Spotting Bengali Food

October 15, 2006

 

calcutta-kitchen.jpgAs the days go by, I am spurred on to help identify real Indian food from mass produced junk. As a Bengali from Kolkata, I think it’s a good idea to start with a bit on the cuisine from back where I belong.

Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of West Bengal, the Indian state to the east of the country, beside Bangladesh. Better known for Mother Teresa, the Black Hole and Eden Gardens, its varied and delicious food often gets overlooked.

Shame. In Bengal, food is of utmost importance. Everything else comes second. As Simon Parkes puts it in “The Calcutta Kitchen”:

Once, a good friend told me, “what you’ve got to remember about us Bengalis is that we’re only really interested in three things: educating our children, reading books and food.” And in some ways that’s it in a nutshell.

Bengalis are also obsessed with their bowel function, but I don’t want to gross you out.

Udit Sarkhel, the co-writer of “The Calcutta Kitchen” has identified some real stand out qualities of Bengali food. Here are my top five, in his words:

  1. Bengalis are inveterate eaters of fish, and no good meal would be complete without fish or prawns
  2. Mustard is used as greens, as ground seeds and as a pungent, pure oil which is the principal cooking medium
  3. Ginger, cummin and chilli are the other spice mainstays; garlic is more of a flavouring of East Bengal, now Bangladesh
  4. Sugar is used a lot in savoury cooking
  5. Spice combinations are important , primarily garam masala and panch phoron

This Thursday, 19th October, Udit and Simon are speaking at a Bengali food evening at the British Museum. A must for food lovers and other curious beings. I believe some of their recipes will be dished out as finger foods after the talk. Tickets are still available if you want a more hands on Bengali food lesson.

Comments

12 Responses to “Curry with risotto”

  1. Christie@fig&cherry Says:

    September 15th, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Well done Mallika! That could be a fab TV show… How to cook Indian food in Italy!

  2. Bharti Says:

    September 15th, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    yah! You made it..good going! Desi khana in Tuscany…kya baat hai!

  3. dollybasu Says:

    September 15th, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    inndia shinig in tuscany , ha ha ha

  4. notyet100 Says:

    September 15th, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    nice menu,..i am sure mus hve tasted great,,:-)

  5. sra Says:

    September 15th, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    What is the first dish, the white one?

  6. Ginger Says:

    September 16th, 2008 at 2:39 am

    I sympathize! I had the same trouble when I went to Italy this summer too. Spices were the biggest problem. I’m really impressed :)

  7. mandira Says:

    September 16th, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Indian food in tuscany… great job Mallika :)
    Mental note to myself… always carry masala!

  8. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen Says:

    September 16th, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Heck, I made curry pasta, so what’s wrong with curry risotto? Sounds perfect to me! Hope you are having a great time! Sounds glorious!

  9. Yash Says:

    September 16th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    the part ‘mentally reminding myself never to make fun of travelling aunties again’ made me smile.

    @sra the white dish is probably dahi-..uh something. I can’t figure out what those things topped with the dahi are.

  10. Mallika Says:

    September 17th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Hi Sra – that’s the aubergine raita. It was the biggest hit of the evening!

  11. Pooh Says:

    September 18th, 2008 at 11:54 am

    You are such a trooper!And you’ve done fabulously given you were in unfamiliar settings.

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    Curry with risotto anyone? – Quick Indian Cooking

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