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Bangladesh


Simon Majumdar
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now things have settled down a bit, I think Suvir is right to suggest a new thread on Bangaldesh.  It does not deserve to be swamped with what has gone before

My Tamar ( My Grandmother ) was from a small village in what was then East Bengal.  That meant on our visits to New Alipur in Calcutta,  we would often have Eastern Bengali Food which was quite different from the Bengali food of the Ghoti's

I remember a couple of dishes

Doi Begun - which was an eggplant in a yoghurt sauce

Sobji Bhaji - which is fried vegetables

Lubra -  I cannot remeber what it was, just it tasted good

Finally there was a dish of a marrow like squash which was sauteed in clarified butter with a little kalonji.  I think it was called Lao.

People frm East Bengal were the butt of many jokes in Calcutta.  I guess like the Irish in England and the Polish in the US, but the food, while very simple was and is exquisite

Good to talk about food again

S

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Thanks for starting this, Simon.

I'm really curious about the famous Bangladeshi fish dishes, and about the types of fish used in them. Can we get the same kinds of fish here, i.e. airfreighted in like the black and white pomfret was for the Selfridges Bollywood promotion? Or are there preferred substitutes for particular type of fish/dishes?

Miss J

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Simon - I was going to post this in response to Sweetpea's question the other night, but when it quickly became apparant she/he was a flamer I let it lie. There is a Bangladeshi restaurant on 56th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue that I have eaten at a few times. The "famous" dish they serve, is an appetizer that is sort of poached eggs served on top of onions that have been stewed and spiced. The name escapes my mind. But besides that, it didn't seem all that different from any other Indian restaurant. But of course, that might be because it's in NYC and there isn't really a market for true Bangladeshi cuisine.

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Bengali's ( me included ) are obsessed with texture in their food.

So fish has to have plenty of bones and most Bengalis would rather eat the crispy skin and bones of a chicken than the succulent flesh

Seafood can be good in Bangladesh.  I have some recipes at home.  I will dig them out

S

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Steve

The dish you mention falls under the category of Bhaji.  In the west most people associate this with cricket ball size fried onions which is actually quite nasty, but in Bengal it means any fried vegetable dish.

The dish you had is often made with the squash I mention above ( Luao ) and the only spice apart from a little salt is Turmeric which is the most used of all Bengali spices.

Interestingly enough Turmeric is also a staple of the first Aid cabinet in Bengali homes and it has the most beneficial anticeptic properties.  gargle with it in warm water for tooth problems or sore throats and rub a little of the root on a cut to stop bleeding.

S

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The dish you mention falls under the category of Bhaji.  In the west most people associate this with cricket ball size fried onions which is actually quite nasty,

Oh God, they really are. I am still scarred by the first "bhaji" I ever had in Camden Market (!) seven years ago - round, crusty on the outside, and full of slimy, oily, tandoori-red half-cooked onions in the middle.

Makes day-glo sweet&sour pork seem almost benign in comparison.

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.... There is a Bangladeshi restaurant on 56th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue that I have eaten at a few times. ...

If you are reffering to Baluchi's - They are not a Bangladeshi place. If I'm not mistaken that strip has a SriLankan,Patsy's,A Japanese Restaurant, Baluchi amongst others.

If it is another restaurant let me know, I'll check it out.

anil

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Simon, Bhaji as you rightly point out is simply the word for vegetables.  It has been corrupted and misappropriated over the last 2-3 decades.  So, today, we have issues where people are unable to understand that complexities of Bhaji.

Bhajia is a name for certain vegetable pakoras and even onion pakoras.  And these days, I have heard and read a new word called Bhaja.

The egg dish Steve talks about reminds me of the Omelet Curry I had in Calcutta and also Delhi.  A simple omelet is placed atop a stew of onions and tomatoes and spices and then the same is poured on top.  Delicious!

Did you ever make Lentil Sabji?  Lentil Shaag?  Do Piaza?  Care to explain those to us Non Bengalis?

What do you think of Panch Phoron spice mix?  Is it as all encompassing to Bengali cooking as some claim?  Do you make yours fresh or do you buy pre-mixed?  Or do you even use it?

Did you ever eat Puchkas in Calcutta?  These are the Bengali version of Gol Gappas the street food dish?

I will not go and check that link you gave.  Thanks Simon.

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Bangals, meaning folks from ernstwhile East Bengal, now Bangladesh have fish that is salt water, while in WB, and interiors villages the preference is for sweet-water i.e pond fish.

Simon is right about turmeric, it has a special place in bengali cooking as well as other uses. Many ointments for burns were based on turmeric. Another must is the cooking medium - mustard oil.

Another speciality, common to both bengals is Luchi (sp?)

anil

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lucchi are, if I am correct, like puri and served with tamarind water.

Panch Phoron ( or five spice ) is the very centre of all my cooking.  My family mix is white mustard seed, black mustard, seed, fennel seed, onion seed and black cardomon

I fry it in oil until they all pop and then add any other powdered spices, tumeric ( naturally ) and a small amount of chilli ( Bangladeshi cooking uses nearly no chilli ) and they whatever vegetables I have.

A good recipe using this base is to sweat a chopped cabbage in the mix until very soft and then add small shrimp and a little sugar.  A wonderful simple supper.

Do Piaza - this means "twice onions" literally and it means that onions are used twice in the dish.  this can vary, but in my recipe you fry onions in the spices and then make your ghonto as normal ( using whatever meat/fish you want ) then deep fried onions are added at the end.  

S

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Simon,

What is Ghonto?

And your family Panch Phoron is very different from what I was given by others.  The Sarkars of Calcutta (Anand Bazaar Patrika) and others that like all proud Bengalis, claim part of the Bengali legend, use the very simple Panch Phoron that you get in Indian grocers in India and here.  

Yours sounds more aromatic and also pungent.  Since your family uses two kinds of mustard seeds. Very interesting.  Do you know if your family has its own unique style, or was that common to an entire region?  This is exciting discovery.  Thanks for having shared it.  

What I have been taught by several families and chefs is this version below:

Panch Phoron (Five Spice Mix, not to be mistaken with the Chinese Five Spice Mix)

Cumin

Fenugreek

Kalonji Seeds (Nigela seeds that many call onion seeds)

Fennel Seeds

Black Mustard

In India some use Radhuni instead of Kalonji.  It is a kind of a mustard seed but we do not get it in the US.

Equal parts of each spice are mixed to create this mix.  Some families use 20 percent less Fenugreek seeds to make the mix less bitter.

What I also understood as a clear difference between Bengali cooking and the foods of other parts of India was the Bengali love for foods where the spices made delicate love to your taste buds.  They do not like an over flirtation with spices.  This is what makes it much more subtle.  Am I correct in having understood that, Anil/Simon?

Also what fascinated me in Bengali cooking is the usage of ground cardamom seeds in the preparation of fish.  It certainly makes the cooked fish seem a little sweet and also erotically fragrant.

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Hey - I've been making Panch Phoron Potatoes as part of my brunch menu for ages, but I didn't realise that they were Bangladeshi. They're great with fried eggs and slices of very ripe tomato. :smile:

The recipe came from Nigella's How to Eat book, and supposedly originated from Salmon Rushdie's FIRST wife. The whole spices called for are black mustard seeds, fennel, fenugreek, nigella seeds and, um...something else. Tumeric and chile get added to the diced potato mixture a bit later in the recipe.

Miss J

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Does anyone else like Jhal Muri? The street food dish from Bengal?

Ah ! How can one forget JhalMoori - Puffed Rice,chopped onions,chopped green chilies,spices and mustand oil.

anil

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