Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |  Volume 6, Issue 13, Tuesday, March 29, 2011



Sampling the other side:

Kolkata ladies' lunch

The dining table was filled every inch with several west Bengali delicacies for lunch. Under the portrait of a thoughtful Tagore, a group of lovely Kolkata ladies were engrossed in what we Bengalis enjoy the most: adda. With the promising food prepared Kolkata-style awaiting them, they chatted away wittily about almost anything under the sun, while the men of the house glued themselves to their spots in front of the TV, watching the Indian cricket team play in one of the World Cup matches. Sudden loud giggles, even louder shout-outs for their home team and the aroma of the food filled the space with utter bliss and happiness.

Ujjaini Sinha, Sarani Meogi, Surita Das, Prajna Datta and Lina Addy are from Kolkata. They frequently get together in one of their homes with delicious and traditional west Bengali meals, to hang out and relish those good old times they had in Kolkata. But this week, Star Lifestyle joins them to get a front seat view of the magic of traditional Kolkata cuisine.

Kolkata, formerly (and hence more popularly) known as Calcutta, is one of the oldest cities in the Indian sub-continent. It is therefore no surprise that the city has developed its own style and art in cooking, and that it has come up with signature dishes unique from all the others in the rest of the world with its own set of flavours owing to its unique blend of ingredients. Kolkata, therefore, has a lot to be proud of when it comes to food.

But it shares a lot in common with the other part of Bengal - Bangladesh. Being politically and geographically under one entity decades ago, it is no surprise that we celebrate the same food, songs, poems and even history to some extent.

The same food, however, tastes surprisingly and refreshingly different when made in the two different Bengals. The Kolkata ladies of that afternoon identified some of them. “We prefer our food sweeter whilst Bangladeshis are inclined to a more hot and spicy version of it”.

Indeed, just a few gulps of their food are enough to prove that. “Another key difference is that we avoid onion and garlic in our list of vegetables,” Surita Das adds.

But aside from onions and garlic, vegetables do play a big role in west Bengali cuisine - or even Indian cuisine at large, for that matter. While becoming a vegetarian seems to be 'in' and cool these days, Indians have followed this trend long ago. “For many of us, being a vegetarian, or putting more emphasis on vegetables than meat, is deeply ingrained in our culture. Vegetables seem to dominate many of our meals”, informs Lina Addy.

A vegetarian diet is part of the culture all right, but it has its roots in Hinduism as well. Therefore, many devotees in Kolkata strictly adhere to a vegetarian menu, whilst others have meat just one or two days a week. Moreover, many widows, still today, follow the tradition of avoiding meat. “A vegetarian diet is also a good one for health,” another lady adds.

And that is why vegetables are cooked so deliciously. As opposed to seeing vegetables as a not-so-yummy food eaten merely for the sake of health, Kolkata people have elevated this genre of food to a whole new level. With various ingredients and remarkable culinary recipes, veggies do taste yummy.

Or, sometimes the item itself is made in such a manner that it is difficult for a first-timer to understand whether it's vegetable or meat! Dhoka, for example, is a vegetable item one of the ladies prepared for lunch that day that will never fail to deceive a first-timer.

But there are some similarities between the foods of these two cultures. After all, we are “maache bhaate bangali”. And thus, it goes without saying we do share a passion for “elish”. Another similarity is that we share recipes for a lot of desserts.

There will, of course, be several similarities between the two cuisines. The food we eat is a direct reflection of our society and culture. We do, after all, speak the same language and groom the same passion for it; we read the same books, to some extent listen to the same songs and recite the same poems, and boast of the same literary personalities like Satyajit Ray and Shorot Chondro.

But perhaps the greatest commonality between the two cultures is the undying passion for “adda”. We never mind to take time out to engage in long chitchat sessions with our loved ones. We can spend hours with close friends at delicious eateries.

And that was what these ladies from Kolkata did the other day. “Home is where your heart is”. And your heart is where your close ones are. The women are not in Kolkata, but with a group of Kolkata friends under one roof and the authentic Kolkata food on the table, they have indeed made a piece of Kolkata here in Dhaka.

By Zane
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special Thanks To Mrs.Prajna Datta,Mrs.Sarani Neogi,Mrs.Sumita Das and Mrs.Ujjaini Sinha.

We sincerely thank Mr.Debabrata Datta for allowing us to do the photo shoot in his house and Mr. Avishek Sinha for arranging the photo shoot.


Dhokar Dalna

½kg cholar dal
1tsp sugar
1tsp turmeric powder
3 tsp ginger paste
½ tsp black cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
2-3 pieces bay leaves
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp jeera powder
1 cup tomato paste
Oil to fry
Salt to taste
Hing (casafortida) to taste

Soak the dal in water overnight and grind the same next day. Mix ginger paste, hing, kalo jeera, salt, a little sugar, chilli powder and garam masala powder.
Warm a little oil and add the paste and stir for some time till the mixture is tight

Now put the mixture on a plate and press with hands. Cut into shapes. Fry the shapes in oil.

Heat a little oil; add a pinch of hing, bay leaves, ginger paste, turmeric, chilli paste, jeera paste, tomato paste, salt and sugar. Stir for some time till done. Then add water. Put the dhokas into the curry. Boil for 2-3 minutes and sprinkle a little garam masala. Serve hot.

Bhetki Macher Paturi

1kg bhetki fillet
1½ cup coconut paste
2 tsp green chilli paste
¾ cup mustard paste
1 cup mustard oil
Banana leaves to fold
Salt to taste

Cut the fish into rectangular shapes, wash properly. Marinate with all the above ingredients for one hour. Fold into banana leaves. Steam for 20-25 minutes.

Mochar Chop

1 Mocha (Banana Blossom)
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
1½ tsp jeera paste
2 big potatoes, smashed
½ cup coconut oil to fry
biscuit powder
salt and sugar to taste

Clean and cut the banana blossom (mocha) fine. Then oil it and drain out all the excess water. Mash the boiled blossom with hand and add all the paste and the mashed potato into it and mix properly with hand. Make desired shapes and dip them into a batter of cornflour. Roll the same into biscuit powder. Fry to serve.

Ghee Bhat

2 cups rice (Chinigura)
2 tbsp ghee
2 tsp Cardamom (powdered)
2 tsp cinnamon (powedered)
2 tsp clove (powdered)
2 tsp ginger (chopped)
4 bay leaves
6 green chili
Chopped cashew nuts, raisins as required
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric powder
2 cups hot water

Wash the rice thoroughly and drain it dry. Pour ghee into a pressure cooker and add bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, clove powder, chopped ginger and chopped cashew and the thoroughly drained rice and mix for a few minutes. Add salt, sugar, turmeric powder, raisins and hot water and close the lid of the pressure cooker and leave it to cook until one whistle. Take it off the flame and leave it in the pressure cooker for some time. Serve hot.

Potol-er Dolma

½ grated coconut
2 tsp ginger paste
5 to 6 potol
1 tsp curd (plain)
2 tsp tomato puree
½ tsp red chili powder
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp garam masala
Mustard oil as required
10 to 12 raisins
Sugar as per taste
Salt to taste

Partially remove the skin of the potol. Scoop out all the seeds from one end. Mix the potol in salt and then try it and keep aside. Then mix the grated coconut with the removed potol seeds. Make a paste of the mix. Put the paste in a frying pan and add ginger paste, chilli powder, cumin powder, salt, sugar and raisins to the paste. Also add some cardamom powder. Fill in the paste into the potol (from which the seeds have been removed). Now add oil to another frying pan and add bay leaves. After this add tomato puree, garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric powder, plain curd, salt, sugar and make gravy. Reduce the flame and cook for five minutes. Garnish with grated coconut and serve.

Recipe for Fish Fry

Bhetki fillets 12 pieces, each fillet in 4 that is. Each piece was about a 3"x 2" piece or smaller.
Make a paste of
½ of a small red onion
2 fat cloves of garlic
½" piece or 1 tbsp of peeled and chopped ginger
2 green chili with little water. This is the paste that will be used to marinate the fish.

Put the fish pieces in one single layer in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle salt to taste on them.

Marinate the fish pieces with the paste in step 2, 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lime juice, 1 teaspoon of coriander powder, 1 teaspoon of Roasted Cumin Powder and ¼ teaspoon of Garam Masala. All of the fish pieces should be nicely coated with the marinade.

Cover & refrigerated overnight. If in a hurry, half an hour to an hour is fine.

Before you start frying, take each of the fish pieces out from the marinade and drain the excess liquid.

Set up a "breading station". First have a flat plate of bread crumbs seasoned with salt and black pepper(you can also use all purpose flour seasoned with salt & pepper), next a shallow bowl of 2 eggs whisked to a smooth consistency,

another flat plate of bread crumbs seasoned with salt & black pepper.

In a small frying pan (suitable for deep frying) heat enough oil for deep frying.

Take the fish piece, roll it in bread crumb (or flour). Dip it in the egg wash. Roll in bread crumb again, gently rolling off any excess. And then gently slide in the hot oil. When the fish has nicely browned on both sides take out with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Enjoy it hot off the Fryer with some mustard sauce.

Chingri Malai Curry

6 pcs tiger prawns
1 big size coconut
4 medium-sized onion
Ginger,1 inch long
4 pieces green chilli
1½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala powder
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 piece cinnamon stick
4 pcs green cardamom
2 pcs bay leaf
10 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste

Wash and de-vein the tiger prawns and marinate it with ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder and 2 teaspoon of salt and keep aside. Clean and break the coconut and grind it. Then make paste of it and extract coconut milk from the paste. Do it in 2 batches. Make paste of the ginger and onion separately. Heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a flat kadhai and shallow fry the tiger prawns. Strain the prawns from the oil and keep aside. Heat up the remaining oil and temper with bay leaf, cumin seed, cinnamon stick and cardamom. Once the flavour starts coming out, add the onion paste. Fry till it becomes golden brown. Add ginger paste, turmeric powder, cumin powder, Kashmiri chilli powder and salt. Fry till oil shows up to float. Adjust the flame accordingly.

Add the second batch of coconut milk and mix well. Then add the tiger prawns. Slow cook it with a cover for 5 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk and let it boil once. Add little bit of coconut water if the curry is too dry.

Sprinkle the garam masala powder and pour it in a flat bowl and serve it with basmati rice. Cheers!!

Recipe of Mango Chutney

1 piece raw mango
400gms sugar
1 teaspoon snafu
1 piece dry chilli
1 tsp vegetable oil
a pinch of salt

Peel the mango and boil in water till tender. Strain and keep aside. Smash and make paste of the mango. Add a pinch of salt in it. Roast the snafu and the dry red chilli and dry grind it. Heat oil in a frying pan and pour the mango paste. Stir it once and add the sugar in it. Stir it continuously until the sugar dissolves. Add the roasted spices and stir. Pour it in a bowl and serve it cold.

Postor Bora

2 potatoes
50gm posto
1 chopped onion
2 chopped chillies
2 tsp gram flour (besan)
Mustard oil to fry, as required
Salt to taste

First boil the potatoes, and then mash it. Add chopped onions, chillies, flour, salt and posto to the mashed potato and mix well. Add oil to a frying pan. Take some of the mashed potato mix in the hand and then create disk-like shapes from it. Put it in the frying pan to fry.


½ papaya
4 to 5 bitter gourds
1 green banana
1 sweet potato
1 potol
2 shajna data
½ bainjal
1 tsp Radhuni paste and whole
1 tsp ginger paste
1tsp shorshe paste
1 tsp posto paste
1 tsp bay leaves
½ cup milk
1 tsp sugar
10 to 12 daler bori
1 tsp ghee
Salt to taste
Mustard oil
Cumin fried and powdered

Cut all the vegetables into small pieces. Add oil to the frying pan. Fry the daler bori. Then add more oil. Make sure that Radhuni (whole), bay leaves, all the vegetables are well cooked. Add Radhuni paste, posto and shorshe paste. Then add milk and sugar and mix. Lastly add the fried bori, ghee and fried cumin powder and serve hot.


4 to 5 koi mach
4 tsp cumin paste
2 tsp ginger paste
2 bay leaves
3 Chillies
1 tsp salt
½ cup mustard oil

Clean the fish thoroughly and add ginger paste, cumin paste, sugar, salt and a little oil and mix and marinate for 5 minutes. Add oil to the frying pan and then add cumin seeds, bay leaves, chili (halved) to the oil. Then, add the marinated fish to the frying pan and also add some water. Cook on low flame until done. Serve hot

Aloo Bukhara & Tomato Chutney

2 tomatoes
100gm aloo bukhara
1 mango bar
1 tsp ginger, chopped
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin, fried (powder)
½ tsp tumeric powder
Oil as required

Cut the tomatoes and mango bar into small pieces. Add oil to the frying pan and add paach foron, red chili (halved). Add the tomato, mango bar, aloo bukhara, ginger, turmeric, salt and mix thoroughly. Then add sugar. Cook at low flame and cover the pan. Leave for sometime. Garnish with fried cumin powder and serve. Serve chilled.



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