Bengali Cuisine – A Primer :
Key Starches : Rice, wheat ( eaten as deep fried refined wheat flatbreads called luchis).
Typical breakfast Luchi / Roti served with potato curry / dal.. Pantabhat is preferred in summer (cooked rice soaked overnight in water eaten mixed with salt, chopped onions, green chilies and a dash of lemon juice / yogurt). Pressed rice or puffed rice is also eaten raw / soaked in milk / cooked with spices.
Lunch : Rice served with 5-6 curries in a particular order listed on the left. Khichuri ( rice and lentil porridge) served with fries is popular during monsoons.
Key Flavourings: Mustard, Cumin, Nigella, Fennel, Fenugreek. Equal quantities of these are mixed together and called Panch Phoran. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, leaves Garam masala ( a readymade powdered mix of roasted cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, star anise and coriander seeds) are also common.
Curry Bases : Mustard paste, Poppy seed paste ( soak equal quantities of mustard seeds and poppy seeds in water for 2 hours. Blend to a paste), tomato puree.
Preferred fats : Mustard oil, Ghee, Peanut oil.
Protein Source: Lentils ( Masoor dal, Mung dal, Channa Dal), Freshwater fishes (especially Hilsa), Chicken, Mutton & eggs. Beef is consumed in East Bengal (
Common Vegetables: Eggplant, Potato, Squash, Ridge gourd, Drumstick, Spinach, Sweet potato, String beans, Pumpkin, Radish, Bitter gourd.
Building blocks: Rice, Wheat Vegetables, Lentils, Freshwater fish.
Souring agents : Green mangoes, dried mango powder.
Desserts : Bengalis learnt the art of curdling milk to separate milk solids (chena), probably from Portuguese. This is used as a base for a wide variety of sweets – (Rasagolla, Rasamalai etc)
This cookbook lists 10 traditional Bengali recipes , greatly simplified, so that a first time cook can easily cook them. The following recipes are listed in this cookbook. Click the links for detailed recipes with photos from my fellow bloggers
1.: Pora (Grilled and mashed starter) (Begun Pora).
2.: Shukto (Bitter, mixed vegetable curry )
3.: Dal (Flavoured Lentils )
4.: Bhaja (Fries) ( Begun Bhaja)
5.: Shaak ( Leafy Greens curry) Mulo Shaak
6.: Charchari (Mixed vegetable dry curry) ( Panchmishali Charchari)
7.: Jhol (Thin, spicy gravy) (Macher jol)
8.: Ambol ( Sweet and sour dish ) Kancha Aamer Ambol
9.: Ghonto (Stir fried) Lau Ghonto
10.: Bhapa (Steamed ) Bhapa Ilish