Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 45, Tuesday, April 13, 2004




baishakhi hang outs

POHELA Baishakh is a festival that roots deep into our identity as Bangalis. The musical soiree at dawn, the traditional festive rally of the fine arts institute, the countless melas all bring out the Bangali within us. It is no wonder that the grandeur of these public events obscures subtle traditions like a family get-together. But who can deny the sense of joy that can only be felt by seeing a face that has long been out of touch. Words can barely do justice. The rigors of daily life mean a lot as the close ones hardly ever get to meet. Such an occasion is the prefect time for rekindling old acquaintances.

Ramna Batamul is one place that should definitely be visited. Women attired in 'shada saree with lal-par' and men in panjabis, the true Bangali spirit of the occasion may be experienced here. However, we do say that the panta-ilish at Batamul is something that can be enjoyed by all members of the family, mainly because of the atmosphere and the festivities accompanying the food on Pohela Boishakh.

After the outing in the morning, how about relaxing at home? The food only spices up the conversation and as time progresses the mood for a pleasant day just sets in. Gathering in a cosy corner of the family living, sipping hot tea with salted nuts and lentil seeds the conversation can continue till the heart is fully satisfied. Just in the middle of the conversation in comes kacha amer sherbet or the cool tarmarind juice to supplement the snacks. Before you can keep track of time lunch is served. Mother's take pride in what they serve on such special occasions.

Food is placed not on the dinner table but on the floor. The aroma of steaming lal birohi, fried egg plants, and bhaja rui tantalizing the taste buds and watering our mouths. The garnishing takes centre stage, as it has become a form of art. Before your tongues can relish the food that is already served out comes the delight's of mama's kitchen in the order of mint chatni, shutkir bhorta, and kathaler echor cooked with shrimp or chicken. Shundhi daal (a concoction of five different kinds of lentil) cooked with ghee is the next attraction. Finally time for dessert- yoghurt, chomchom and kulfi.

Pohela Boishakh is finely associated with walks on the streets, which are colourful from all the other pedestrians, and the one highlight that adds spice to the whole occasion is the enjoyment of the vibrant street life during the festival. People sing and dance, play their dhols and really have a blast throughout the day. If arranging a feast at home seems too much of a hassle on Pohela baishakh, you can very easily go out for lunch. Some restaurants have a name for themselves in the field of Bengali food while others offer special dishes highlighting the festive occasion. Keeping this in mind, we bring to you places you can visit on Pohela Boishakh for a meal or two, in the company of loved ones and with the Bengali New Year out in full swing.

Kasturi is the one name that is prominent when it comes to Bangali cuisine. The restaurant has been maintaining its great quality food for a decade or so now. The restaurant is a great place to take your friends and family, although it may be a bit hard on the wallet. Kasturi sets great standards with service and it also offers good food. Muri ghonto, fish cutlet and shorshey ilish are items that stand out in the menu. They also have a good variety of bhortas. Kasturi has a good atmosphere and does give its customers something to talk about later. An average meal for about 4-5 people would cost around Tk.800-1000.

Nirob Hotel is another small hotel located near Bakshi Bazar, which is renowned for its variety of bhortas. It has about 20 different types bhortas and its mogoj masala (brain masala) is also worth trying out. Nirob has been a great place for food lovers to eat to their hearts delight and is pretty reasonable.

Suruchi food court, located in Mumtaz plaza (Road#4) at Dhanmondi, is relatively a new place offering different cuisines, such as European, Indian, Thai and Bangladeshi. However, Suruchi shall offer traditional Bangladeshi cuisine on Pohela Boishakh. The food court shall offer dishes such as panta-ilish and 'morich-piaz bhaja' from 6 in the morning. For lunch, they shall offer a variety of 'bhortas', tomato chatni and the traditional 'ilish with kochu shak', a dish that should not be missed. Amongst other dishes, narikel chingri (prawn with coconut) and deshi chicken dopiaza stand out. The restaurant has a nicely decorated interior and the prices are pretty reasonable. It's a nice place to take the family and the service is very good.

Another food place in Dhanmondi, offering good Bangali cuisine is Boishakhi. The restaurant is located in the Kashba Centre, just on top of Western Grill. Boishakhi has been known for its Bangali cuisine for quite some time now, and their usual menu offers great bhortas, together with rice. Amongst their bhortas, the chingri (prawn) and the daal (lentil) are items that must be tried out. Boishakhi also has beef and chicken curry. Amidst fishes, they have different dishes for 'rui mach', pomfret and hilsha.

Dhanshiri Khabar, with its branches in Dhanmondi and Gulshan-II, is another Deshi restaurant that can be vouched for it's quality. Dhanshiri gives Gulshan dwellers a good taste of Bangali cuisine and at reasonable prices. The restaurant intends to celebrate the Bengali New Year with a month-long Bengali Food festival, and event that promises to be great for food lovers. On Pohela Boishakh they shall also offer special dishes marking the occasion and shall introduce a 10% discount for all customers. The special dishes for Pohela Boishakh include pantha ilish, ilish khichuri, shorshey ilish and ilish polao. The spotlight definitely falls on hilsha and rice at Dhanshiri. Amongst other dishes, the different bhortas should also be tried out. The Dhanshiri branch in Dhanmondi is located in the 2nd flood of the Orchid Plaza, whilst the one in Gulshan is located near the ex-Gulshan-II circle on the ground floor.

Amongst other hotels or restaurants, Sylvana Foods and Mouly Restora in the BSMMU (formerly IPGMR) building, are quite popular with the students of Dhaka university. They do offer Bangla food at cheap prices although the quality may not be the same as other restaurants. However, the atmospheres in these small hotels are definitely 'jomjomat' or hustling, adding a different experience with the cuisine. Hotel 3 Star, near the Moghbazar crossing and at the end of Bangla motor, is a restaurant that has a rich history. The hotel serves good quality bengali food, all at really reasonable prices. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, all Bangali style. This is again a nice to place to go with your friends, but it probably would not be good to visit it with your family. They are not organising anything special for Pohela Boishakh but their usual menu does offer a lot of variety when it comes to dishes. The 'Pangash and the Rui mach' should definitely be tried out here, along with the different curry's. They also have great taki mach and chingri bhorta.

Desh Bondhu, located opposite to the Ittefaq office, is one place that is reknowned for its bhaji and paratas. The bhaji is a combination of different vegetables cooked together with pachforon (five different spices), giving it a unique taste. This can be a nice place to check out a new style of cuisine during the afternoon on Pohela Boishakh.

A good meal should always be wrapped off with a mouthwatering misti paan and stadium market is the best place for that, however a small paan stall besides Hotel Nirob is our recommendation. You can get the sweetest of paan here served with even sweeter smile from the paanwalla. You can visit the new Paan Supari at Momtaz Plaza in Dhanmondi but be aware of their rude mannerism.

Whatever you plan to do try to have a blast on Pohela Boishakh and remember that everyone is celebrating for one purpose; the crowning of a New Year, Bangali style.

By Mishel Ali Khan and Mannan Mashhur Zarif



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