The Taste of Bengal
With another fifteen days left for Durga Puja, and the Bengalis planning their festivities, we would take a look at some foods of Bengal, which definitely forms a crucial part of the festivities. Bengalis are better known as food lovers with a plethora of dishes to fall in love with. They are so obsessed with their food, that they would like to shell out any amount for their preparation.
There are mainly two different tastes which prevails in Bengal dishes, the Bangal and Ghoti. The Bangals are the people whose fore-fathers were displaced from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during the partition of 1947. The Ghotis are the people of West Bengal who enjoyed the privilege of not losing their ancestral homes during partition.
With amalgamation of people after partition, the tastes of the dishes have also become almost the same. But people still enjoy Hilsa with bangal preparation and Lobster (Chingri) with ghoti recipes.
Let us run through some mouthwatering dishes of Bengal, and their ways of preparation.
Bhapa Ilish (Steamed Hilsa)
Hilsa (Ilish): Hilsa is one the favourite fish of Bengalis, and an average bong is ready to shell out a thousand bucks for a kg of Hilsa. Hilsa is a fresh water fish and found in the rivers of Bangladesh and West Bengal. The fish can be prepared in various methods. But let us take the favourite for all bongs – Bhapa Ilish (Steamed Hilsa).
A normal household would definitely buy sliced Hilsa from the fish seller and rest assure, they know how to make your pieces. Wash the pieces well, and sprinkle salt and turmeric powder over them. Prepare a smooth paste in your mixer, of yellow mustard seeds, black mustard seeds, green chillies, ginger and salt. Keep the paste in a bowl with a lid which can be capped tightly on the bowl. Add a cup of water to the paste and mix well. Dip all the fish pieces in the paste. Ensure that the fish pieces are uniformly covered in the mixture. Add some mustard oil to the mixture. Tighten the lid of the bowl.
Place the bowl in a pan and pour water in it, such that the water level reaches only two-third of the height of the bowl. Cover the pan with a lid and steam it for twenty-five minutes. Your bhapa ilish is ready to be served hot with rice.
Golda Chingri Malaikari
Lobster and Prawn (Golda Chingri and Chingri): These are sea-foods loved across the world. However, the bongs have their own ways of preparation. Let us get to know the preparation of one their favourites – Galda Chingri Malaikari. This preparation is a royal recipe with the head of the Lobster attached. The term Malaikari comes from the usage of coconut cream or malai in Hindi.
Meticulously clean the lobsters, ensuring not to detach the head as the juicy head adds to the taste of this dish. Sprinkle turmeric powder and salt over the lobsters and smear them. In a pan, heat mustard oil and patiently fry each lobster individually till they are uniformly colored golden. Take the lobsters out from the pan. In the same oil with the flame on, put half a cup of onion paste. Add ginger paste, some green chillie and saute the mixture in oil for a minute. Add all dry spices you have at home, little sugar and mix it well. Cook well till the oil comes starts seeping out from side. Now put the flame lower, and add coconut cream. Mix well, and add warm water and continue stirring till the contents start boiling. Add the fried prawns, and stir lightly. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 5 mins. Turn off the flame and carefully toss the prawns. Serve the dish with rice.
The Bengali dish of Mutton Kasha (or Kosha Mangsho), when served with rice or roti gives an aroma which would really be unbearable for all mutton lovers. Let us quickly dive into the recipe now.
You would obviously need mutton which is available at any local mutton shop, in medium chunky sizes. Marinate the mutton for a night with yogurt or dahi, mustard oil, turmeric powder and salt. For the preparation, heat mustard oil in pressure cooker and add sliced onions. Add some salt, sugar and allow the onion to turn golden yellow. Add whole garam masala, red dry chillies, black peeper powder and cook well till the onion turns brown. Add a paste of green chilles, ginger and garlic. Continue cooking and after some time add fried potato sliced in two halves. Smear the potatoes with the masala. Add the marinated mutton and mix well with the masala in the cooker. Cook well for some time and add tomato puree, and add garam masala paste and red chillie powder. Further cook the entire ingredients in medium high heat for 10 – 15 mins. This stage in Bengali is called ‘koshano’ and hence the derived name of mutton kasha.
Followed by this process add 2 cups of water and pressure cook the mutton for 10 mins. Let the steam cool down, and open the lid of the pressure cooker. You will find the oil oozing out of the mutton. Your favourite Bengali mutton kasha is ready.
With the above non-vegetarian dishes, you might think that Bengalis have nothing to offer for vegetarian people. On the contrary there are plenty of delicacies like shukto, mochar ghonto, doi fulkopi, etc. which would make you drool for vegetarian dishes as well. Let us take up mochar ghonto for this post.
This is a unique preparation of banana flower, coconut and potato. A dry veg preparation which most Bengalis relish with rice or roti. Mocha (or banana flower) is not only a good treat, it is also rich in iron and helps to boost mental strength.
Clean the mocha flowers, and chop them finely into small pieces. Keep it submerged in water with salt and turmeric. Pressure cook the mocha flowers with salt and water for 5 mins. Heat mustard oil in a pan, and add cumin seeds, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Once hot, add some chopped potato pieces and fry them till golden yellow. Add finely chopped ginger and fry for 2-3 mins. In a bowl take half cup of water and add chopped cumin, coriander and red chillies. Add the same in the pan with tomato puree. Mix well, and cool for 2 – 3 mins. Now drain the water of the boiled mochas and add it in the pan with the potatoes. Mix well and cook in a low flame for 10 mins. Once the curry becomes dry, remove it from the flame and sprinkle garam masala powder and ghee to add to the taste. Serve it with white rice.
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