.

What makes Ben­gali cui­sine taste­ful is the com­ple­men­tary use of panch­phoron: the five prime spices, namely mus­tard, fenu­greek, cumin seed, aniseed and black cumin seed. The use of spices has been nur­tured since the pre-Vedic times and re­flects hints of Turk­ish, Per­sian, Ara­bian and Mughal cuisines. It is the amal­ga­ma­tion of the sweet and spicy fla­vors that makes Ben­gali dishes so di­vine.

Within Bangladesh, cuisines dif­fer from one re­gion to an­other, giv­ing the coun­try’s plat­ter a var­ied menu. North­ern Ben­gal en­joys the in­flu­ence of As­sam, Tripura and the tribal groups of Surma. South East Ben­gal is a re­flec­tion of the Arakani recipes from Burma. Mid­west Bangladesh com­prises au­then­tic Ben­gali cui­sine with unadul­ter­ated ori­gins and the Dhakiya Cui­sine has an Awadhi essence.

Typ­i­cal Ben­gali cuisines con­sist of Bhorta, sea­soned items pre­pared in a mashed form, Bhapa or steamed fish or rice and Jhal, made with fish, shrimp or crab, slightly fried and then cooked in a light sauce of ground red chili. The dessert menu is a bliss­ful one as well. Sweet dishes that adorn din­ner ta­bles in­clude

Roshogol­las, Shon­desh or finely ground fresh cot­tage cheese, Pan­tua or cot­tage cheese balls fried in oil and chom­choms. The na­tional dish of Bangladesh

is Panta Hilsa, which is a plat­ter of Panta Bhat, a light rice dish with slices of Hilsa fish, com­ple­mented with Shukti (un­cooked dry fish), pick­les, lentils, green chilies and onions. This plat­ter is the star meal of the Pholea Boishakh fes­ti­val while Pil­lao (fra­granced rice) and Ko­rma/

Rezala with Ke­bab and chicken roast also be­come part of ma­jor cel­e­bra­tions like wed­dings.

De­spite the re­li­gious norms, with re­gard to meat con­sump­tion, there ex­ists a no­tice­able in­cli­na­tion to­wards meat-based dishes. Meat con­sump­tion in the Asian re­gion is around 26%. This is not a di­rect re­sul­tant of en­vi­ron­ment, re­li­gion, his­tory, or main food sta­ples but is the im­pli­ca­tion of the grow­ing glob­al­iza­tion of the food in­dus­try and the eco­nomic growth of the coun­tries in the re­gion.

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