The economical meal that students enjoy!
Sumaiya Ahsan Bushra
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
In the human body, the tongue has areas which can detect the different tastes of a single food item. As for the Bangladeshi youth, their love for food makes it seem as if all of these areas (bitter, sweet, salty and sour) are working simultaneously. The very thought of food alerts the sensors in their palate and makes them devour the meals to their hearts content! There are several restaurants in Dhaka to meet the needs of such food lovers. Bangladeshi and Indian cuisines always make it to the top of the list and Ashta Banjan is one such place that offers a combination of both.
The Bangla food restaurant located in a dull corner at the end of Katabon is an excellent choice for those who study in nearby universities and colleges. Even though, the place is slightly congested, the piping hot khichuri with the small cubes of mutton or chicken and the rice items can make one go back to the place over and over again. There are wide assortments of items available at the restaurant, such as, Indian items like, kachchi biriyani at Tk 120 (half plate) and Tk 230 (full plate), chicken biriyani at Tk 120, and khichuri at Tk 110-120 per plate. These are some of the hit items at the restaurant as stated by Tanmay Ali, a student of second year Architecture at BUET. He adds, “The destination is close by and the price is reasonable as well. I can eat a lot with a friend or two for Tk 300-400.”
In addition, for those who want to have dinner, mutton boti for Tk 80, sheekh kebab for Tk 70, grilled chicken (quarter) for Tk 75 are available with naan roti for Tk 15 per piece. These are often take-out deliveries made by students who live in nearby hostels. Since these items require extensive preparation, they are not served during lunch hours. Instead, they are dipped in masala mixtures from noon till evening and then grilled according to the customer's choice of order.
Apart from these, if one wants to experiment and try something exotic and desi at the same time then they can opt for the ilish biriyani for Tk 250 or the chingri kichuri for Tk 220. Both are extremely delicious. The succulent pieces of fresh ilish (hilsa) fish mixed with light masalas just melt in one's mouth while the chingri (prawn) kichuri is something out of the ordinary both in terms of taste and fragrance. The presentation of these items will instantly make anyone salivate!
However, if someone wants to have economical food and at the same time a combination of items, then they can opt for the bhaat and bhortas. There are around six to seven types of bhortas depending on availability of vegetables at the market. Aloo, kola, begun and morich bhortas are available at most times, all costing Tk 20 each. In addition, there are deem (boiled egg) bhorta, sheem bhorta, chingri bhorta and occasionally shutki bhorta. Each of these items are a blend of salt, mustard oil, dices of onions, green chilli and the deadly red chilli! Tomato chutney is also one of the most sold items at the restaurant. It is a concoction of heavily spiced red chilli, a 'secret masala' and cumin seeds. Additionally, just before serving the chutney, it is dipped in mustard oil for added flavour.
The mutton rezala and the shorisha ilish with bhaat is a fantastic combo on unpredictable rainy days.
However, for those who think that just bhortas will not be sufficient to satisfy each and every corner of their tummy, they can go for additional desi items like shorisha ilish (hilsa fish dipped in mustard curry) at Tk 200 and above, kobutor er roast (roasted pigeon in gravy) at Tk 230, mutton or beef bhuna at Tk 110-120. The shorisha ilish with bhaat is a fantastic combo on unpredictable rainy days. Other fish curries are also available at a very reasonable price. Riasad Azim, a Master's Student of Social Welfare from Dhaka University says, “I really love their shing mach (cat fish)! It is light and at the same time delicious. I am not used to eating spicy food and believe that it has chances of hampering my body. So, I always go for dishes like mutton curry and khichuri if the fish isn't available”
Abe Jannat, another student from Dhaka University, who studies Urdu at the Master's level explains, “I agree that the spice can be intolerable at times, so I play safe and often opt for items like khichuri, shutki and the mutton curry.”
Ashta Banjan remains empty around the morning. Customers start coming in by 2:00 pm which is the peak hour of serving. A majority of the consumers are students; teachers and young professionals from different academic fields. After a hectic class or a presentation, they come here to fill their hungry stomachs with a delicious Bangladeshi or Indian meal. To serve their customers with loyalty and quality food, the restaurant has a policy to discard items that may rot if kept over night. So all items are cooked on a daily basis and kept fresh to maintain the quality!