Although you may not have realized it, it’s quite possible you’ve eaten Bangaldeshi food.Many of the restaurants along London’s famed Brick Lane are actually Bangladeshi in origin. The same can probably be said for other “Indian” restaurants throughout the world. After all, Indian food has much better branding. So after having traveled through India and upon arriving in Bangladesh, we thought its food might just be the same.
Bangladesh shares a common Bengali culture, language and history with its neighbors in the nearby Indian state of West Bengal. This shared culture also carries over to its food – many dishes are shared across borders and are commonly referred to as Bengali cuisine.
For Bangladeshis, not any fish will do. A river fish, be it from fresh or salt water, is the most highly valued. To Bangladeshis, sea fish just don’t offer the same flavor.
Mustard oil: Traditional Bengali cuisine makes frequent use of mustard oil which imparts an inimitable bitterness. You can definitely taste this in bhorta, uniquely Bangladeshi balls of mashed vegetables. Although mustard oil is still commonly used throughout Bangladesh, people are making the switch to more neutral vegetable oils.
A traditional Bangladeshi stove is made from mud or dug into the ground. It includes a place for fire (usually heated by wood, sometimes wrapped in cow dung so it burns slower) with an impression or opening in which to place the pan.
Eating with the right hand: As in other parts of South Asia, food is eaten with the right hand. Bangladeshis appreciated the attempt we made to eat “local style” – one restaurant manager even came up to us and thanked us for it.
In addition to ground ginger, garlic, onion, cumin, and chili pepper pastes, this dish also included fenugreek, fennel seed, black cumin, ajwain, and methi. Add to this carrots, potatoes, eggplant, cauliflower and whatever other vegetables you have hanging around and you’ve got something special.
Bhendi Bhaji (Fried Okra): Simple and so delicious. Green chilies, ground onion paste and okra fried together in oil.
Dal (lentils): Another staple of the Bangladeshi table. Sauteed spices, onions and garlic stewed to creaminess. If there exists nothing else at breakfast time, you’ll be sure to finddal and rounds of paratha bread.
Unless you’re going to a fancy hotel restaurant or a high-end eating establishment, don’t expect to receive a menu when dining at local canteens, cafeterias or restaurants. You don’t choose curry types; instead you choose chicken, fish or beef. Preparation is the choice of the man in the kitchen that day. It’s as if the restaurant is saying: “This is whatwe (collective we, like a family) are eating today.”
In this case, the selection is limited, but there’s something oddly binding in everyone sharing the same meal.
Singara: Much like samosas, singara (the round items above) are spiced potato and vegetable mixture pockets wrapped in a thin dough and fried. What distinguishes a good singara is the flaky texture, almost as if it’s made with savory pie crust. Singara are really tasty and inexpensive snack (as cheap as 24 for $1) that you can find almost anywhere in Bangladesh.
Fried roti stuffed with egg & onions: Once night hits in Khulna, many of the streetside restaurants were frying up a thin dough filled with egg, onions and spices. It was folded up like a square. More filling than it looks …… to be conitune –next page
Roti Kalai: A thick flat bread made from lentil flour. When we found this on the streets of Rajshahi, women were serving it with freshly cut onions and green chili sauce. More like a meal than a snack since the lentil flour makes it very heavy.
Chana chaat: Chickpeas mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes, and spices often topped with popped rice and fried vegetables. Incredibly addictive snack food.
Naan: Although naan (flat bread cooked in a tandoor oven) is not as common in Bangladesh as it is in India, it is still possible to find it in some restaurants and street stands. In contrast to paratha, you’ll find naan more readily available at night.
Pitha: A fried snack – almost like small pancakes – made from rice flour. Can either be eaten straight or covered with ghur (syrup made from the sap of date trees) for breakfast.