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Bangladeshi cuisine (Bengali: বাংলাদেশের রান্না) refers to the food and culinary traditions prevalent in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi culinary traditions and processes date far back in history. Differences in history and geography have also led to regional variations in traditional cuisine.
Bangladeshi foods contain staples like rice and flat breads. Different traditional flat breads include Luchi, Porota, Bakhorkhani, Nan, Roti, chal er roti (rice flour flatbread), Chitai Pitha, and many more. Dishes from chicken, beef, fish or mutton, dal (a spicy lentil soup) and vegetables commonly accompany flat breads. Traditional dishes can be 'dry,' such as mach dopiaza (fish), gosht bhuna and tandoori gosht (chicken/beef/mutton). Or they can be served with gravy such as Nihari (beef/mutton shank) and murgi rezala (chicken). Items with jhol (sauce) are often curried. Bangladeshi cuisine frequently uses fresh vegetables, which generally vary with season. Vegetables are also used for light curries, bara, salads or stir-fries. Dal and chhola or boot (chickpeas) are also used as ingredients in some snacks and desserts.
In Bangladeshi Cuisine, some foods are popular across the entire region, while others are specific to a particular area.
Sylhet: A citrus fruit called hatkora is sometimes used in meat dishes. Freshwater fish are more readily available than saltwater ones.
Chittagong: The cuisine in Chittagong city and other small urban centers of greater Noakhali and Comilla is similar to the cuisine of Dhaka. Sweet dishes of Comilla are highly regarded. Tehari is a specialty of the region. Ziafat or Mezban feasts are popular throughout the area where characteristic ‘heavy’ dishes--dishes rich in animal fat and dairy--are featured. Saltwater fish, seafood, and Shutki (dried fish) are more available here than in other parts of the country.
Dhaka- Many of the rural districts in the outskirts have food customs similar to the north or central parts of the country. Much of the city’s cuisine is essentially Mughlai Cuisine that is considered to have shaped the cuisine of surrounding areas as well. The most prominent dishes are different varieties of roti, kabab, bakhorkhani, biryani, and faluda.
Foreign cuisine restaurants, especially Chinese and western fast-food, have become more visible in the urban centers of Dhaka, Chittagong, and Sylhet.
- The staples of Bangladeshi cuisine are rice and, to a lesser extent, 'ruti' (an unleavened whole wheat bread).
- 'Atta flour|Atta' (a unique type of Whole-wheat flour|whole ground wheat flour), atta used for making 'Luchi'; 'Porota'; 'Pitha' etc.
- Lentils/Pulses (legumes) of at least five dozen varieties, the most important of which are Bengal gram'(chhola), pigeon peas (oror or red gram), black gram (biuli), and green gram (mung bean). Pulses are used almost exclusively in the form of 'dal', except 'chhola', which is often cooked whole for breakfast and is processed into flour (beshon).
- The variety of vegetables and herbs that Bangladesh has to offer is incredible. A host of gourds, roots and tubers, leafy greens, succulent stalks, citrons and limes, green and purple eggplants, red onions, plantain, broad beans, okra, banana tree stems and flowers, green jackfruit and red pumpkins are to be found in the vegetable markets or kacha bazaar. Bitter vegetables like korola satisfy the love for bitter vegetables but palatable flavours. Bangladeshis are also fond of 'Kochu' and various kinds of greens('shak') like palong (spinach), pui, lal shak, kolmi shak, dheki shak, lau shak, kumro shak (pumpkin leaves) etc. which are often cooked with fish or vegetables as a compatible.
- Chicken, beef, fish, goat and mutton dishes are favourites across Bangladesh. In rural areas and small towns, free range chicken and duck are common. Koel and pigeon also have some popularity.
Cooking medium and spices
Shorisha tel (mustard oil) and vegetable oil are the primary cooking medium in Bangladeshi cuisine, although Badam tel (groundnut oil) is also used, because of its high smoke point. Of late, the use of sunflower oil, canola oil and refined vegetable oil, which is a mixture of soybean, and other edible vegetable oils, is gaining prominence. This latter group is popularly known as "shada tel", meaning white oil, bringing out the contrast in colour between the lightly coloured groundnut and the somewhat darker mustard oil and the other white oils. However, depending on type of food, clarified butter (ghee) is often used, e.g., for making the dough or for frying bread.
Bangladeshi food varies between very 'sweet' and mild-to extremely spicy, many tourists even from other South East Asian and Subcontinental countries find the food spicy. It resembles food in other parts of southern Asia, especially North India and Pakistan. There are also slight similarities with South East Asian and North East Indian food customs. The most common condiments, herbs and spices in Bangladeshi cuisine are garlic, onion, ginger, tamarind, lime, saffron, ghee, coriander, jeera (cumin), pudina (mint), bay leaves, turmeric and chili. In sweet dishes, cardamom and cinnamon are among st the natural flavours.
Mustard paste, holud (turmeric), poshto poppyseed), ada (ginger), dhonia (coriander, seeds and leaves) and naikol (ripe coconut usually desiccated) are other common ingredients. 'The pãch poron is a general purpose spice mixture composed of radhuni (Carum roxburghianum seeds), jira (cumin), kalo jira (black cumin, also known as nigella), methi/meti (fenugreek) and elaise (aniseed). This mixture is more convenient for vegetarian dishes and fish preparations. The use of spices for both meat and vegetable dishes is quite extensive and includes many combinations. Examples are the onion-flavored kalo jira (nigella or black onion seeds), radhuni' (wild celery seeds), and five-spice or pach phoron (a mixture of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black cummin, and black mustard seeds). This provides combination of whole spices, fried and added at the start or finish of cooking as a flavouring special to each dish. Whole black mustard seeds and freshly ground mustard paste are also a typical combination. A pungent mustard sauce called kashundi is sauce in snacks or, sometimes makes a base ingredients for fish dishes & vegetable dishes popular in Bangladesh.
Common Bangladeshi recipe styles
The following are a list of characteristic Bangladeshi recipe styles. You can note the influence in the food here. Each entry here is actually a class of recipes, producing different dishes depending on the choice of ingredients. There are different tastes to which the Bangladeshi palate cater to.
- Achar: Pickles. Generally flavored with Mustard oil, Mustard Seeds, Aniseed, Caraway Seed and Asafoetida, or hing.
- Bawra - 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)
- Bhaja : Anything fried, either just after it has been salted or dipped in any kind of water-based batter. Does not include croquettes, or crumb coated items.
- Bhapa : Fish or vegetables steamed with spices.
- Bhate : A vegetable, that has been put inside the pot in which rice is cooking, and it has been cooked along with the rice. Generally, you get potatoes, butternut squash, raw papayas, bitter gourd, snake gourd and okra in the rice. Some often eat it with a tinge of mustard oil and salt. For this, generally "atap chawl" rice, which is a short-grained, glutinous rice that cooks quickly is used, and is preferred to the long grained rice, because of its creamy quality, and ability to become ever so sticky. That aids the dish when it comes to mashing. During the serve, some fresh Ghee or Butter, and salt to taste, to be mixed and mashed by hand into the right consistency, and then eaten. A raw green chili, and a boiled and shelled egg sometimes accompanies this dish.
- Bhorta : Any vegetable, such as potatoes, beans, sour mangoes, papaya, pumpkins or even dal, first boiled whole and then mashed and seasoned with red shallot, fresh chile, mustard oil/ghee and spices.
- Chap: Croquettes, usually coated with crushed biscuit or breadcrumbs.
- Chutney: Generally Bengal is one of the pioneers for this particular dish, making it with everything including preserved mango sheets, called amshotto.
- Dom: Vegetables, especially potatoes, or meat, cooked over a covered pot containing water, slowly over a low heat, slightly steaming. The word is derived from the Dum technique popular in Mughlai food.
- Ghonto: Different complementary vegetables (e.g., cabbage, green peas, potatoes or banana blossom, coconut, chickpeas) are chopped or finely grated and cooked with both a pouron and ground spices. Dried pellets of dal are often added to the ghonto. Ghee is commonly added at the end. Non-vegetarian ghontos are also made, with fish or fish heads added to vegetables. The famous murighonto is made with fish heads cooked in a fine variety of rice. Some ghontos are very dry while others a thick and juicy.
- Kalia: A very rich preparation of meat using a lot of oil or ghee with a spice sauce usually based on ground ginger and fresh shallots pasted or fried along with a tempering of gorom moshla.
- Kofta: Ground meat croquettes bound together by spices and/or eggs served alone or in savory gravy.
- Korma: It involves meat cooked in a mild yogurt based sauce with ghee instead of oil, and often poppy seed paste is added to it. People of Southern Bangladesh are known to add coconut milk to many of their dishes and Korma is no exception.
- Paturi: Generally oily fish is sliced evenly, and then wrapped in a banana leaf, after the fish has been hit by a basting of freshly pasted mustard with a hint of mustard oil, chili, turmeric and salt.
- Posto: anything cooked with poppy seed paste as the main flavoring agent. Often poppy seed paste with some mustard oil is eaten mixed with rice all by itself as a mild beginner in a meal.
- Torkari: A general term often used in Bengal the way `curry' is used in English. The word first meant uncooked garden vegetables. From this it was a natural extension to mean cooked vegetables or even fish and vegetables cooked together.
- Shak: Any kind of green leafy vegetable, like spinach and mustard greens, often cooked till just wilted in a touch of oil and tempering of nigela seeds.
Each dish is to be eaten separately with a little rice or 'ruti' so that the individual flavours can be enjoyed. The typical Bangladesh fare includes certain sequences of food. Two sequences are commonly followed, one for ceremonial dinners such as a wedding and the day-to-day sequence. Both sequences have regional variations, and sometimes there are significant differences in a particular course in Bangladesh.
Ceremonial occasions such as weddings used to have elaborate serving rituals, but professional catering and buffet-style dining can sometimes be seen now. The traditions are far from dead, though; large family occasions and the more lavish ceremonial feasts still make sure that these rituals are observed.
Pickles called 'achar' or murabba are made usually with sharp-tasting fruits such as raw green mango, tamarind, plums, bilimbi or olives. Mustard oil and rice vinegar are used extensively for pickling.
The last item before the sweets is Doi or baked yogurt.It is generally of two varieties, either natural flavour and taste or Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt), typically sweetened with charred sugar. This brings about a brown colour and a distinct flavour.
Sweets and desserts
Bangladeshi cuisine has a rich tradition of sweets. The most common sweets and desserts include:
- Rasgulla/Roshogolla - A sweet made with channa (posset/curdled milk) and sugar syrup. It is one of the most widely consumed sweets. The basic version has many regional variations.
- Sandesh is an dessert created with milk and sugar.
- Chhanar Mithai- A sweet made of channa and sugar/jaggery/molasses. Now there are various types of Chhanar Mithai available made by mithaiwalas all across Bangladesh.
- Pitha - There are more than 200 types pitha made with rice flour, jaggery, coconut & kheer
- Mitha Doi - sweetened homemade creamy yogurt.
- Naru- It is usually home-made and used as offerings in Hindu rituals of praying to their Gods.
- Ras malai/Rosh-malai - small rashgollas in a sweetened milk base; Comilla is famous for its Rash-malai.
- Khaja - Deep fried sweets made with wheat flour and ghee, with sugar and sesame seeds coating.
- Mua - cooked with rice flakes with jaggery.
- Cotton candy/Hawai Mithai - made with sugar & given various forms.
- Chhena is fresh, unripened curd cheese made from water buffalo milk.
- Chhena jalebi/chhaner jilapi made in a manner very similar to regular jalebis except they are made with chhana.
- Phirni or Kheer is a common Bangladeshi sweet dish. Phirni, together with Zarda, is also typical during Shab-e-Barat and Eid. It is cooked with dense milk, sugar/Jaggery, & scented rice (kalajira rice). Though it takes a lot of time to cook it is one of the main features of Bangladeshi desserts. A thicker version of kheer is used as filling in pitha.
- Zarda is a dish of rice that is prepared by sweetening and natural colouring. It is garnished with small gulab jaam and thick kheer.
- Malapua is a type of mishti
- Mitha dahi/ mishti doi is prepared by boiling milk until it is slightly thickened, sweetening it with sugar, either guda/gura (brown sugar) or khajuri guda/gura (date molasses), and allowing the milk to ferment overnight.
- Cham Cham/Chômchôm – Chômchôm, (চমচম) (originally from Porabari, Tangail District in Bangladesh) goes back centuries. The modern version of this oval-shaped sweet is reddish brown in colour and has a denser texture than the rôshogolla. It can also be preserved longer. Granules of maoa or dried milk can also be sprinkled over chômchôm.
- Shemai is vermicelli prepared with ghee or vegetable oil. It is sometimes an ingredient in faluda.
- Balushahis are made from a stiff dough made with all purpose flour, ghee and a pinch of baking soda. One-inch-diameter (25 mm), 1⁄2-inch-thick (13 mm) discs are shaped with hands, fried in ghee or oil and dunked in thick sugar syrup so that there is a sugar coating. They are very sweet, but tasty with a slightly flaky texture.
- Piţha have many varieties (Pakan, Pati Shapta etc.) In Bangladesh, the tradition of making different kinds of pan-fried, steamed or boiled sweets, lovingly known as piţhe or the "pitha", still flourishes. These little balls of heaven symbolizes the coming of winter, and the arrival of a season where rich food can be included. The richness lie in the creamy silkiness of the milk which is mixed often with molasses, or jaggery made of either date palm or sugarcane, and sometimes sugar. They are mostly divided into different categories based on the way they are created. Generally rice flour goes into making the pithe.
Piţhas are usually fried or steamed; the most common forms of these cakes include bhapa piţha (steamed), pakan piţha (fried), and puli piţha (dumplings), among others. The other common pithas are chandrapuli, gokul, pati shapta, chitai piţha, aski pithe, muger puli and dudh puli. The Pati Shapta variety is basically a thin-layered rice-flour crepes with thick kheer filling.
- Akher gur Sorbot – sugarcane liquid jaggery's juice
- Akher Rosh – Sugarcane juice
- Borhani – spicy drink usually in gatherings, banquets and weddings
- Ghol – whisked salted milk
- Khejur Rosh – date palm juice
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