Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 6, Issue 27, Tuesday, July 05, 2011



Inside Smoke

"If music be the food of love, play on.”

That's probably the first thing you spot when you step onto the top floor of House #98, Banani 11. As your eyes move ahead, you see the words “Music Café” stylishly written in vibrant but soothing red lights. Just above that, you read, “Smoke.”

Welcome to Smoke, the newest, coolest music cafe in town.

Attempting to satisfy the tastes and moods of different guests, the place is divided into three different sections: the juice bar, the open terrace and, after a short flight of iron stairs, a cosy room with glass walls.

The dimly lit juice bar features a wide array of drinks, including refreshingly original and extravagantly chilling (non-alcoholic) mocktails, their mystique partly owing to the meticulously and creatively produced syrups imported from France. The classic “bar” style seating arrangements, where drinks are served over the counter while the guests are seated on stools, helps set the right mood.

Beside the juice bar is a terrace for those who prefer to enjoy their meals under the open sky. With beautifully decorated plants creating a relaxing atmosphere, the place is a pleasant one to have some fresh air.

The room upstairs is the largest one, though. And an interesting one too. “Most of the walls are made of glass. Since this is the top floor, during the day, you have a rather splendid view of the sky. But during sunset, as the light fades away, the visuals on the walls start coming alive. This is the best time to see these walls, where a surreal play of light comes into play.”

The effect is superb, partially because the figures on those walls are of the greatest musicians the world has seen. The music legends of the '70s, '80s and early '90s are portrayed on those walls. One of the sides features George Harrison and his song, “Bangladesh.”

The theme itself is directly related to the target demographic. “There are a lot of families pouring in. But another huge chunk of our guests are corporate people, working for businesses, embassies, etc. We attract a more serious, professional lot,” informed one of the owners. Thus, many of their guests are above 30, the generation who get nostalgic listening to the music of those golden eras.

Therefore, Smoke is a magnificent option for those coming to relax their nerves after a day's work. The couches and chairs are also duly designed to achieve that, and so is the collection of magazines one can read while sipping the coffee they are so proud of, using one of the finest blend of beans.

“Smoke” refers to the smoke of the food. “We don't sell shisha or encourage smoking in any way. Opening a café named Smoke doesn't mean that. We want to change this perception. Smoke can be interpreted in a different meaning, referring to the smoke of food and drink.” the owner says passionately.

And, true to its name, the café features many hot and smoky Mexican and Italian items. Try their tacos, nachos or burritos, or their sizzlers. Don't forget their special hot and juicy burger. More importantly, whatever you take, have a glass of one of their exquisite drinks to complete the experience.

By M H Haider
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


Love's (d)evolution

"Fifty years back, the union of two souls was the main factor in a love affair. If boys and girls fell in love, usually the boys took the responsibility of informing the girl about his feelings. If the girl had the same feelings for the boy, she used to let him know through another person or a letter. The letter was a good medium of communication in our time and there was a feeling of thrill in writing, sending and reading the letters," said Afifa Khanam, 80.

She added, "The reason behind such thrill was the restricted social structure of that era. Our society was so rigid regarding a boy and girl getting intimate that none of them wanted to take the risk of disclosing their affair as the revelation would be a source of harassment, especially for the girl."
The scenario is completely different today. Boys and girls get closer after informing one another. If you visit a park in Dhaka, you will find that couples get very intimate during their dates on the bench or beside the lake.

Waliur Rahman (55), a resident beside the Dhanmondi Lake said, "Their closeness is sometimes discomforting for the others in the park or the passersby. Couples are often found almost hugging one another; often kissing, neglecting others' presence, which is against our social norms. Adolescent couples are more frequent visitors to these public places."

This is a common picture witnessed by all dwellers of this locality in Dhaka. Nowadays you will hardly meet any adults, who aren't familiar with the sight of a couple kissing in a rickshaw.

"Last Valentine's Day I was crossing between Ramna Park and Suhrawardi Uddyan on my way to work. Stuck in traffic I took a leisurely look around and was embarrassed to see the way a couple was sitting at Suhrawardi Uddyan," said Tahmina Akter (36), a banker.

To ease the discomfort of regular visitors to parks and lakes, the law enforcing authorities have recently installed a notice board on Crescent Lake beside Shangsad Bhaban prohibiting couples from sitting next to each other.

Kamal UA Chowdhury, a Clinical Psychologist and chairman of the Clinical Psychology Department of Dhaka University elaborated on these changes, "We cannot say that this change has taken place dramatically. No one can say that physical intimacy between a boy and a girl was completely absent 50 years ago.

"The issue is that, people during that period got few chances to get close to one another. Now, boys and girls can get close to one another starting from their adolescence. It is not true for cities only, but also for rural areas. The frequency of social and cultural functions, through which young males and females get closer, have now increased."

He added, "Technological development is also playing a supportive role to this generation. In the adolescent period people are more curious to know about the opposite sex, which they are learning faster using all sorts of technologies, but only learning is not enough for them. As they get the chance of getting close to the opposite sex, they are trying to experience. They do not want to wait for the future. They are using their liberty in this case."

As the adolescence period is the perfect time for making mistakes, parents should be more careful about their children. They should be more caring and friendly. A congenial atmosphere should be ensured at home so that the children can share their curiosity with their parents who are their well wishers. At the same time parents should help and encourage the children to respect social norms to ensure a healthy society.

By Mahtabi Zaman


Friends and family

By shawkat osman

Bangladeshi dawat or party (brunch/lunch/dinner/banquet) is most often informal and does not require planning and cooking for days together. It is normally a relaxed and casual occasion, requiring no formal dress code or stuffy etiquettes.

The items chosen are all hassle-free, in terms of preparing, serving and eating. Items on the menu feature taro root cooked in a mild coconut milk for starters. Fish is usually avoided at dinner time, so we selected a fish kofta, sans the bones. Goat meat cooked with chillies is meant to titillate the taste buds. The meal is rounded off with a special dal.

All the items are eaten with rice; a salad, lemon preserve and a mint tall-drink are served on the side.

Mann kochu malaikari
Bilashi baygoon
Machr kofta
Morich mangsha
Moong dal
Lettuce and fruit salad
Narkol biroin
Lebu aachar

Taro in coconut milk gravy
The maan kochu or pani kochu, (taro root) is a tropical root also known as colocasia or alocasia, the corm of which is edible.

Amlokis (gooseberries) are available during the hot summer months, from July to September. Packed with nutritional value, it is used as a diuretic, laxative and antacid.

Maan kochu malaikari
Serves 6
½ kg or 1 large maan kochu (taro root)
10 amlokis (gooseberies)
2 tbsp tamarind pulp
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilli powder
3 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp gorom mosla powder
2 cups coconut milk
8 tsp salt

With a sharp knife cut out the rough outer rind of the maan kochu. Slice it into 4 pieces.

Bring water to a boil in a deghchi (pot). Boil maan kochu, 4 teaspoons salt, amloki and tamarind pulp until maan kochu is slightly tender.

Strain maan kochu out of the water and cut into 2.5cm-long pieces. Discard the water along with amloki and tamarind pulp.

Heat ghee in a korai (wok); add the kochu pieces, and sauté. Add turmeric powder, red chilli, ginger paste and gorom mosla powder. Sauté, stirring for a minute.

Pour coconut milk. Mix well and bring to a boil.

Sprinkle 4 teaspoons salt. Mix well and simmer, stirring occasionally until the kochu is spongy and ready to eat.

Fish kofta
Here's a recipe from Nahid Osman's cookery show on Tara TV -- Khunti Korai. However, on the show she did not roll the fish paste to form balls. As the minced fish she used was more moistened than this recipe suggested, it was difficult to roll out balls that would not fall apart while cooking. So Nahid scooped up a tablespoon of the mince mixture and using a second spoon gently pushed the paste directly in the boiling gravy. Her method is an easier and less messy version than the given recipe; try both methods, and adopt the one you feel comfortable with. You may add some minced shrimps to the fish mince to give the koftas an extra flavour.

Macher kofta
Serves 6
1 kg bhetki, red snapper fish, minced
½ cup onion, finely minced
½ + ½ tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp + 1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1/8 tsp nutmeg, grated
5 green chillies, finely chopped
¼ + ½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup soya oil
½ cup onion, sliced
3 tbsp +4 cups fish stock
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tbsp water
1 cup tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tbsp kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leves)

In a mixing bowl, combine fish mince, minced onion, ½ tablespoon ginger paste, 1 teaspoon garlic paste black pepper, nutmeg grate, green chilli and ¼ cup of cilantro. Work the ingredients with your fingers, and shape into golf-ball sized spheres. Chill them in a fridge for 2 hours so they firm up.

Heat soya oil; lob in sliced onion, sauté until golden. Pour 3
tablespoons fish stock, and cook to soften the onions.

Add ½ tablespoon ginger paste, sauté, stirring vigorously for a minute and then add 1 tablespoon garlic paste. Mix well and sauté, stirring for another minute.

Toss in red chilli powder, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, 2 tablespoons water. Mix together and sauté, stirring until the spices release their flavour.

Add chopped tomatoes, sauté, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes disintegrate and the oil separates from the mosla.

Toss in the fenugreek leaves and after a few moments pour 4 cups fish stock. Bring it to a boil.

Gently drop the fish balls, cook until they are ready (they will begin floating in the gravy when done).

Sprinkle chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot.

Morich mangsha
Since it is rather difficult to tenderise meat by air-drying in the moist Bengal weather, the traditional method of doing this is by marinating meat in yoghurt. Papaya, a meat tenderiser used more commonly elsewhere, was not grown in ancient Bengal and not used much for this purpose even after its arrival.

Papaya tends to turn the meat into a mush, by breaking down the muscle tissues, hence its lack of popularity as a tenderising agent. Plain yoghurt is mostly employed for cooking and making noni (butter); the residual liquid, matha, is then drunk as yummy breakfast refreshment.

Morich mangsha
Serves 6
1kg goat meat, cut into 10 pieces
1 tbsp garlic paste
2+1 tsp salt
1 cup yoghurt
1 cup ghee
20 Hathazari dry, red chillies or paprika/Kashmiri dry chillies

Place the meat pieces in a mixing bowl. Smear them with garlic, 2 teaspoons salt and yoghurt. Cover the bowl tight and keep overnight in a refrigerator. Return to room temperature before cooking.

Heat the ghee in a deghchi (heavy pot). Put the meat in (along with marinade), and add dry red chillies and 1 teaspoon salt.

Cook, stirring occasionally until all the moisture evaporates and only the ghee remains. The gravy will be thick and creamy.

Narkol biroin (rice pudding with grated coconut)
Serves 6
500g binni rice (biroin or sticky rice)
½ coconut, grated
1+ ¼ tsp salt
1.75 l milk
1 cup sugar
5cm-long cinnamon stick
5 cardamoms, gently cracked
10 cloves
4 eggs

Wash and soak rice overnight. Drain the water and transfer rice to a mixing bowl. Add half the grated coconut and sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well.

Place the rice mixture in a piece of muslin cloth. Gather the ends of the cloth on top and tie a knot to form a neat parcel.

In a steamer/rice cooker bring some water to a boil, place the rice parcel on its rack and steam the ingredients for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a deep pan, boil milk to reduce it to a third of its volume.

After 15 minutes, remove rice parcel from the steamer/rice cooker, and take out the rice, will be quite gummy. Transfer rice to a deep serving bowl.

Add sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and the remaining coconut to the simmering milk. Cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the flame to its lowest setting.

Whisk eggs until frothy. Gradually pour the egg in trickles, stirring the milk continuously.

Season with ¼ teaspoon salt; and take the pan off the flame. Cover pan with a lid and stand for a minute.

Pour the milk over the rice and mix thoroughly. Once the preparation cools down to room temperature, cover it with cling film and chill in the refrigerator.

Serve cold.




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