Sumaiya Ahsan Bushra
Photos: Md Ata Islam Khan Mojlish
What is it with us Bangladeshi students and rice? Wherever the youth of our nation dwell, rice seems to become an integral part. One such eatery, where rice (bhaat) and all sorts of bhortas are devoured by students from all over Dhaka, is Aftab Restaurant and mini Chinese. Although, the name of the place suggests that Chinese is likely to be quite a choice amongst the customers, it isn't. Students often opt for the local favourite, bhaat and its assortment of bhortas. In addition to that, there is khichuri which is a wide favourite amongst the students.
Located in two different places, one in the famous Nazimuddin road in Old Dhaka and the other in Wari, this place serves as a buzzing hub for students. Most of the students belong to Dhaka University, BUET and other universities around the locality. This place is a top choice for many of them, mostly, because of the price of the food. Rice along with a good variety of bhortas, ranging from chingri shutki, rui macher er dim bhuna to kola and mishti kumra bhorta, all are priced between 10-20 taka. A single person can have at least six bhortas with a plate of rice that costs only 20-40 taka depending on one's appetite and ability to accommodate in the tummy!
In addition to that, for meat lovers there are chicken, beef and mutton curries available. The succulent pieces of chicken are made even tastier, as it is first fried and then dipped in the masala curry for added flavour. Likewise, the beef and the mutton also come in all their glory, positioned as large juicy pieces, mixed playfully in a thick concoction of masala sauce. A plate of chicken curry costs 80 taka, while, the beef and mutton costs 70 taka per plate.
To add a little punch of sweet and sour to your food, there is the tomato chutney where small cubes of tomatoes are semi-smashed and mixed with fried chilly and mustard oil. There is also the mango aachar which is specially made by the chef at Aftab. The mango aachar is like 'a partner in crime' with the mouth watering khichuri.
As the clock strikes 1, large numbers of students in groups begin to enter the restaurant. One group of girls from Dhaka University with their delightful smiles from one end of their face to the other, sit in the dingy corner of
the airy restaurant. When asked about the ambience and the quality of food, they had great things to say. Some of them even advised a particular pick of theirs at the restaurant. Anannya Islam, from the Department of Leather Engineering, Dhaka University, explains, “The main reason we come here is not only because of the food. It takes only half an hour or less to come to this place from our university. Since, some of us live in the hostel; this place is an easy food destination for us. The best thing to have here is the rui mach fry. However, we don't like the Chinese that much here.”
As the owner of the restaurant, Aftab who is commonly referred to as 'Aftab mama' or 'Aftab bhai' explains, “Our khichuri is not like others, mostly because we add our very own spices in it. Additionally, we also mix the rice with dices of tomatoes and potatoes before taking it off the stove. That way, it spreads a different kind of an aroma.” He adds, “Our restaurant is popular because of the price. A student can have a filling meal for 100 taka. And at the same time, since most of our customers are students, we offer discount prizes, if the bill is 300 taka, then we make 10-15% reduction on it.”
Limon Akhter, a student from Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University states, “The food is economical, which is one of the reasons why we keep coming back to this place. Also, the khichuri which costs only 100 taka a plate is quite delicious.”
Last but not least, any place would be incomplete without desserts. Firni and Doi are the two desserts served at Aftab. Both are a fine blend of milk dipped in sugar and are a treat for the sweet tooth. For any young person who loves Bangladeshi sweets, this is a must have as it will immediately get one addicted to it!
Aftab is an excellent hangout and eatery for students, particularly for lunch and dinner. If you want to have a hangout and have fun, then this is a perfect venue to drop by and enjoy a hearty Bangladeshi meal!
Students enjoying Aftab's delicacies.