Food – the true ethos of a Bengali

Food – the true ethos of a Bengali
Bengali Dinner at Grand Hyatt –
Food Review
“There is no sincerer love
than the love of food”, that’s what we all have read and remember as having
said by George Bernard Shaw. But any average Bengali would swear by these
words.
Right through my childhood
days when I had many Bengali friends, one thing that I had learnt and can say
with conviction about Bengalis is that they do not eat to live, rather they
live to eat.
So, when I was invited for a
Bengali dinner at the Soma Restaurant of the Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, I gladly agreed because I knew that
this is one night I would be able to live the grand life of a Bengali.
Bengalis are generally known
to argue on random facts of life, but when it comes to food and politics, they
all surely have a common point of view. As a Bengali for the evening, I too did
not have any arguments on the food that was served.

Appetizers:
I started off with Narkeler Bora, the deep fried coconut patties. The
Patties are made of freshly grated coconut mixed with onion, green chilli, salt
and sugar and mixed with refined flour for binding.
On the non-veg front, I was
served the Murgir Pathisapta which is a
chicken mince wrap. The chicken is cooked in a paste of onion, tomato, garam
masala, cumin seed powder and onion seeds and a dash of egg and salt and then
minced and stuffed in a rice crepe and pan fried.

Main
Course:
Though Bangalis are
predominantly non-vegetarians, dinner menu had a great variety of vegetarian fare
to savour my palate. The first to be served was Alu
Posto, which are baby potatoes cooked with poppy seed paste and turmeric
and green chilli for the gravy.
The curry served was a bit
sweet to my palate though I later understood that the average Bengali cuisine
has that slight sweetish tinge along with the spiciness. Chenar Dalna that I had is cottage cheese dumpling
cooked in a onion-tomato and cashew nut gravy with a fair amount of sugar added
for sweetness.
I was quite comfortable getting
back to the non-veg wagon as the Betki Paturi,
the Betki fish filet steak marinated in whole grain mustard and green chilli
and steamed to perfection in banana leaf, just melted in my mouth.
I had known that mutton has a
reasonable share of popularity in the Bengali platter and so I was eagerly
awaiting the Kasha Mangsho. This traditional
lamb shank preparation is the Bengali variant of the north Indian Bhuna Gosht fried
in mustard oil till light brown and well done and then cooked in a garam masala
gravy.
No Indian meal is over without
the rice, dal and the bread and so for me there was Cholar
Dal, the bengal gram lentils cooked with coconut and tempered in ghee with
whole cumin seeds, ginger, chopped green chilli and hing. Candidly, I need to
admit that I found the dal too a bit sweet to my palate.
The rice option was the Ghee Bhat, another of the Bengali favourite, which
is the Gobindo Bhog rice steamed and then cooked with a magnanimous amount of
the zarana ghee.
The bread served was the Loochi, which is the refined flour bread kneaded
with sugar and salt and deep fried in ghee. Though the chef had suggested that
it goes well with the cholar dal, I loved tasting it all by itself.

Desserts:
The Manolova
Nalen Gurer Malpua, the Bengali variant of the Rajasthani sweet is
different that this fennel flavoured refined flour dumpling is soaked in a date
jaggery syrup. The Nalen Gur is a seasonal favourite of Bengal and the malpua
was really a perfect match to the treat earlier.
I wouldn’t have walked out
being a perfect Bengali without tasting the Rossogolla.
A common sweet by now in every part of the country, the Bengali Rosogolla, which
is poached cottage cheese dumpling in sugar syrup, is made only with chenna,
which is a variety of cottage cheese prepared from fresh cow milk and is much
softer in appearance than paneer.

As I travelled back home with
a stuffed tummy munching on the Bangla Pan,
I was pretty sure that whenever I am grouchy or irritable, a Bengali dinner is
surely going to change my mood. This is something which will make even a
dyspeptic change his opinion about food.
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