A Fishy Love Affair

They tucked her in the finest silk and a bejeweled nose ring completed the look. “Dress her well, she must be sent away to the groom’s place at once!” A voice commanded and the ‘palanquin’ was brought out. I noticed this intriguing wedding tradition of exchanging maach for the first time at my cousin’s wedding….

Beginner’s guide to Bengali fish

You might hear the Bangla phrase, “Maach bhaatey Bangaali” from almost any fish-loving Bengali. Often stated with great pride, it simply reaffirms the fact that nothing comes close the staple, comforting meal of fish and rice. Maach in Bangla is an umbrella term used to refer to not just fish but also most shellfish and…

NineDaysofNiramish: Jhuri Aloo Bhaja

Pulao, moong dal, beguni, matar paneer and a generous handful of Jhuri Aloo Bhaja—Maha Ashtami bhog is a hearty affair. Now, I haven’t met a person who doesn’t like aloo bhaja. I mean, it’s like how Joey would say, “What’s not to like?” It’s deep fried potatoes! Aloo bhaja takes many shapes. For the ‘paanch…

NineDaysofNiramish: Payesh

Ending the series on a sweet note! Known as the “paramanna” in the Mangalkavyas, payesh is a dessert prepared with thickened milk, jaggery and rice. It is the ultimate offering made to the Gods, particularly to Annapurna, an incarnation of Durga and the goddess of nutrition. Before any of the Bengali mishti came into existence,…

NineDaysofNiramish: Kanchkolaar Khosha Baata

It is a strong possibility that most of the dishes in Bengali cuisine that are centred around root-to-shoot eating, were created by women cooks. ‘Pak Pranali’ by Bipradas Mukhopadhyay is one of the earliest and an extensive cookbook in Bangla. A history professor at the University of Burdwan, Tupur Banerjee notes that this pioneering cookbook…

NineDaysofNiramish: Plastic Chutney

The first time I had plastic chutney was at a pujo pandal about five years ago. Until then, I had no idea it existed and to my surprise, I wasn’t alone! Made with raw papayas cooked in sugar syrup and some lime juice, this ‘chutney’ is a rather recent creation. Much like the ever-so-diverse universe…

NineDaysofNiramish: Matar Paneer

Matar Paneer is yet another dish which may not be traditionally Bengali but makes an annual appearance during pujo festivities. Cashew and/or magaz (melon seeds) replace onion and garlic to make it truly ‘niramish’, which then goes on to accompany the quintessential pulao. The jury is out on whether the preparation is Mughlai, Awadhi or…

NineDaysofNiramish: Aloo’r Dom

Ashtami evening bhog is incomplete without Aloo’r Dom and Luchi. Sometimes accompanied by a thick cholaa’r dal, this for as long as I can remember has been one of the staple pujo meals. Typically, the Bengali version of dum aloo is made with large, quartered potatoes. The recipes also vary not just geographically but also…

NineDaysofNiramish: Mocha’ar Ghonto

“Ghonto” refers to a dish that is cooked in its own moisture with almost none to very little water/milk/coconut milk added to it. Bandhakopi (cabbage), lau (bottle gourd) and mocha (banana blossom) are the usual suspects. Interestingly, all three of these have a non-vegetarian sibling made with fish head and tiny shrimps respectively! I remember…

NineDaysofNiramish: Tomato Chaatney

Chaarbya-Chaasya-Lehya-Peya (colloquially chorbo, chosyo, lehyo, peyo) The above are basic guidelines of eating in Bengali cuisine which are also mentioned in Ayurveda. This means that a typical meal should ideally have foods that can be chewed on (charbya), slurped (chasya), licked (lehya) and then finally have something to drink (peya). Call it a post-colonial hangover…