Bengali cuisine is a culinary style which originated in Bengal and which carries its flavor & aroma across the globe. This cuisine is diversified between the boundaries of West Bengal and its neighbor, Bangladesh. With the prominence of fish, vegetables and lentils being the preferred food items for every Bengali household, Bengali cuisine is known for its simple and luscious flavor. The huge varieties of mouth-watering desserts make this cuisine very popular across the globe.
Bengali food is an ancient cuisine arising from the historical and other links with the people of the different parts of the world. Bengal being ruled by Muslim governors for a long period, led to the development of its cuisine. The Bengali food culture gained more prominence due to the Mughal influence that started in Bangladesh. This Mughal influence brought in the richness in the Bengali food, and together with influences from many other cultures, Bengali cuisine got labeled as one of the most aromatic and most favored cuisines of the world.
The Bengali food culture gained more momentum with the women. The British governed Bengal had many tradition-bound cultural restrictions running across the families, which held back the female population at home. This was the time when most of the housewives started developing their cooking habits, experimenting with different types of cuisines in their kitchen. As a result, various types of cuisines became popular among the several households of Bengal.
The most significant among them was the advent of the range of delicacies in the form of sweets. The usage of milk to a larger proportion in various forms gave rise to the various forms of deserts, the most popular being the “Rosogolla” or “Rasgulla” and “Misti-doi”.
The usage of the rich spices, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and many other herbs such as garlic, ginger, onion, chilies etc. gave a wider dimension to the Bengali cuisine. The types of Bengali cuisines which have become more popular over the last few decades, primarily have either the fish or mutton that are preferred by the majority of the people.
The nature and array of dishes found in Bengali cooking are unique even for India. Freshwater fish is one of the most distinct food, which is preferred by almost every household in Bengal. The countless rivers, ponds and other water bodies have made it easier to have a taste of varieties of fish such as Rui (rohu), Katla, Hilsa, Pabda, Koi, Chingri (prawn) & Tangra and many more. The usage of vegetables in most of the Bengali recipes, is also different from the other recipes of India. The usage of mustard and poppy seeds and radhuni (wild celery seeds), paanch phoron (combination of cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fennel, fenugreek and black cumin seeds) with different types of vegetables and fish creates different textures and flavors compared to the recipes which belongs to the other veg- and non-veg recipes in India.
Fish Kalia, chingri maacher malaikari, pabda maacher jhol are the most loved fish-preparations relished among the Bengalis. “Ilish” (Hilsa) or “pabda” cooked with white or black mustard seeds is very popular among the Bengalis and is being loved by many in the other parts of the country as well. The softness of the fish, along with its rich aroma, makes this recipe unique compared to the other fish recipes.
Mutton is the preferred meat among the Bengalis and the Khashi (castrated goat) & Kochi (kid goat) panthar jhol are the most delicious of all meat preparations of Bengal. The other very popular preparation is “Rewaji Khashi” (a well-developed goat containing good amount of fat), which is being preferred with rice mostly. However “luchi mangsho” is one combination which is now preferred over rice or roti, and is very popular among the kids. Additionally, chicken is also very popular and is cooked in various ways. Chicken curry & chicken kasha, chicken chaap are some of the common chicken recipes which belong to the Bengali cuisine.
Among the veg-cuisine, Shukto – a favorite Bengali appetizer – is a much-loved rice-starter among the Bengalis. It is prepared with different types of vegetables, including at least one bitter vegetable like “uchchhe” or bitter gourd. It’s cooked with a hint of sugar and milk to bring out the best flavor of the vegetables. “Shaak” refers to various types of leaves / herbs available in Bengal or India. Any recipe with these herbs, is also a much-loved food with rice. “Luchi” (unleavened bread) with “torkari” (veg-curry) especially “Aloor dum” (“Dum Aloo” or potato curry), being a popular combo among many households is also loved by all. However the most simple and popular recipe of every Bengali family is “Bhaat” (rice), “dal” (lentil soup), “daaler bora” (lentil fritters) & “maacher jhol” (cooked fish soaked in its soup).
The Sweets of Bengal
When it comes to sweets, the list is endless. Bengal is famous for its plethora of desserts. Shondesh or Sandesh is made from sweetened and finely ground chhena (Indian cottage cheese). There are 2 major types of Shondesh – “kora pak” (hardened mixture of chhena) and “norom pak” (soft mixture of chhena). Misti doi (sweetened curd) is a must for every Bengali family after the main course and even tok-doi (bitter curd) is also loved by many. “Laddu” is a very familiar sweet in Bangladesh and West Bengal, especially during festivals.
Roshogolla is the most favorite sweet-meat among the Bengalis and these white, sweet, round-balls are world-famous. People from all over the world come to Bengal to have the authentic taste of this delicious sweet. Roshomalai, Pantua, Chamcham, Pithe, Jilepi, Payesh, Langcha etc. are the other well-known Bengali desserts.
Being a Bengali, I’m too a lover of all these above-mentioned foot items. Simple, yet very delicious, is what I can affirm about the Bengali cuisines. In short, the richness, simplicity, taste, flavor and the sweetness of the Bengali delicacies, together represent the the Bengali cuisine – which is one of the most-loved cuisines of the world.
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