Bangladesh Breakfast: Our first meal of the day usually consisted of some combination of sabzi (mixed vegetables), dal (lentils), paratha (fried flat bread), omelette and milk tea. Hearty, filling reliable, good. Also incredibly cheap – we usually paid less than $1 for the two of us. We learned that tea is often eaten after the meal, not with the breakfast so you have to make a special request if you want your cup of tea to arrive with your meal.
Bhorta: Mashed potatoes (or other vegetables) often mixed with shrimp or fish. Usually made with onion, green chili peppers, cilantro and mustard oil — lending it an intense flavor. The restaurant at Western Inn International in Khulna serves up some delicious shrimp and fish bhorta.
Biryani: Spiced rice served with some sort of meat or chicken, sometimes mixed in and other times served on top of the rice. Maybe we just chose poorly, but we never really had a great biryani meal during our trip.
Mishti Doi: Sweet curd served in ceramic bowls. Our suggestion is to go for the semi-sweet variety. The best doi we found comes from a chain of shops called “Rosh” in Dhaka. We frequented the Gulshan 2 outpost, just on the circle. Go early: Rosh sells out of the semi-sweet doi very quickly.
Ras Malai: A heavy sweet made from balls of paneer (pressed Indian-style cottage cheese) served with sweetened clotted cream and topped with ground nuts and/or sweet spices like cardamom.
Local Bangladeshi restaurants typically don’t offer a wide array of drinks. While tap water is available for free on tables, choices are usually limited to bottled water (a wise choice for visitors’ tummies) and basic soft drinks (e.g., Sprite, Coke). Alcohol is forbidden.
7-Layer Tea: The famous 7-layer tea can only be found at Nilkhantha Tea Cabin outside of Srimongal (beware of imitations in the nearby village). The recipe is a secret, but combines three varieties of black tea and one green tea. Condensed milk and various spices (cinnamon, cloves), perhaps a dash of lemon and a hint of asafoetida make up the other flavor layers.
Lime juice and sugar cane juice: You can find juice stands on the streets of Old Dhaka and other big cities. Just be careful that you’re just getting the juice and not a mixture with local water. Otherwise, Bangla belly might come to haunt you.
With all of our eating at local and street restaurants throughout Bangladesh, we never once got a case of “Bangla belly.” Use common sense when eating and be careful of freshly cut (and uncooked) vegetables and fruit. Don’t take your chances on local tap water – buy bottled water or sterilize tap water yourself (e.g., SteriPen or tablets). And be sure to use wash your hands before and after meals.
We generally ate very well (and very inexpensively) while traveling throughout Bangladesh. If the food is being made fresh and it looks good, and there are a lot of customers creating a high turnover, then you will probably be OK.
Khulna Resturants: The streets come alive at night along Upper Jessore Road with men cooking up fresh roti, naan, meat kebabs and more. For our money and experience, this is the place to go. For a higher end meal, try Western Inn International for fish bhunaand tasty bhorta.