11 Aug Fiery Cuisines Part 16 – Bangladesh
I fell in love with Bangladeshi food while living in the UK…
Andrew’s Essential Fiery Food Facts that a Pyro-Gourmaniac needs to Know
Fiery Cuisines Part 16…… Bangladesh
Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, with its people crammed into a delta of rivers that empties into the Bay of Bengal. Formerly East Pakistan, Bangladesh came into being only in 1971, when the two parts of Pakistan split after a bitter war which drew in neighbouring India.
Bangladesh spent 15 years under military rule and, although democracy was restored in 1990, the political scene remains volatile
Every country has its own tradition of foods. Bangladesh is no different. In the sense of food habits, Bangladesh is influenced by the regional variations of her history. Being an outpost of Mughal Empire once, Bangladesh retains its heritage. Bangladesh is famous for rice production which has been the chief occupation of its people. Rice therefore is the main food of Bangladesh. The Bangladeshis eat rice, not just a small quantity but a lot. They eat rice every day and at every meal with great testy and spicy curry of vegetables, fishes and meat.
It is important to understand that the geography of a land is one of the defining factors that largely shape the diet of its people. Given that Bangladesh is a riverine country and that long-stretching paddy fields are in abundance, the saying ‘machhe bhaate Bangali’ stands true. Fish and rice are their staples, and the typical Bangladeshi household cannot do without them.
A positive word about their traditional cuisine is that it is not only tasty, but healthy as well. Be it the fish, or the way rice is traditionally cooked, or the numerous vegetable dishes in the Bengali menu, or the proteins from lentil soup or meat – it is of no doubt that the food of this land is very nutritious.
Fish, a common item in the Bengali menu, is of course very healthy. And the way they traditionally cook rice is also ideal in terms of nutrition. The water is not thrown away, allowing the rice that is cooked to retain most of its nutritional value.
This approach is also maintained when cooking pilaf. In the North Indian way of cooking , which is different to the Bangladeshi way ,the water is boiled and when the rice is almost ready, the water is discarded. But the typical Bengali method of cooking pilaf – as it is of cooking plain rice , does not discard the water. Instead, they cook it in such a way that the rice gets cooked while the water is absorbed.
For the vegetarians Bangladesh is a paradise. Plenty of fresh vegetables are available throughout the year. Among them, winter vegetables are more popular because of their different preparations and taste. The common vegetables from Bangladesh are Cauliflower, Cabbage, Tomato, Potato, Beans, reddish, Peas, Carrot, Radish, Pumpkin, Eggplant, Drumstick, Bitter-ground, Arum and Arum-root, Bind-weed and many others. Most of the restaurants serve some kinds of vegetable everyday either fried or curry or even Bharta. Bhorta is a common food eaten with rice. And the sheer variety of bhorta is amazing , Mashed vegetables or fish are mixed with chillies, mustard oil and salt and you have a simple, easy to make everyday food. Another item which never fails to be present on the dining table of a Bangladeshi is Dhal (lentil soup).
To a large extent, Bangladeshi food revolves around rice Pitha, or rice cakes, is just another illustration of this concept. The wide range of pithas is a very popular delicacy, particularly in Nabanna festivals ( They have many rice harvest festivals) and throughout the winter.
Pitha is indeed an age-old food. The names and descriptions of several pithas can be found in different Mymensingh ballards, and other oral traditions.
Many of the old literary works that have survived to this date tell us the diversity and variety of their cuisine. The fact that Bengalis are not exclusively fish eaters or vegetarians is also quite clear looking at architectural and literary works suggestive of the idea that meat has also been part of our diet. The excavations at Mainamati and Paharpur, the terracotta decorations on Kantajee Mandir in Dinajpur as much as the Mangalkabya suggest that the early Bengali ate fowl and flesh.
Fish, meat and vegetables are cooked across Bangladesh, with much variation owing to regional differences, which makes Bangladeshi cuisine even richer. Chittagong’s Mezban, is a feast, a grand social event, which offers the unique Mezbaani gosht, a delicious beef curry eaten with plain rice.
Meanwhile, Sylhet offers Shatkora. The dish of choice is Shatkora beef curry, which is the pride of the region. Another well known Shatkora based dish is Ponchar (beef knuckle) Khatta, a tangy tasting thick soup
Not just in Chittagong and Sylhet, all across Bangladesh, there are refreshingly unique ingredients and cooking styles which contribute to the rich gastronomy.
The plethora of delicacies, the geography, age-old literature, festivities and the everyday menu ,they all combine together to create an extraordinarily rich, diverse, tasty and healthy food, which is Bangladeshi cuisine.