Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 25, Tuesday, June 22, 2010

 

 

Review

A lip-smacking read

IF Anthony Bourdain or Bobby Chin were to visit Bangladesh and do a show on our cuisine where would they start? And on top of everything what would they show? This was a question that frequented my mind whenever these shows were on air or their re-runs were on.

Does Bangladeshi food have that eclectic mix of Indian cuisine or that richness of Chinese food? These uneasy queries kept niggling me. Being a patriotic soul I tried my best to defend our gourmet specialities by chalking up an imaginary list but was always in doubt as to whom they would talk to.

I couldn't come up with a single name that could match the wit and knowledge of these two bad boys of Travel and Living until I found the book tittled 'Khunti Korai- Bideshi Ranna' by Shawkat Osman, the sequel to his first cookbook 'Khunti Korai Bangladeshi Cuisine'.

The book is about the Far East Cuisine - with recipes from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines Islands.

While going through this unique, thoroughly researched recipe book in Bangla, you just get this feeling that the writer has indeed done his homework meticulously and knows what he is talking about.

He will guide even a novice through Tom Yang Goon or Egg Drop soup or take you smoothly through Bulgogi soup and make Vietnamese Clay Pot, or something as easy as tossing a salad. His main objective here is to allow everyone to try out these recipes at home and most importantly find the ingredients at the local market. He chalks out a practical plan for his readers.

We Bangladeshis love to eat and we have a unique passion for all things spicy and hot. We are now boldly experimenting and our tastes are increasingly leaning towards the cosmopolitan flavour.

Our restaurants catering Korean, Japanese, Indonesian food are always brimming to the full, which only shows how much we have adapted.

Osman's book on these cuisines and that too written in Bangla has indeed done our men and women interested to cook these exotic dishes at home, a big favour. Osman in this regard has done what Julia Child did for the Americans; she simplified French Cuisine for the west, and Osman simplified the mysterious and outlandish Far East for us.

The book is priced at Tk 600 and is available in bookstores around the city like Sagor Publishers, Gaan Kosh, Aarong, Aziz Super Market.

About the writer
Shawkat Osman, a businessman living in Dhaka, once loved to go out on hunts, but only to accompany his friends. On these expeditions he used to cook for the group, and cooking became one of his passions ever since.

Soon, people began to take notice of his skills and delicious creations. One such admirer, Neema Rahman, a performer/director/producer, invited Omsan to host a television cookery show. Some time later Sara Zaker arranged a cookery show on Kolkata-based Tara TV. He fondly named his show Khunti Korai (the two essential utensils needed by a Bengali cook).

He has since published his recipes in many magazines. His first book is 'Khunti Korai: Bangladeshi Cuisine', simultaneously published by Mapin (India) and Grantha (USA).

The theme of this book is aappayon, the art of entertaining guests according to Bangladeshi traditions. Getting together to share good food is at the centre of aappayon - and everything that you need to entertain the Bangladeshi way is here in this book.

It will help make the food on your table pleasurable for both your guests to enjoy, and for you to prepare. His other books are 'Recipes of the Raj', a cookbook on Dhaka Club specialties, and 'Birds', a fascinating all-inclusive bird cookbook; the recipes of which range from the diminutive Quail to the indispensable egg, from the ubiquitous chicken to the corpulent duck.

The compilation also features foreign favourites that have taken root in local taste buds.

Shawkat Osman looked back to the past to generate interest for the future generation in Bangladeshi food. A passionate lover of Russian novels and Suchitra Sen films, he wears many hats: businessman, food writer, anchor of the first-ever food shows on Bangladeshi television and impresario par excellence. He is also the only Bangladeshi to host and cook on two Indian TV Channels: Tara News and TV Southasia.

Fiercely proud of Bangladeshi tradition, he also argues that our great delicacies are all results of intermingling of diverse culinary streams - Persian, Turko-Afgan, Vedic-Hindu, Muslim-Arab and British, as well as our very own local ethnic tributary.

He has successfully organised the acclaimed Bangladeshi Food Festival in Dhaka, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, ensuring Bangladeshi food its rightful place in the epicurean world has always been his life's passion.

By Raffat Binte Rashid


Aappayon

RAINY days mean khichuri, fried aubergine slices, spicy omelettes, and deep-fried hilsa steaks. On a warm summer day the simple miracles of cool water falling from the sky makes one feel romantic.

A rainy day spent indoors can be delightfully elevating. As the rain pours down, it fills your home with sound and comfort -- you begin to fully appreciate the loveliness of being snug and dry in a wet, wet world.

You may even feel compelled to cook a minimal meal with whatever you have in your pantry and be happy. That's when a shower that seems to have confined you to your home will seem more beautiful and wondrous than ever.

The pitter-patter sound of the rain soothes you. Trust me, every cloud that appears in our lives has a silver lining to it. Enjoy the rain, and maybeyou can try this menu; Baygoon mosla bhaji, Mumlet, Deshi khichuri, Morich bhorta, Aada cha

Spicy shallow fried aubergine (Baygoon mosla bhaji)
This is my mother's recipe. It is important to cook the dish unhurried. It requires skilful handling to get the desired results. Even if the vegetable absorbs all the oil while cooking, do not panic; just add some more to help the frying.

Soon the "baygoon" (aubergine) will release the excess oil back in the "korai". A "baygoon" is a bit like a sponge in term of soaking liquid. When heated past a certain point, though, the sponge structure breaks down and releases back all the liquid it soaked up.

Serves 6
Ingredients:
2 pear-shaped aubergines
½ tbsp + 1 tsp salt
2 tbsp onion paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp ghee
4 tbsp soya oil
1 tsp kali jeera (nigella)

Method:
Slice the aubergines diagonally into 1.5cm-thick large round pieces. Sprinkle ½ tbsp salt and let these drain (macerate) in a strainer for an hour. Wipe dry, using kitchen towels.
In a mixing bowl, put onion paste, garlic paste, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and 1 tsp salt and blend well.

Add the aubergine slices to the mixing bowl; coat them evenly on both sides, with this spice mixture. Set aside for 10 min.

Heat ghee and oil in a non-stick wok or saucepan. When fat is sufficiently hot, take the wok or saucepan off the flame and toss in the nigella.
Set the flame to its lowest point, and return the wok or saucepan back to the flame.

As soon as the seeds stop sizzling, slide in the aubergine pieces in twos and threes and cook slowly, turning the pieces very gently, 3 to 4 times.

It requires long, slow cooking for the mosla (spices) to become dark brown. Be careful not to char the mosla.

Note:
To test the ripeness of the deep purple aubergine, gently press with a finger or thumb. If the surface is too hard, the baygoon is not ripe. If you are able to make a dent but the flesh does not bounce back once you remove your finger, it is overripe and may have mushy spots inside.

If you can make a little indent that lasts for a second then fills out again, the vegetables are just right for cooking.

Do not buy any that sounds hollow inside if you knock on them, or the ones that have bruised and softened or have brown spots.

Spice omelette (Mumlet)
Often, a mumlet (omelette), though well-cooked on the surface, remains runny inside. While a regular omelette is set by having the egg scrambled, the Bangladeshi version is rolled, as opposed to flat, and ideally ought to have a completely smooth, deep golden surface, well done in the middle.

The egg mixture used to make an omelette contains herbs and spices. However, you can add cream or milk if you like to make them fluffier. Remember to cook omelettes just before eating them. Make 3 omelettes to serve 6 persons.
This recipe is for making one omelette.

Serves 6
Ingredients:
2 eggs, ¼ tsp salt, 2 green chillies, chopped, ½ onion, chopped, 1 tbsp ghee.

Method:
Break eggs into a bowl, whisk well with a fork. Add salt, chillies and onions, and blend in. Mix well, using a fork.

Place a large non-stick 20cm saucepan over a medium flame. The bigger the pan, the thinner the omelette and the faster it will cook.

Pour ghee into the pan. Once it heats up, tip in the eggs, and let the mixture set for about 30 seconds.

Stir continuously with a wooden or rubber spatula.
Cook until the eggs are at a runny scrambled egg stage, brush the uncooked egg towards the centre of the pan so that it cooks evenly.

Spread the egg out evenly over the surface of the pan, stop stirring and let it set over low heat (stop stirring when the egg mix spreads out and solidifies into a smooth omelette, without turning brown). Don't cook the eggs too long, or they tend to go rubbery. About ½ minute per side is enough.

When the edges of the omelette turn light opaque, fold these over into itself, tilt the pan and lightly tap the handle so that the omelette comes off the pan.

Roll the omelette using khunti (spatula) and place on a serving dish, seam-side down. Slice the omelette into two and serve.

Deshi khichuri (Rice and mung bean dish)
This is the most basic recipe of our common "khichuri"; if you want a watery gruel ("patla khichuri"), add more hot water in the end. Adding a lot of water at the beginning will make a mishmash of the grains.

Keep stirring the mixture and scraping the bottom of the pot thoroughly with a wooden spatula ("khunti") from time to time so that the cooking does not get stuck to it. Even the slightest burning of the bottom layer will ruin the flavour.

If the gruel starts sticking to the pot, add ¼ cup hot water and stir vigorously. The earlier you put the chillies, the hotter the "khichuri" will be. As chillies disintegrate they release pungency into the gruel.

Generally, it takes about 12 to 15 min for the "khichuri" to be ready.

Serves 6
Ingredients:
500g moong daal, 500g aatop rice (rice kernel), 4 tbsp mustard oil, 4 sticks of cinnamon, 2.5cm long, 5 whole cardamom pods, gently cracked, 5 whole cloves, 2 tejpata (bay leaves)
1 tsp cumin seeds, 4cm ginger, finely chopped, 1½ tsp turmeric powder, 2 tsp salt, 6 green chillies, 1 tbsp ghee, Hot water.

Method:
Heat a tawa (griddle), dry-roast the moong daal until it releases fragrance.

Rinse the rice and daal separately under running water and drain in a sieve. Drain separately and dry for 15 minutes.

Heat the mustard oil in a pot. Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves. Cook for a couple of minutes, undisturbed until fragrant.

Toss in cumin seeds and chopped ginger. Saute for 2 min and then add the rice and saute again for another 2 min.

Now add the moong dal. Add turmeric and mix well. Saute, stirring for another 2 min.

Pour hot water. The water level should be 4cm above the rice and daal.

Once the water comes to a boil, add salt and green chillies. Reduce the flame to low and partially cover the pot with the lid, to let some steam escape.

Check the grains of rice and daal every 5 min; stir often, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula.

When most of the water has evaporated and the surface of the rice becomes "pitted", sprinkle with ghee and place the lid back on tight.

Cook on low heat for 10 min.

Chilli crush (Morich bhorta)
A common relish made with dry chilli, onion, and oil.
Serves 6
Ingredients:
12 dry red chillies, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp mustard oil, 3 red onions, chopped.

Method:
Heat a griddle, dry-roast the red chillies until they release a pungent smoke.
Shift the chillies to a flat surface, let them cool and turn crunchy.
Transfer the chillies to a mortar and pound them to form rough grits.

Place the chilli grits in a small bowl. Add salt, oil and onions. Mix the ingredients together without working a fine blend and serve.

Ginger tea (Aada cha)
Aada cha or ginger tea is believed to be a good antidote for the common cold. The hot spicy drink helps relieve the drinker of a sore throat on damp, rainy days.
Serves 6
Ingredients:
7 cups of water, 4 cloves, 5cm-long piece of ginger, sliced thin, 6 tsp of Sylhet or Assam tea leaves

Method:
Put water, cloves and ginger in a pot and bring to a high boil.
Cover the pot, set the flame low and simmer for 10 min.
Next, toss in the tealeaves; remove pot from the heat and cover.

Let the leaves steep in the water for 3 minutes. Strain the liquid into individual cups. Serve with sugar and milk in separate pots.

 

THE first year they met it was a cold winter. He was born in the winter so he embraced the gushing cool winds with open arms. She was born smack in the middle of summer and naturally hated winter and during this time she would have bouts of depression resulting in hour-long fights while the shameless naked trees outside watched them bicker over layers of empty confusion.

In between these fights sometimes she would leave to go smoke a cigarette outside, striking up conversations while the dry tear marks on her face always made the person she talked to desire to get to know her. Her summer-sick frozen heart would gain confidence through these random conversations with the people on the street, and while they blew smoke at each other she would feel better and realize how much she is in love with the man she left inside the apartment. And then she would abruptly put out her cigarette and rush in, leaving the stranger who she was speaking to with a sense of alluring mystery; something she liked to spread anywhere she could.

The second year went by really fast; she had gone away seven times for work. He felt like she was going further away from him each time she hopped on a plane. If he were alone at home watching television he would stall while changing channels if Oprah was on with Dr. Phil and they covered catch phrases like “growing together or growing apart.” It worried him; he bit his nails and got mildly intoxicated. He realized by now that he was in love with her and losing her would be a terrible, terrible thing.

So he proposed the next time she came back in town, so that she'd stay and get occupied in weaving the traditional dream. And with a 'yes” and a ring on the finger she finally felt like she had grown up. They got married within months. She quit smoking.

The third year after they met it was a long summer. The heat was unbearable, the humidity dripping. Smoke would come off the concrete roads, the air was still and heavy, floating. The newlyweds didn't feel much of the heat. They were too busy to notice summer, winter, or spring. They had a life to live, lives to create.

The fourth year was still; it was like the first minus the fights. No one gained or lost any weight, no one showed less affection or more. It was comfortable by now to expect anything and nothing. It was like the picture books without the white picket fence since she refused to move to the suburbs and often went off on soccer moms in vans for cutting her off in the middle of the city. “Stay in the boonies” she would yell, pressing hard on her breaks. That was the most angry you would see her getting in those days…

The fight year after they met… well you know, no revolutions took place in the world, the trees grew straight, life went on like a bad movie with a happy ending… boring even with popcorn… not a good story to tell.

 
 

 

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