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What to Eat in West Bengal
The specialty of traditional Bengali food lies in the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavors.
Fish is the dominant kind of protein in Bengali cuisine and is cultivated in ponds and fished with nets in the freshwater rivers of the Ganges Delta. Almost every part of the fish (except scales, fins, and innards) is eaten, unlike other regions, the head is particularly preferred. Other spare bits of the fish are usually used to flavour curries and dals.More than forty types of mostly freshwater fish are common, including carp varieties like rui (rohu), koi (climbing perch), the wriggling catfish family tangra, magur, shingi pabda (the pinkbellied Indian butter fish), katla, ilish (ilish), as well as shu?ki (small dried sea fish). Chingri (prawn) is a particular favourite and comes in many varieties kucho (tiny shrimp), bagda (tiger prawns) or galda (Scampi).
The most preferred form of meat in Bengal is mutton or goat meat. Khashi (castrated goat) or kochi pantha (kid goat), is also common. Some delicate dishes are cooked with rewaji khashi, a goat that has been specifically raised on a singular kind of diet, to encourage the growth of intramuscular fat, commonly known as pardah. Pork is commonly eaten among the Santal tribes, and is quite common on the menus of Chinese restaurants everywhere in Bengal. Chicken is less preferred, though it has grown steadily in popularity over the last few decades. Beef, while extremely popular over in Bangladesh, is much less common in West Bengal, where it is consumed in pockets, and only in certain Muslim homes and some restaurants serving Mughlai food. Eggs both chicken and duck are quite popular. Surprisingly, duck meat is rarely found on menus in West Bengal even though the birds are common in the many ponds and lakes.
The Nawabs of Dhaka were not the original Nawabs of Bengal. Their ancestors came from Kashmir as merchants who made their fortunes in Eastern Bengal in the 17th century. They finally settled in Dhaka, and, having bought large landed estates, they became the largest landowners in these parts. They were given the title of Nawab by the British. The Nawabs brought many famous baburchis (cooks) from many parts of India who introduced many new dishes, especially meat dishes, to the local cuisine. Admittedly, these expensive dishes were hardly enjoyed by the common people. They remained the favourite of the wealthy and the welltodo aristocrats. However, with the general economic growth of Dhaka since 1971, some of them have become favorite of the rich classes especially on such festivel.
Many kinds of Kebabs, mostly cooked over open grill. Some of the Dhakas specialty of this genre are: Sutli Kebab, Bihari Kebab, Boti Kebab, etc., made from marinaded (by secret spice mix by each chef) mutton and beef. Kebabs are eaten as snacks or as starters for a big feast. Special kinds of breads: There are many kinds of breads made with cheese mix, with minced meat, with special spices, etc., all are delicacies enjoyed by the affluent classes as side dishes.
5. The Kachchi Biriani
This famous dish is now the mainstay of a wedding in a wealthy family in Dhaka. It is cooked with parboiled rice cooked with layers of raw kacchi mutton pieces, quite distinct from the West Bengal variety, which uses basmati rice and pakki (precooked) mutton pieces . When on dum, i.e., steamed in a sealed pot over slow wood fire [gas fire, or electric cooker will not do] both rice and mutton will cook perfectly. Special spices including very expensive saffron is used by the famous chefs of this special dish.
6. Whole lamb roasted
Marinated whole lamb is roasted over charcoal fire. This dish is usually made on special occasion such as marriage feast when usually it is served on the high table reserved for the bridegroom and his party.
7. Whole roasted chicken or duck
Highly spiced, cooked in a pot with lots of ghee.
8. Ombol or Aum bol
A sour dish made either with several vegetables or fish, especially fish bones. The souring agent is usually tamarind pulp, unripe mango and sometimes amla or amloki is used. Curd, though a souring agent occasionally used with nonvegetarian dishes, will not be called ombol. It is served at the end of the meal as a kind of digestive, and to cleanse the palate.
Pickles. Generally flavoured with mustard oil, mustard seeds, aniseed, caraway seed and asafoetida, or hing.
Anything that has been mashed and then formed into rough roundish shape and fried, generally in mustard oil. Generally served with rice as a starter, or served with puffed rice crisps as a snack. The baora actually has quite a few different kinds. When potatoes are fried in a light chickpea flour batter, they are called fuluri (giving rise to the Trinidadian pholourie)
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