Food is the best way to learn about a place. Bangladesh’s heritage shines through its cuisine. At one time an outpost of the Mughal Empire, Bangladeshi food is based in a rich combination of spices and dried fruits and nuts. Mughal cuisine distinctly features gravies, pilafs, kebabs, and fruit like apricots, peaches, plums and melons.
The Bangladeshi approach to food
A true Bangladeshi meal is comprised of plain rice, khichuri ( a rice dish best described as “everything but the kitchen sink”), lentils, a variety of fish and/or vegetables and Indian chappatti (flat bread used for sopping up sauces and curries). The food can be very sweet or extremely spicy.
The use of fish and flaming hot spice pastes is what makes meal time unique and sets the cuisine apart from her neighbors, India and Myanmar.
As every Bangladeshi knows, “Machh e bhat e Bengali” (Bangla for fish and rice make a Bengali). However, don’t expect to eat a lot of sea fish. A land full of rivers, river fish are by far the most popular and valuable fish. The fish is fried in a spice paste batter and served with rice.
Ground spice pastes
A combination of spices, roots and green chili peppers are ground together and used to flavor everything from meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. Spice paste flavor combinations can include ginger, garlic, red chili peppers, turmeric, onion, cinnamon, coriander, cumin or mustard seeds. Unlike in indian cuisine where the spices are popped in hot oil, in Bangladesh, the spices are ground together with a pestle and mortar.
There are four types of rice dishes, biriyani, pillau, khichuri and bhat (plain rice). Biriyani is rice cooked with chicken, beef or mutton. Pillau is the vegetarian version of biriyani. Khichuri is rice that is cooked with vegetables, lentils and fruit and is often served with meat. Bhat is plain white rice, served with every meal.
Hungry yet? Take a trip to Bangladesh without ever leaving home. Add some excitement to dinnertime and try this basic khichuri recipe.
- 1 cup lentils (yellow moong dal which can be found at asian grocery stores)
- 2 cups rice
- 2 tsp finely diced ginger
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2/3 cinnamon stick
- 2 small bay leaves
- 1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter)
- 4/5 clove
- Wash the rice
- Pan fry the lentils until they begin to soften
- Sautee the ginger and bay leaves in ghee
- Add the rice, lentils and salt to the ginger and bay leaves and cook for 10 minutes on medium to medium-high heat
- Add five cups of boiling water and the salt
- Cover pot once the water comes to a boil
- Simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of red chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric