I have been following quite a few food blogs off late. and am quite amazed at the kind of publicity that bengali cuisine gets on the world wide web with a very decent fan following (and that includes a tam iyer friend of mine who is just ga ga over chingri :P). But I do have an objection about the fact that whatever is being publicised as authentic “Bengali” cuisine (and i agree its one yummy effort) more or less consist of what we bangals (people traditionally from east bengal) prefer to call as ghoti (traditional west bengal) culinary delights. Needless to say am completely ga ga over that bit of aloo-poshto.
But the Bangal maiya (Dhaka-Bikrampur) in me cannot take that lying down. I quite enjoy the fact that we are tagged as the people who have earned it (jeebonsongram as they say). This post of mine is an effort to enlist out a few of my favourite dishes which belong exclusively to the Bangal kitchen. Bangal cooking in general is dominated by its prefernce for everything spicy and hot. I guess that’s were we have our outspoken origin and if a fellow rajasthani (mind it! they are known for their preference of the Laal mirch) called me a Teekhi Mirach for my now well known big mouth, I couldn’t agree more.
So here I go and I begin with the mouth watering- Shutki Maach. I guess many of the Bangals also cannot fathom this foul smelling fish while its being cooked in the neighbourhood. But once done, you can gorge on to this piece of culinary magic.
One remarkable thing is that while Ilish remains the favourite of Bengalis across the ghoti-bangal divide, the fish traditionally is ours i-e, we bangals. We associate it with our favourite football club and not too long ago when a certain sourav ganguly had not changed the statistics and demography of the Kolkata maidan and the sporting scene in general, east bengal supporters used to celebrate their victory (and that includes the famous 5 goals) by sending properly cooked ilish to the houses of their friends supporting mohunbagan. (its very true! my father has done it often. needless to say it was reciprocated with chingri when mohunbagan won against their traditional rivals). Football, food and matrimony still keeps the old ghoti-bangal rivalry alive. Ask me! am a true blue calcutta girl, but when it comes to food or football, i owe my allegiance to my bangal genes. about the other I have no prefernce, only that I won’t prefer eating sugar laden ghoti delicacies day in and day out. I want my share of spice 😉
But coming back to Ilish, the bhapa variety is well known and quite savoured among my non bengali friends but there is one style of cooking the ilish known only to us. and for those diet conscious people out there who want to have it the low calorie way can definitely try it out. the kalojeerey phoron-kancha lonka recipe which my mom turns into a delicacy that every time i go back home, I want more of it. By now, you must have understood I am a big foodie. In fact, I have lately realised food is the only thing that keeps me going!
Chitol macher muithha is another Bangal favourite, though I must admit ghotis also have taken a fascination for this dish in recent years. and I trust my didun to cook it absolutely amazingly. That’s one recipe I want to learn from her, because my mom also can’t make it that good.
Lotey mach (Loitya or Lotiya as you prefer to call it) has immense medical value. My father alwys emphasised that its necessary for a healthy eyesight…but I fondly think about the fish because of its Jhuri and chochchori varieties which only we are aware of. I sometime so pity those friends of mine who had only the luck to taste the jhol (the syrupy variety), tyaltyaley at that. Trust a true Bangal like me to suggest that itsno match for the other two varieties and add a bit of Lonka bata (mashed red chillies, if i can put it that way), voila! you are in culinary heaven!
And then coming to the eternal Bangal favourite kochu. yeah! the kochu which ghotis (all of them included, and most of them are not snobs) twitch their nose at. My vegetarian friends often complain that bengali cuisine doesn’t offer them the variety to choose from for their platter. I sincerely disagree with them. This year’s bong food festival was an eye openeer for some of them. But you can trust Bangals to make a thousand mouth watering vegetarian delicacies out of this lesser vegetable (evidently as ghotis still consider it to be some zombie from outer space-their loss!! missing out on something). From the coconut laden warmth of the kochu bata to the spicy tiltilation of the kohur koura, its heaven on earth…those who have tasted it, knows. and Kochur shaak is yummyy in both its vegetarian (when cooked with coconut and nuts) and non vegetarian (ilish macher matha diye) forms.
And about the Bata(mashed) variety of anything and everything possible on earth, trust Bangals to rustle up a storm. It might be the seemingly innocent cauliflower leave (kopipata), dhoney pata or the potatao peels (aloor khosha)…..trust any bangal to turn them into one spicy hot bongshell of a dish! 😛
and here i conclude the post, not because i ran out of fuel but because i am sincerely missing home cooked food now(pishimoni’s cooking!!!). but dont worry, i might just be back with a part 2 because picture abhi baaki hain mere dost. the world needs to know about the sweets!
p.s. whoever visits the blog, in case you are a bong, ghoti bangal nirbisheshey, atleast leave a comment on this piece, i sincerely want your opinion on this and a ghoti bangaler juddho on my blog won’t be a that bad idea after all. 😛
Also, if anyone wants to add to the list, you are most welcome to do so.