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Authentic Bengali food

Bengali cuisine originating in the Bengal region in the eastern part of the Indian Subcontinent which is divided between Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam's Barak Valley, and Tripura. Bengali cuisine is known for its varied use of flavors and desserts. There is an emphasis on fish, vegetables, and dal served with the staple food rice.

The food culture of Bengal has evolved, but the traditions are still intact and preserved for generations. Different types and varieties of dishes are prepared and are usually a five-course meal ranging from bitter to spicy, vegetarian to non-vegetarian, savory to sweet, rich flavors to subtle flavors.

Although the food habits, tastes, choices, and preferences of items may vary with different states and districts the course remains the same with rice and fish i.e,  being the dominant role.

Bengali food is served course-wise usually in a specific format. Before one starts their meal there is always a wedge of lime, salt, and one green chili placed on one corner of the plate as a mandatory ritual.

The first course of the meal starts with Bhaja, shukto, shaak, and fresh ghee with rice.

a) Shukto is a bitter stew of vegetables like uuchte/bitter gourd, boiled potatoes, neem leaves, drum sticks, and beans cooked in mustard oil and spiced with paanch phoron /5seeds, ginger paste, and chilies. Sometimes some milk is added to the bitter dish to make it more palatable. The ingredients may differ because of seasonal vegetables

b) Shaak or leafy vegetables is generally consumed in fried form or steamed or lightly cooked. some 'shak' are along shaak/spinal, Methi Shaak/ fenugreek leaves, Mula Shaak / radish leaves, etc

c)Then Bhaja or Fries are served. Bhajas/Fries like Aloo bhaja/ potato fry, Begun bhaja/eggplant fry, such bhaja/bitter gourd fry and sometimes Maach bhaja/fish fry accompanying with white Rice and a fresh ghee.          

2. The next course includes daal/lentils and Posto diye sabji/vegetables made with poppy seeds.

a)Dal/lentils are made with various seasonal vegetables, fruits, and fish (fish head, bones, or pieces) in it. Some of the most loved dals are - Aam dal/ mango dal, Phool Kobi diye moong dal/ Moong dal with cauliflower, Maacher Matha diye Moong dal/ Fried Moong dal with fish head, Cholar dal Narikaler doodh diye /cholar daal with coconut milk, Murighonto/ Fish head made with rice/puffed rice or moong dal, etc

b) Posto diye sabji/vegetables made with poppy seeds. Dishes like Aloo posto/ potato made with poppy seeds, begun posto/eggplant with poppy seeds, Jhinga posto, etc cooked with chilies, turmeric, spices, and poppy seeds.

3. The next course i.e the main course either includes Fish(maacher jhol,maacher jhaal, kalia, shorser maash), meat( kosha mangsho,kochi pathar jhol), chicken curry( mangshor jhol or gravy), or egg kalia or curry or korma served with luchi or Basmati pulao.

a)Jhol is a stew-like preparation with chilies, turmeric, with fewer spices. 

b) Jhal is more spicy and hot, like a masala curry.

c) Kalia is a gravy preparation made with lots of onions and spices.

d) korma is made in the sweetish form, which is aromatic, flavourful, and deeply flavored with heavy cream or curd.

Some of the most loved fish delicacies are - Shorser Maash/fish marinated with mustard,iilish maacher paturi, tel koi, pabda maacher jhaal, Rui maacher kalia/Rohu fish kalia etc. Some other types of fish preparations are Doi maach/ fish cooked with yogurt, Bhapa Maach/steamed fish, Maacher paturi/marinated fish with different spices, wrapped with banana leaves and then steamed. Now comes the Prawns which are eaten in different ways too, such as Bagda Chingri/tiger prawns, shorse chingri/mustard prawn, narkeler chingri/prawns made with coconut, chingri maasher malaikari/prawn curry where coconut or curd is used to make the curry.


Chingri Maacher curry                                  

Picture by - Kankana (@thebonggantha on Instagram)

Meat or chicken substitutes fish occasionally or are also served after fish dishes. Some of the meat dishes are kosha mangsho/ mutton cooked on a slow fire, kochi pathar jhol/ tender goat stew cooked in a pressure cooker, mangshor jhol/chicken curry or mangshor korma/chicken korma served with light and fluffy luchis, rice, fried rice or pulao.


Kosha Mangsho (Mutton curry)

Picture by - Kankana (@thebonggantha on Instagram)

Rice can be substituted by pulao, fried rice, or luchis. Luchis doughs are made by mixing maida/flour with water and added a spoonful of ghee/white oil and a pinch of salt and sugar. Then small balls are made out of dough, flattened in a circular shape with the help of a rolling pin, and fried in oil or ghee.

4. After the main dish comes the sweet and sour chutney. Chutney is a slightly thick and saucy item made with fruits, vegetables and also has dry fruits in it. Such as tomato, mango,jalpai/ olives, pineapples, tamarind, and a mix of various dry fruits like Kaju/cashew, khejur/dates, kishmish/raisins, etc. The chutney which is also splashed in phoron/mustard seeds or panch Puran/ 5seeds cooked in oil. Chutney like mango chutney, tomato chutney, etc. Chutney is generally complemented with papad or potato fried/roasted.

5. Last but not least comes the sweet dishes. Bengalis are famous for their vast varieties of sweets, starting from misti doi/sweet curd, payeesh/rice in thickened milk, rosogollas, and many more.


Rasgullah 

Picture by - Kankana (@thebonggantha on Instagram)

After this meal is over, Bengalis love to finish their palate with a light paan/betel quid. It can be true that most Bengalis love to fish but that's not all, there are lots of vegetarian dishes that can give a tough competition with non-vegetarian foods. It is common to have at least two vegetarian dishes in an average Bengali meal like a bhaja(fried vegetable) and a torkari (curried vegetable).

* You will notice that a lot of Bengali recipes use paanchphoron, which is a mixture of five seeds. It consists of equal quantities of methi(fenugreek seeds), kalonji(nigella seeds), jeera(cumin), rai(black mustard seeds), and saunf ( fennel seeds).

Some of the vegetarian dishes are-

1. Labra - Labra is a vegetarian torkari made with a variety of mixed vegetables such as radish, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant, mocha (banana flower), and pumpkin and some other seasonal vegetables available. Its a mixed vegetable cooked without onion and garlic. 


2. Thorer Ghonto - Thor is the crunchy white core of the Banana stem which is chopped finely into small pieces. For making it a ghonto the small pieces are lightly fried and sometimes sprinkle of grated coconut or mustard seeds are also added for making it sweet and hot dish.


3. Echorer Dalna - Echorer Dalna is the jackfruit curry that is the most loved curry you will ever eat. It is the best alternative dish for chicken or meat curry. 


4. Lau Ghonto - Lau Ghonto is a light dish made from bottle gourd and fried lentil. It's best during summers as it keeps the stomach cool.


5. Ghugni - Ghugni is made from white dried peas with some simple masalas. It is served with raw chilies, coriander, and chaat masala. It can be accompanied by bread, luchi, chapati, rice, or just can be eaten as chaat.



Ghuguni (Chickpea)

So,

MOJA KORE KHAO ( Enjoy Your Food ).


Credits - Kankana (@bonggantha)


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