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Why Bengalis are split over their food

Doi maach is a popular Bengali dish

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Rajyasree Sen

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East and West Bengal have lengthy been arguing over who boasts a greater delicacies

Bengalis, other folks from the Indian state of West Bengal and Bangladesh, continuously battle over which of the 2 areas boasts the easier delicacies. Columnist Rajyasree Sen strains this culinary conflict thru her personal circle of relatives’s historical past.

I grew up in a house with grandparents from all sides of the border – my paternal grandmother used to be from erstwhile East Bengal, which is now Bangladesh, and her husband, my grandfather, used to be from West Bengal.

Bengal, a limiteless and fertile province, used to be partitioned in 1947 when India turned into unbiased from the British. The in large part Hindu western phase remained with India whilst the predominantly Muslim jap part joined Pakistan. Then in 1971, East Bengal cut up from Pakistan to turn into an unbiased nation, Bangladesh.

However anywhere they will reside, a Bengali who does not have an opinion – and an opinion about both politics or meals – is a rarity. Such a lot in order that many years later, Bengalis nonetheless argue over who chefs higher – Baangals, the folks from Bangladesh, or Ghotis, the folks from West Bengal. It could sound infantile however a border does run thru our kitchens and it kind of feels that by no means the twain shall meet.

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For so long as I will bear in mind, my grandmother regaled me with tales of ways, as a tender bride, she used to be horrified by way of how meals used to be cooked in my grandfather’s house – meals which used to be, let me let you know, fairly scrumptious.

However consistent with her, my grandfather’s circle of relatives poured bowls of sugar into their dals (lentil) and curries, deep-fried each roughly fish and refused to shop for any fish that wasn’t the dimensions of a shark. None of this used to be supposed as a praise.

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Rajyasree Sen

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Bengalis within the west incessantly upload sugar to their dal

However I benefit from the meals of the Ghotis. They use posto or poppy seeds liberally – the seeds are floor to a fantastic paste and cooked in mustard oil with turmeric and nigella seeds, turning greens like potato and the ridged gourd (which I detested as a kid, however love nowadays) into easy cuisine.

After which there is their love for gur, a liquid date palm jaggery this is offered in earthen pots in wintry weather. I have visited umpteen West Bengal properties – and my very own mom does it as neatly – the place other folks finish a meal with a deep-fried puffed bread made from flour known as luchi, which is drizzled with gur and rolled up.

Lunches at house have been particularly scrumptious as a result of each my grandmother and mom presented dishes distinctive to their Baangal or “jap” roots. There have been dishes made with fried chhoto maach (whitebait), lentil and uncooked mango, shoshar shukto (cucumber and nigella seeds), the odorous shutki (fermented fish) and ripe kanthal (jackfruit), which Baangals will kill for.

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Rajyasree Sen

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Seafood dishes reminiscent of this crab curry dominate Bengali delicacies

The meals from East Bengal additionally carries a robust Muslim affect. However Bengal’s Muslims prepare dinner extra subtly than their opposite numbers in northern Indian states. They use yoghurt and lemon juice, for example, instead of cream, which is richer but additionally heavier.

One in every of their maximum exquisitely flavoured dishes is the rezala – mutton cooked in a gravy of lemon, yoghurt, milk, inexperienced chilli and a bunch of spices. Even supposing I’m thankful to Muslim cooks within the west for the three-cornered Bengali parotta (a flaky bread), the dhakai parotta from the east is the stuff of goals and blocked arteries.

No West Bengali would have imagined the 50-60 layers of flaky bread that make up the intricate parotta which will get its title from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

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A large number of the straightforward however tasty vegetarian meals I really like – and that many Bengalis relish – emerged from the lot of the Bengali widow, who used to be no longer allowed to devour meat and used to be additionally forbidden from cooking with salt.

Ahead of Bengal’s renaissance and the emergence of the emancipated Bengali girl, all temptation or pleasure used to be taken clear of the group’s widows, lots of whom have been youngsters as a result of they have been married off after they have been very younger. However deprivation is the mum of invention on this case and widows invented scrumptious vegetarian dishes with few components.

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Rajyasree Sen

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Hilsa is a fish liked to Bengalis

There’s one radical oddity that unites the chefs within the east and west – the niramish maangsho or “vegetarian” mutton curry, a staple of Bengali kitchens on all sides of the border. It is title is derived from the truth that the recipe is devoid of onion and garlic, either one of which might be thought to be non-vegetarian components in Bengali properties.

Such a lot in order that this dish is served as an providing of the gods all the way through a very powerful Hindu competition of the yr.

For individuals who’d love to pattern original Bengali meals with all its idiosyncrasies, I would strongly counsel discovering a Bengali house to devour at. Maximum households can rely other folks from the east and west amongst their fold – the proof of that presentations up at the desk.

Remember to take a wholesome urge for food alongside!

A circle of relatives recipe

Amongst my maximum valuable circle of relatives recipes is the Goalando Steamer Rooster Curry. The tale is going that this curry will get its title from a steamer that ferried other folks around the river that runs thru Bangladesh and India. It used to be believed to were cooked by way of Muslims hired as cooks on those “Goalondo-Narayanganj” steamers within the days earlier than India used to be partitioned.

My grandmother’s brother stated he tasted this highly spiced and runny curry when he travelled at the steamer. He remembered that the chefs served passengers limitless rice and dal however simplest two items of hen.

That is my model, according to a variety of recipes that I’ve attempted through the years.

Goalando Steamer Rooster Curry


  • One entire hen reduce in items
  • 6 onions – sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced ginger
  • eight dry crimson chilies floor right into a paste
  • eight sliced inexperienced chilies
  • ½ cup mustard oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Manner: Marinate the hen in the entire components and stay within the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 mins. Warmth a pan and upload the marinated hen. Prepare dinner the hen on a prime warmth for 2 mins, till the hen begins to switch color.

Flip the flame to medium, duvet and prepare dinner. Take a look at and stir each short time. In about 20-30 mins it must be performed. A gorgeous reddish gravy from the juice of the onions must have shaped by way of now. Don’t upload any water.

I upload sugar to caramelise the onions as neatly, however you’ll skip the sugar within the marinade should you like.

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