Someone has rightly said that “Bengalis love to celebrate their language, their culture, their politics, their fierce attachment to a city that has been famously dying for more than a century”. I, being a Bengali, completely agree with this. Bengalis love to eat. I can vouch for food being their first love. Be it marriage, parties or any get together, Bengalis just need an excuse to have a food feast.
Fish is a food which every Bengali drools over. Hostel-ites aren’t served non-vegetarian food. My bong hostel-mates and I go out in search of places where we can get good fish preparation and fish curries. To any Bengali new to the place – the first and foremost query would be where to find good fish preparations.
Fish is not our only staple food and is often paired with rice. Variety of herbs and spices are used to make these dishes. Specifically mustard oil is used for most Bengali food preparation, adding its own punch to the meal and giving it a distinct taste. To name some of the dishes – rezela, Mughlai Parota, Biryani Korma, Chap, Kathi roll, etc.
Just as we can see Mughal influence in Bengali cuisine, Bengali cuisine has been influenced by European cuisine as well. Bengal, once a French colony, also consisted of Portuguese, Dutch and other European populations. As a result, a lot of European dishes were adopted by the people staying in Eastern region of India and these dishes were later modified to Indian ways. Many Bengali dishes such as fish fry, mutton chops and kabiraji cutlets are originally British dishes but are popularized as snacks or as starters in West Bengal specifically in Kolkata. We can also see the influence of French baking techniques in restaurants like Flurries and Nahoms.
The everyday Bengali meal is usually simpler and consists of rice, dal and smashed potato or fish curry/fish fry. And usually Bengali lunch starters consists of bitter vegetable, that is bitter-gourd or neem leaves, deep fried. The idea behind is that the digestion of the food will be better and skin problems like rashes or pimples are also minimized. But bitter food is not consumed at night as it may cause acidity.
Mishthi is the best part about Bengali cuisine. And the special thing about Bengali sweets is that they are light in taste and texture. Famous sweets like Sondesh, Roshogollaa, Chom – chom, Pantua, Ras Malai, etc are all made of cottage cheese (paneer). And sweets other than Roshogolla and Sondesh are made with curd like mishti doi and cereals like moaa. Demands of new sweets with different taste has helped the Bengali sweets to capture the market successfully.
If food is your first love and you enjoy eating, definitely try Bengali cuisine because it is a blast of various flavors.
Sanghomitra Maity (1st year, Chemical engeering )
Illustration by Mirudula.M (2nd year, Bitechnology )