Guest Post – Five Reasons to Learn to Cook Bengali Food

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When Benjamin, who happens to be a content curator representing mailed us that he wanted to write a guest post for us, we were much overjoyed. And, guess what he wrote about, its not another Bengali recipe but rather the basic reason for thousands of readers to visit us – the reasons to learn to cook Bengali food. Do write to us about your thoughts on why you want to Cook Like a Bong.

If you haven’t spent a lot of time taking classes at one of the many cooking schools found online, you may not have had the opportunity to experience the wonder that is Bengali cuisine. Bengali food comes from Bengal, a region in Southeast Asia, which includes parts of India and Bangladesh. This cuisine often features dishes comprised of a wide range of seafood, legumes and rice, which are complemented with a multitude of freshly prepared vegetables and zesty spices. While Bengali food may appear to be challenging to prepare, in actually it is quite easy. Better yet, the numerous fresh ingredients used in Bengali food also make most meals extremely healthy, so not only will your taste buds thank you for preparing this delicious food, but the rest of your body will as well.

Oh, my, it’s tasty!

One of the many benefits of this cuisine is that it will wake up your taste buds. Bengali cooks rely primarily on fresh seafood and the pick of the harvest in vegetables when preparing their meals. As such, Bengali cuisine tastes much fresher than canned or over-processed foods. The innovative use of spice also transforms fish, vegetable and legume dishes into a savory adventure. It’s been rumored that Bengalis are maybe the most passionate of food lovers in the Indian subcontinent, and a delicious and creative meal is a key part of this region’s culture.

Healthy is as healthy cooks…

Bengalis frequently utilize steaming and stir-fry techniques in preparing their food, which contributes to the overall healthy aspect of this cuisine. The Bengali mainstay of fish is a low-calorie, high-protein food. Fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are helpful in developing eye and brain tissue and key to preventing heart disease. The lentil is another nutritional powerhouse and is generally prepared daily in the dish of dal. Lentils are a great source of low fat protein, and provide a large amount of folic acid, iron and soluble fiber. Likewise, dal eaten in combination with rice provides a complete serving of protein, important for building and repairing muscle tissue. Other common ingredients found in Bengali cooking include mango, garlic, onion, ginger and turmeric, which also have a variety of health benefits.

How much did you say lentils cost?

Bengali cuisine, as a whole, is not only a healthy, but also an inexpensive way to eat. All you need to create a delicious Bengali are a few spice staples; a bag of rice, a bag of lentils, a bottle of cooking oil and a couple of frozen fish fillets. Additionally, you might want to pick up some tomatoes or a mango or two. However, that is about all you need to create a great meal. All that taste, and all that nutrition, is available for minimum cash outlay.

If you can boil water, you can make a dal

While creating a Bengali meal may sound complicated, most recipes require little more than knowing how to chop ingredients and boil liquids. Chances are if you can boil water, you can also make rice. Some recipes also call for meats and vegetables to be stir-fried, but picking up this isn’t too tricky either. Similarly, as long as you understand the basics of steaming foods, you will be able to create many of these exotic tastes in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Faster than a flight to Calcutta!

The best part about learning to cook these meals on your own is that you can bring the striking beauty of Bengali cuisine to your own table. Imagine serving a Bengali-style meal to your family or guests, with a large serving of rice flanked by smaller bowls of dal, fish, vegetables, chutney and dessert. You might also want to offer whole green chilies, lime wedges as well as some pickles with the rice. By simply preparing and experimenting with the varying foodstuffs of other cultures, you can begin to see the world from another vantage point. That journey can be the most delicious of all.

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Remembering 2010 – A Year Gone Past Well

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“Here’s to the bright New Year, and a fond farewell to the old;
here’s to the things that are yet to come, and to the memories that we hold.”

Here’s another new year and new hopes in mind. But, before we usher in the new year with new posts and recipes in our blog, its time for a little backward journey to the year gone past.

As we stepped into this new year, I would say the last year was another year of learning and gaining new experiences. The main aim for 2010 was to gain a niche in the blogging world, and yes we did it.

I would say 2010 was a good year!

In the kitchen there was definitely more to learn. I shifted from Bangalore to Kolkata, now I had the direct access to my mom’s kitchen and whatever she cooks, especially the authentic Bengali recipes. Be it the lotiya vada or the lotiya shutki, dim posto sorse or dimer malpua – 2010 taught me there’s definitely more to Bengali recipes than just panch phoron and posto.

We published our first e-book, Saradiya Rannabati – one that became an instant hit among the Bong food lovers with a first month download crossing thousand. The Cook Like a Bong Facebook page launched in 2010 nurtures a community of more than three thousand Bong foodies with thousands of active users each month who share their comments, recipes and feedbacks. The page has more than 270 recipes contributed by the users.

Nurturing the idea of the Top 7 Bengali Food Bloggers since the end of 2009, we completed the series of interviews of the masterminds behind the best Bengali food blogs on the web. Thanks to all the good ladies to share their valuable time and making our idea a fruitful venture. There were also guest posts from various bloggers and non-bloggers that we featured. We would love to receive more such appetizing recipes and ideas from you all. If you have any unique recipes in mind, cook it, click it and send it to us. A special thanks to all those wonderful people who found us worthy of receiving awards for our work.

For the first time, Cook Like a Bong got the opportunity to review the ready to cook products of Gits Food, a product review on Gits Karai Sutir Kachori was thus published. Next was a restaurant review idea when I won a voucher for a meal for two at Fava, the Mediterranean Restaurant from Food Lovers Magazine, Bangalore.  And of course the Mainland China Cookbook review, a book worth buying and archiving.

Professionally, I am in the verge of gaining a masters degree in Biotechnology, and had an incredible learning experience from my teachers, friends and family. One of my aims in the last year was to develop my photography skills. The stepping stone was 4 of my photographs getting featured in Bangladesh tabloid – Bhorer Kagoj, view more Kumartuli photographs. I started using more of natural lights to photograph my subjects rather than clicking photographs at night with a higher exposure to get the effect of sun light. 2010 gave me the first opportunity to have a taste of wild life photography in the jungles of North Bengal. Photographing tuskers with a search light at the middle of night in the dense forests of Hallong was an experience worth remembering.

Somebody quoted, “He who breaks his resolution is a weakling. He who makes one is a fool.” There aren’t any resolutions for this year, but of course there are some goals to fulfill in 2011, and much more to learn. We would love to know about your comments and feedbacks for our blog, please do comment on the post or write to us through email.

We would love to thank our readers, friends and family for the support they had ushered on us. Wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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Potpourri: The Carnival of Bengali Cuisine Part 2

After the good response (800 views and counting) to Part 1 of Potpourri, we’re here with the second edition. Read on for interesting articles on several aspects of Bengali Food – food in literature and its critique, memoirs, influences, popular culture, restaurants and the bong connection.

Just Eat it

Popular Culture

Sreyashi Dastidar argues that the time around Durga Puja is the ‘sweet season of Bengal’. What else will explain a 20-something, with gelled and spiked hair, shouting “কাকু আমায় আরও দুটো সন্দেশ  [Uncle, 2 more Sandesh please] at a community lunch in a housing complex. Or, crowd noisily demanding “তিরিশটা ছানার গজা” [30 … please] She also outlines the demands of ‘new kids’ and ‘GeNext’ that has forced the sweets entrepreneurs to innovate.

Sample these – a mix of Bengali mishti and north Indian mithai, Kiwifruit Chhanar Payesh, Carrot Rasogolla, Sitaphal Kanchagolla and the likes. A tasty read indeed.

City Bites

4 years back, Shrabonti Bagchi wrote about how several Bengali Restaurants have opened up in cities across India. 6 Ballygunj Place, Oh Calcutta and K C Das in Bangalore, Chowringhee in New Delhi, Howrah in Mumbai and 4 more in Kolkata. Well, since then, more bong eateries have mushroomed outside Bengal. I can count at least 8 in Bangalore, 10 in Mumbai and 4 in New Delhi. This is both due to immigrant bongs and increased awareness of Bengali platter among other communities. I would say probably a third of the clientele of these eateries doesn’t speak Bengali but want to check what Bengalis eat other than Maach (মাছ – Fish) and Rosogolla (রসগোল্লা – Rasgulla). As Shrabonti says, let’s raise our aam porar shorbots (আম পোড়ার শর্বত) to that!

Bengali Groom

Bengali Groom (Model: Jaydev)

Bong Connection

Radheshyam Sharma explains the pains of a vegetarian while eating out in Kolkata. Now imagine hating anything that ‘smells fishy’ (literally) but any restaurant you go to serves fish. Or, has written ‘pure veg’ on its signboard, but essentially doesn’t use separate utensils for meat and fish dishes. Nasty indeed. He gets ‘especially bothered’ if he is invited to Bengali Weddings even though he likes Mishti Doi and other sweets. And all because he can’t stand smell the fish. Smelly Cat must be smiling. 🙂 Another version of the video.

Well, if you know any good Pure Vegetarian restaurant in Kolkata please let him know. I’m sure you would be thanked.


Venu Madhav Govindu presents India’s enduring love affair with food in this Outlook article. He argues that like every other cuisine, Bengali food is also affected by both mindless imitation and the simple expedient of convenience. Well, do you agree with his version?

Critical Eye

Chitrita Banerji (চিত্রিতা ব্যানার্জী  – read her interview with Timeout) is a celebrated author on Bengali food. Three of her popular works are Life and Food in Bengal (released in 1990), Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals (released in 1997) and Hour of the Goddess: Memories of Women, Food, and Ritual in Bengal (released in 2007). In the first book, the author ‘invites the reader to enter, observe, feel and absorb Bengal-the Indian state of West Bengal and the sovereign country of Bangladesh’ [source].

Chitrita Banerji

Chitrita Banerji (Source: TimeOut Dubai)

Evolving Tastes says that the second book talks about the differences and contrasts in food between the various regions in Bengal, of Ghotis and Bangals, of Hindus and Muslims, of rich and poor, of the past and the present, along with plenty of recipes interspersed within the narrative. [Interestingly, if you Google search for ‘Cooking: Seasons and Festivals’, Srivalli’s blog comes right after this book’s Amazon link. :)]

The third book takes you on an idiosyncratic journey through the intricate backlanes of Bengali food, argues Amitabha Mukherjee in an elaborate critique of the book. Here’re two more reviews –  Anuradha Roy’s in Outlook and Arundhati Ray’s in Hindu.

Have you read any of Chitrita Banerji’s books?

You can find the assortment of all these links in StumbleUpon profile of bengalicuisine. Check it out. If you like this post, please consider linking to it or sharing it with others. I’ll love to hear your comments too. You can also Subscribe to BengaliCuisine by Email, or  Subscribe in a reader

Potpourri: The Carnival of Bengali Cuisine #1

Cook Like a Bong completed 100,000 pageviews in its new avatar. Plus, our Facebook page crossed 160 fans [of which, 100 came in last 3 weeks!]. OMG, can’t stop smiling. 🙂



In retrospect, I could see several factors contributing to it, but the discussion deserves a separate post. So, moving on…

To mark the occasion [1 lakh pageviews in 6 months and 100 facebook fans in 3 weeks], we’re starting a new series – Potpourri.

Potpourri: Carnival of Bengali Cuisine

Literally, Potpourri means an assortment of several [incongruous] items. Starting today, every fortnight we plan to share the most interesting ‘discoveries’ [links of course :)] related to bengali food on the internet. Please pass on any interesting link that you come across (over email, comments or facebook).

Whats different from an Event?

Well, many things. For starters, in events we talk about only one aspect of food – recipes. And there too, only the recipes posted on blogs. Even then, several event organizers required you to ‘repost’ the content for participation [never really understood the reason for this extra work]. Thats quite a convoluted requirement and misses an entire gamut of online resources.

Thus, generally events miss several interesting aspects of food – food in movies, literature and music, memoirs, influences, popular culture, restaurants and (unfortunately) the chef.

Potpourri will try and talk about these related aspects – with a single minded focus on Bengali food. We’ll start with a biweekly (once in 2 weeks) post on the interesting reads in several categories. Initially, we expect that most of these links would come from usual browsing (Sudeshna’s and mine). However, we expect that as the series picks up momentum a couple of months later, several of our readers would contribute.

Here we go with the first edition of Potpourri.

Popular Culture

The Telegraph had an article on 50 reasons not marry a Bengali man back in October. Predictably, #1 was his hatred for every fish but Ilish (Hilsa). Another reason was ‘men actually look down on women for chewing fishbones‘. Of the 50 reasons, 20+ were food related. The article became an instant hit and did rapid online rounds. Last Sunday, they came out with.. No prizes for guessing.. 50 reasons not marry a Bengali woman. Could you read and tell how many reasons are related to food?

In my backyard

Andy De talks about his sojourn with Aaheli at Peerless Inn in Kolkata [the post is almost 3 yrs old]. The Bangali Bhadrolok ambiance attracts him and so does the delicacies served (which inlcudes Kacha Aamer Sharbot, Bhetki Paturi and Morolla Maacher Bati Chorchori). Andy asserts that food is raison d’etre of Bengalis and that Bengalis are a tribe of Bon-Vivants (of refined tastes, esp. in food and drinks). Well, we can’t agree more.

City Bites

City Bites

City Bites

Bengalis residing outside Bengal used to crib about non availability of their favorite delicacies. And when they were available, it was either a bastardized version or extraordinarily costly. Well, not anymore. Several restaurants/eateries have opened shop across Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai in recent years.

Kalyan Karmakar writes about his visit to Hangla’s, a bong eatery in Lokhandwala, Bandra, Mumbai. And here’s another take on the same food joint. Nishant Singh, in the post, says – Hangla is changla! Interestingly, both the reviews are quite different. Read it to appreciate the perspective of both sides.

Deccan Herald talks about a couple of Bengali restaurants in Bangalore. The news piece, however, misses Bhajo Hori Manna though, my personal favorite. Looks like I’ll have to take up the cudgels to review this wonderful restaurant.


Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta rediscovered his palate a year back. In this article, he examines the food and cuisine of Bengal in Colonial era. Interestingly, the Brits saahebs distinguished themselves from native bangalis by eating loads of meat. Read the article and Nation on a Platter: the Culture and Politics of Food and Cuisine in Colonial Bengal, by Jayanta Sengupta to know more.

Salivating Sight

Salivating Sight (Models: Sujit and Amit)


Your last Ilish Curry may only be a couple of years away. Jaideep Mazumdar explains in this Outlook article. The culprit – wrong timing of catching the fish. Ilish swims from the sea up a river to spawn.It lays eggs and gets back, and thats when it should be caught. But it’s usually caught on its journey from the sea to the river. This, plus the surge in the demand for Ilish during off season. Next stop? Ilish from Gujarat. But, can the bong taste bud appreciate Gujju Hilsa?

You can find the assortment of all these links in StumbleUpon profile of bengalicuisine. Check it out.

If you like this post, please consider linking to it or sharing it with others. I’ll love to hear your comments too. You can also Subscribe to BengaliCuisine by Email, or Subscribe in a reader

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