Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5 Issue 28, Tuesday, July 13, 2010



Happiness in a bowl

So, what did you eat for breakfast this morning? More likely than not, it was cereal. In fact, cereal isn't even just a breakfast food. You could have eaten it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack in between. You could have eaten it in a bowl with milk, in a bowl without milk, or just by taking handfuls right out of the box. Cereal is one of those anytime foods. And it makes sense too. It's as quick and easy as can be, and it just so happens that most cereals taste fantastic.

Of course, not all breakfast cereals are equal. Despite coming in similar sized boxes, with similar shaped pieces, for similar priced prices, there are quite a few differences between most cereals. Some claim to be high in whole grains and fibre and a good source of vitamins and minerals, and also good for your heart and cholesterol. Others however just want you to see their "wacky" cartoon characters and "fun" shapes and colours. Still, the biggest differences lie not on the front of the cereal boxes, but rather on the back.

Of course, there are many different brands of cereals. The most famous being Kellogg's, but Wheetabix, Cheerios, Quaker Oats, or Nestle have just as much to offer. Even being under the same brand, the various kinds of cereals have their own differences in the amount of vitamins and minerals. Some suit growing children more, helping with the development of their body and mind. The elderly need nutrition that can energize them and keep their bones from becoming brittle.

The healthiest cereals for adults are made with whole grains and not much else. If you're trying to lose weight, control cholesterol or diabetes, or just need a lot of energy, your best bet is a cereal with whole grains and a lot of fibre.

Kids don't need as much fibre as adults, but they still need some. They need every kind of vitamins and minerals for growth. What you'd want for your kids is a cereal with all kinds of minerals and vitamins included for their health but you have to make sure... it tastes delicious! Kids tend not to like healthy food for the way they taste but Kellogg's and other brands have a lot more than health to offer in their cereals. Cereals are fruit flavoured, chocolate flavoured and so much more. If not that, then you can always add a little bit of banana, strawberries, mangoes or bits of chocolate cookies to add a little flavour to your child's cereal according to his/her taste. You can also mix some Ovaltine or cocoa powder into the milk and you kids are BOUND to love it!

Here in Dhaka, you can buy all types of breakfast cereals in supermarkets such as Agora, PQS, Nandan and such. There are of course our local cereals that are just as healthy and more accessible. Shuji is one of the favourites. Whether it is just taken with milk or made into halwa, like any other branded cereal Shuji is just as healthy and just as delicious. Chira is used mostly during the month of Ramadhan as it's said to cool down your stomach. Some chira with some mishti doi is scrumptious and healthful at any time of the day. And of course, there's khoi that you can eat with milk and some bananas on the side.

Breakfast cereals don't only make for the best breakfast but it can energize you at any time of the day. Feeling tired and hungry due to the weather surrounding is very common. Make yourself a bowl of cereal and you'll be good to go for the day!

By Naziba Basher

Eating out

Le Saigon

In the past one decade the eatery scenario of Dhaka has gone through a massive transformation. Starting from fresh sushi to authentic pizza, spicy Thai to palate-tempting continental - Dhaka city is now bustling with flavours from all over the world. Nonetheless, the scene is still dominated by a medley of restaurants serving a mishmash of cuisines at once - Thai, Chinese, Malaysian and some occasional Indonesian. In this scenario, upholding the much tastier flag of Vietnam is Le Saigon. It's been five years since the inception of this wonderful restaurant and it is still growing strong.

Since its inauguration in June 1, 2005, Le Saigon has been a constant favourite joint for Dhaka socialites. "Even before starting they understood it will take some time for the city to get used to the tantalizing palette Vietnamese cuisine has to offer," said Farhan Quddus. Vietnamese cuisine is influenced by the Asian principle of five elements, and dishes are made in the way that it appeals to all five senses. This cuisine is characterized by its use of herbs and spices and the balance between the flavours. Vietnamese cooking style also varies from the regions of the country. The north opts for a blander palate, with more grills and less gravy items, whereas in the south, the taste leans more towards spicy curries and wetter dishes. All these might have been muddled together into a gastronomic disaster if not executed properly and that is where Le Saigon is applauded.

All the food items of the menu are a perfect balance of the five flavours: Spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Their Pho Bo, the bona fide Vietnamese beef noodle soup is the must-try dish for every food lover. It's a fragrant clear soup with fillets of beef, bean sprouts and rice noodles tossed with green herbs and served the way it is supposed to be served: with all the condiments and broth separated, it can be made according to one's taste right at the table. The best part about their menu is the constant change so it never gets boring. Each time, Le Saigon has something interesting and not to mention tasty to offer.

But just a la carte service might not be the hook to captivate the Dhaka socialite for five years. It is now known for its cosy evening music sessions. The scrumptious feast along with music performance of the city's grooviest performers - it cannot get better than this. The start of Thursday evening shows was a great booster for promoting the restaurant. At present, with jazz evenings and rock and roll and R & B nights, Le Saigon has gathered a team of loyal clientele who would return twice every month for these shows. During these events they took the liberty to fuse some of the dishes with east and west flavour, mostly already done so in Vietnamese cooking. The menu for the shows is a big lure for the fan following of Le Saigon.

Besides music they have also started a quiz night, which is on its 36th month running, an extremely popular jam-packed event held every month. Needless to say Le Saigon not only stands as a Vietnamese restaurant but also a place for entertainment.

Their plans for the immediate future is to start a soup, noodle, sandwich buffet where Vietnamese baguette sandwiches, soup and noodles will be cooked in front of you in the form of a buffet. Vietnamese street food is known around the world, not only for its taste but also for its variety. This is something any food lover of Dhaka will relish.

Le Saigon has always been a pioneer when it comes to charity fund raising. During the floods two years ago, they had a show with Renaissance playing for free and people donated art works and just about anything, raised Tk66,000 for the Chief Advisor's fund and then during Alia, they had a tremendous show where Tk1,50,000 were raised, which they gave to the army aviation wing. Recently, after the Nimtoli tragedy, they raised Tk2,10,000 for the bereaved family.

Delicious food and exciting entertainment - Le Saigon has ceased to be just a restaurant. It has become Dhaka's socialite hotspot, creating memorable experiences with each bite of food.

By Tanziral Dilshad Ditan
Photo courtesy: Le Saigon

Where do I begin?

PHUCHKA at Dhanmondi 5? Omlette and paratha at Paribag? Fried potato chips at Dhaka College? Green mango with mustard at Shilpokola?

The list goes on and on.

My love affair with street food travelled with me to Dhaka. And stayed with me for the seven years of my tenure there.

My first taste of street food in Dhaka was on the very first day.

I had just reached office from airport. In true Bangladeshi welcoming tradition, my boss and I did not discuss work but food. He wanted me to have daalpuri. I readily agreed.

Being from Kolkata, my impression of daalpuri was fried soft flatbread stuffed with daal to be eaten with potato curry.

What was served to me was a hard flat fried stuff, kind of like a deep fried disc. No accompaniment but salt and green chilli. I knew I was in a different country. I got to love the guilt-laden crunch that yielded to the mildly spicy filling that is daalpuri.

Within a week of my being in Dhaka, the guys decided, partly at my insistence, that I should get a grand tour of the city. And that included the old city.

Off we went to see the old fort. Resplendent in spring sun, the fort presented a very fine story of the past.

But what really got me going was the lane next to the fort. Dotted with small bakeries (I do not know what else to call them) each fitted with what appeared to be tandoors. Each with a mound of round flaky white stuff. Bakarkhani. I had well and truly arrived. Strangely pliable and flaky at the same time, the apparent tastelessness at the first bite leads to a subtle lingering softness on the tongue. The perfect companion for sweet milky tea.

A little later that year, it was time for my first encounter with Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali New Year.

A bunch of us went properly decked in ethnic attire. The vibrancy, the colours, the energy, the joie de vivre simply blew me away. Nothing prepares you for a full on Pohela Boishakh celebration in Dhaka. Processions, bands, street plays, chorus singing, recitations, impromptu fairs, the city comes alive.

The kind spring sun had given way to the harsh, unkind summer heat. The alluring smell of green mango wafted in the heavy air. We followed our noses and came upon a vendor, who with incredible dexterity was finely chopping green mangoes, putting them in a paper cup and tossing it with a healthy splash of home ground mustard paste. And for the intrepid, there was a dash of red-hot chilli powder. I knew I was in for the long haul.

As time passed, I grew more and more comfortable in my role and started to make many friends. A group of young, bright guys were my regular hangout mates. I am yet to come across a brighter, more talented bunch of people. The group used to gather after the day's work and chat about everything under the sun. We would gather at a convenient place and then take rickshaws home. On one such trip, all of us felt pangs of hunger as we were passing by the National Museum. It was well past midnight with nary a shop in sight. We spotted one burning fire with a pan on it. The man was selling omelette and parathas. Simple stuff. Warm stuff. Filling stuff. My bond with Dhaka became even stronger.

At work, some of us like minded people started eating out regularly. Our favourite was a Chinese place, which had a huge red lobster as motif. Can't miss it from a mile. Another favourite was a quintessential Bengali place famous for their fish koftas. A third favourite was slowly emerging. All of us used to be in and around Dhanmondi at that time, and traffic was easier. Often enough, we would go off after office to the corner of Dhanmondi 5 to have the phuchkas. I forget the wonderful phuchkawalla's name. But I vividly remember our demands for extra everything. What came out of his glass box was pure bliss. Mashed potatoes with slivers of boiled eggs (unlike the Kolkata counterparts, the potato mixture for phuchkas in Dhaka has boiled eggs in it), lots of chilli powder, boiled peas, onions and cilantro. With the small bowl of very tart tamarind sauce. Each mouthful was an exercise in caution, lest we spill. It also was an explosion of flavours. I sold my soul to Dhaka.

I used to venture a lot to the local garment markets. Export rejects of brand names at a tenth of the actual price. I went back to my starving student days. On one such jaunt, as I was trying to fit a shirt over my ample torso, something bumped into me. I turned to see a man carrying a basket covered in plastic. It was warm. There was a nice comforting smell of fried food that drifted to my sniffer. That basket was stuffed with local fries. Roughly shaped like chips, fried till nice golden brown, sprinkled with black salt, it was the perfect compliment for my arduous shopping efforts. The shirt suddenly was tighter on me.

Winters emboldened us to venture more and more to the old part of the city. Sadar Ghat with all its hustle and bustle. Tantipara with its small temples. Shakharibajar with the conch shell shops. The sweet shops selling amrita and doi. The singaras being fried street side. But head and shoulders above the rest stands the experience of eating dense, spicy, dark duck curry with soft, warm, pillowy rice cakes. Kept the winter evening chill at bay. Washed down with a small glass of tea made with condensed milk. Dhaka, at its warmest best.

Further down my stay, on a day of reckoning (shab-e-barat), a bunch of us decided to go and sample chaap in Mohammedpur. I do not know if that can be classified as street food because they actually are small eateries. But the experience of sitting on unadorned tables, being served in plastic dishes, the scrawny chicken, the milk-white naan to go with it, the pumpkin red sauce, everything pointed toward a very bare bones street experience. Somehow, the red sauce helped heighten the almost lost flavours of the chicken. It even made the bland white naan taste better. It was, after all, the day of reckoning. Why should I not reckon the power of the simple sauce? My street culinary experience had come to a zenith.

Time flew by. My life took many twists and turns. I lost my father. I found my wife. I grew professionally. I became a part of Dhaka. I sampled many delights. Missed out on quite a few. And then it was time to leave. To be back in Kolkata, to work, to live. Street food of Kolkata is also plentiful and varied. But till date, I wistfully think of my salad days in Dhaka, where I had so much more than salads.

And thanks Arafat for reminding me of all this.

Some other day, I'll tell the stories of the highway food of Bangladesh.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Thai week at Radisson

Radisson Water Graden Hotel Dhaka, in association with the Royal Thai Embassy and Thai Airways is hosting a weeklong 'Thai Food and Cultural Festival' at the hotel's Water Garden Brasserie from 12 to 18 July.

The authentic Thai cuisine will be presented by two Master Chefs from Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, and a dancing troupe will usher in the Thai culture with traditional performances. Her Excellency Tasanawadee Miancharoen, the Thai Ambassador to Bangladesh inaugurated the festival.

Also present at the inauguration were General Manager of Thai Airways Kitipang Manityakat, General Manager of Radisson Andre Gomez, Executive Assistant Manager and Director of Sales and Marketing of Radisson Saeed Ahmed, and Executive Chef of Radisson Kai Uwe Klenze.

“This festival is special because we have not only flown in two master chefs, but also the Director of Food and Beverages of the corresponding hotel, so as to ensure the highest quality,” Gomez informed the assembled press.

There will also be a raffle draw for guests, the winner of which will win Dhaka-Bangkok-Dhaka return air tickets for 2 persons, sponsored by Thai Airways. In addition, the winner will enjoy a four-night stay for two persons in a deluxe room including breakfast at Radisson Hotel Bangkok Sathorn.
For more information call 8754555,

or visit the hotel's website at




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