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

8 Responses to “How to Cook Papadum (papad)”

  1. Jules Says:

    November 19th, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Glad I’m not the only one who does them in the microwave!

  2. sarah Says:

    November 19th, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    for how long do u let it cook in the microwave?

  3. sarah Says:

    November 19th, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    oops nevermind my question.. i just reread ur post and realized it says 1 min each…

  4. sra Says:

    November 20th, 2008 at 1:55 am

    You’ve encapsulated the conversation bit so well! :-D

  5. Srivalli Says:

    November 20th, 2008 at 6:43 am

    oh those are perfect..though when I tried it mw, they turn little charred!..:)

  6. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen Says:

    November 20th, 2008 at 7:55 am

    I agree conversations with friends over a meal is the best times in life. Those Papad look gorgeous!

  7. mandira Says:

    November 20th, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    these evenings with friends are great… dunno about the three course meal though :)

  8. RedChillies Says:

    November 20th, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    All time favorite snack of ours!

Leave a Reply

 

Join Mallika Basu's Mailing List