Strange Tastes of DHAKA
Story: Osama Rahman
Photos: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
DITCH your Lonely Planet guide and trust your feet and instincts. The best way to appreciate Dhaka culture is to indulge in it and by that we mean digging into the craziest, strangest and most adventurous items the city has to offer. And all that on a budget too!
First, drop off at Mirpur. Mogoj Kebab at Shokat Kebab Ghar, Rabbani Special Chaap or Koel eggs with spice'd up potatoes are all on offer. The eggs are tiny, so the record 150 eaten at one go can be conquered. Ask anyone at Mirpur 11 Bus Stand for directions to any of these places and they'll guide you. They might also mug you, but adventures come with risks. Also, before asking for directions at Mirpur 11 Bus Stand, asks for directions TO Mirpur 11 Bus Stand. Dhaka doesn't usually have designated bus stands so you are never warned. How the transport system works is a mystery to ponder another day.
Mohammadpur too has it fair share of bizarre delicacies. Manzar, opposite to Mohammadpur Town Hall, serves noodle balls or macaroni balls. These are, what we believe, potatoes fried with noodles. They are also strangely delicious. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, you can go to Asad Gate during after-school hours and find a man yelling, 'chalu babu'. He sells boiled potatoes mixed with numerous dips and spices and is pretty popular. Potato may sound like a boring dish, but in this case, it isn't. Its weirdly good and only at the 5 taka to 20 taka range. Shajahan Road has Mustakin which serves delicious kebab rolls at eight taka a-piece. They are stuffed with kebabs and cucumbers. There's also this soup, which is part chicken, part corn and fully delicious. If not, then Salimullah Road's end has Selim Kebab Ghar which sells the cheapest mutton kebabs and chapatis this side of town. If all fails, then it's off to Bihari camp. Lore here speaks of a deaf chef who makes and sells one of the best tasting biryanis for only 35tk. Fortunately, the lore is true. Finding Boba Biryani, as it is affectionately called, isn't hard; just ask and don't make too much eye contact with anyone. Wise guys don't like that. Also, carry your money in rolls and not in a wallet. Or you might as well not carry it at all.
Since Dhanmondi is a bit modernised, the search among high priced commercial food joints doesn't yield strange enough results. But, the thing passed off as Pizza at Hot Hut, the place you see but never visit, is quite a treat. It's like the one in La Bamba, so that should give you an idea. Or, head off to Decent at Panthapath and search the shop and shops around it for the special Koliji Shingara. These Shingaras have actual kolija in them, and at 15tk a-piece, too! That's the selling point and don't even argue why.
The less said about Old Dhaka, the better. Here, bizarre is an everyday norm and people nonchalantly consume the best shahi lassi in Dhaka without thanking their stars. There's the famous Noorani Lassi Shop which serves only Special Noorani Lassi. Royal has Badam Sherbet which is also quiet delicious. But then again, Royal is the stuff of legends. Finally, the bakery at Central Jail is also really good. In a few years time, we'll preview it extensively. Try Seheri at Nazira Bazaar, too. You may think it crazy to go to Old Dhaka, an area which has an entire settlement called Tiger Hut, during Seheri time, but it's worth it.
In your search, keep your eyes peeled for boys carrying large sticks and being followed by even younger boys. Don't worry, none of them are the Pied Piper. These are Dhaka's dessert makers and are disappearing fast. Serving rubbery cotton candy type candy, the makers fashion them in shapes of wrist watches, necklaces, World Cup trophy and snakes. You can eat a lot but it makes you real thirsty soon enough. Then there's the Paanwala at Mirpur Camp. Go back there. For 5 taka you get paan with all ingredients imaginable, including jelly, essence, perfume, sweets, honey and even some sort of flower.
Finally, try the Korean Pan Cake with eggs and Cow guts fried at the roadside shops at Farm Gate. We weren't kidding when we said Dhaka has a strange taste. We also don't kid when we say that you better get vaccinations for Typhoid, Jaundice, Polio, Malaria, Dengue and pop some preventative Diarrhea meds before trying any of our suggestions.
Note: In case of uncontrollable drooling, today's RS paper is specially pre-softened to act as tissue paper.
Omne Trium Perfectum
By Sarah Nafisa Shahid
The title above consisting of three words claims that everything that comes in three is perfect. So, three wives at the same time? Maybe not. But three airheads in your joke is probably going to give your audience a good laugh. In fact, who hasn't been using this weird rule of three to catch our attentions? Be it The Three Stooges, The Three Little Pigs or Hitler's dramatic speeches which included a series of three elements (One people, One Empire, One Leader), the human race has been captivated with the magic of three throughout the ages.
But what if our lives were actually dictated by this rule? What if we could be in three places at the same time or have three hands instead of two or even three brains? We would get all our work done three times faster and earn three-day weekends when we would enjoy our triple scooped ice-creams. Our parents could reward our enhanced efficiency by funding our three wallets (Cha-ching!) and taking us to vacations thrice. And in those vacations to exotic places, we could be daredevils because who is afraid of death when everyone has three lives to live? And all our lives will be no burden to this earth because there are two other replicas of the planet with abundant alternates to energy. Maybe there could even be a third race and ET could be our cute little pet. Or a third government which governs the governments of the world.
It will be disturbing though if every person had The Third Man Syndrome; we would all be imagining the presence of an extra person with us all the time. Or if The Threefold Law was in effect leading to karma getting back on us with triple intensity. Or if the rule was so strict that we would not be able to get around it for which this article would have three paragraphs consisting of 333 words in total. Aha, check for yourself if the rule exists.
Weekly Ramadan Munchies
Caught in the Middle
People break fasts with a lot of interesting potions; lemon sherbet with mint, tang, lassi and, in one weird case, coke. Yeah, we all have that insane friend who is a fanatic of the Fizz. Chances are you actually know a bunch of them. And if you are particularly unlucky, then you are familiar with those segments of the population that dress up in blue and red at the drop of a cap and go to war. And as much as we'd like to say that it's Chelsea vs Man U, in reality it's Pep C vs Coca-banana.
There are vehement declarations of love accompanied by metaphorical mud-slinging at the opposition in terms of sugar levels, cheesy ad campaigns and previously alleged accusations regarding drugs in the content (Yes, that's true; Snopes.com says so). The fact that the drinks contain caffeine and the droopy eyed bunch sitting around the table haven't had their daily hits thanks to the fast, adds to the aura of violence that surrounds the stand off. In moments, a friendly iftar get-together turns into our beloved Parliament, complete with insults directed at mothers, fathers, tastes and sexuality (this is also true; live TV says so).
Depending on the two majorities, there will be several minorities scurrying around the outskirts of the fight. For the purposes of this scenario, they are the lemon-squeezers and 12-spoonfuls of sugar lovers. If you can't guess who they are, here's another hint: they come in green bottles. If these little guys attempt to enter the arena of argument with any small piping comment, they will be instantly crushed and sold in mini-packs to the bottom of the pyramid.
In these situations, be smart and don't have opinions. In fact, it is best if you determinedly stare out of the window and pretend that there's an invisible string quartet serenading you. Breaking it up is not possible; take it from some who has tried. And woe betide if you somehow imply that they taste kind of similar. Connoisseurs of the product ranges agree on one thing and one thing only: they distinctly taste different. And if you can't pick up on it, you are an uncultured buffoon and the stupid business end of the digestive tract.
But if you say water is better than everything else, you are immediately cut out and shut off, like a cancerous mole on the beautiful skin of their convictions. They'll throw in a look of incredulity gratis.
All of you know water is important for our physiology and that most of our body consists of water. Your parents probably have on occasion quoted the stats that an adult [i.e. someone who is 18] needs roughly 2 litres of water a day. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to get it all from drinking water. It can be from your food and fruits. We generally get a litre and a half of water from drinking water throughout the day.
Our body decides on water retention depending on water percentage in the blood. If it falls below a certain percentage, you feel thirsty. Soft drinks don't contain just water. Due to the extra content, such as sugar and caffeine, the percentage of water in your blood rises relatively slowly and in the end, you have to drink more of it compared to regular water to quench your thirst.
You see what they did there?
This is not to say that soft drinks aren't lifesavers in certain situations. Weddings and the kacchi biriyani they entail demands carbonated fizz and the ensuing burps. You have to remember that too much of anything can kill you, even water. So, what's the verdict? Moderation instead of fanaticism. What else did you expect during Ramadan?