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Maach, Mishti, and More: Authentic Bengali Food Recipes through the Heart of Bengal

Kaustov Maji 

Welcome to the enchanting world of Bengal, where every meal is a celebration of flavours, a symphony of spices, and a journey through tradition. In this culinary blog, we embark on a delightful exploration of the iconic trio – Maach (Fish), Mishti (Sweets) and more with authentic bengali food recipes – that defines the soul of Bengali cuisine.

Chapter 1: A Symphony of Spices

The adventure begins in Kolkata, the bustling capital of West Bengal. As the sun rises, the air is filled with the enticing aromas of street food vendors preparing their signature dishes. The first stop on our culinary expedition is the iconic Kathi Roll stand. Wrapped in a paratha, the succulent kebabs, and spicy chutneys create a perfect marriage of flavours, leaving you craving for more.

The Kathi Roll, a quintessential street food delight that has become synonymous with the bustling streets of Kolkata, has a history as rich and flavourful as its contents. Let’s embark on a journey through time to uncover the origins of this iconic culinary creation.

The story of the Kathi Roll dates back to the pre-independence era in Kolkata. In the late 1930s, a man named Nizamuddin, hailing from the Nizam’s restaurant family, introduced the concept of a “Kathi Kebab.” The term “Kathi” refers to the skewer used to grill the meat.

nizamImage Source: http://tinyurl.com/mrdxbwz9

 

Nizam’s, a legendary eatery located in the heart of Kolkata, was renowned for its kebabs and Mughlai cuisine. The Kathi Kebab was originally created to cater to the busy lifestyles of office-goers and commuters. The skewered kebabs, wrapped in paratha (Indian flatbread), provided a convenient and portable meal that could be enjoyed on the go. It is one of the most authentic bengali food that one can think of.

Over time, the Kathi Kebab underwent a transformation, evolving into what we now know as the Kathi Roll. The skewered kebabs, usually made with succulent pieces of meat like chicken or mutton, were wrapped in a paratha along with onions, chutney, and various spices. The roll was then tightly wrapped in paper, making it a convenient and mess-free option for those on the move.

Ingredients:

Chicken (250g, thinly sliced), Onion (1, thinly sliced), Green bell pepper (1, thinly sliced), Garam masala (1 tsp), Ginger-garlic paste (1 tbsp)

Method:

  • Sauté ginger-garlic paste in oil, add chicken, and cook until done.
  • Add garam masala, sliced onions, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables are tender.
  • Warm the roti or paratha on a griddle.
  • Place the chicken filling on the roti, roll it tightly, and serve with mint chutney.

Chapter 2:  The Fish Fiesta

No exploration of West Bengal’s culinary delights is complete without delving into its love affair with fish. The Hilsa, revered as the king of fish, takes centre stage in dishes like Shorshe Ilish – hilsa marinated in mustard sauce, a symphony of pungent and tangy notes that dance on the palate. Macher Jhol, a spicy fish curry which is an traditional bengali dish reflects the resilience and Vigour of Bengali culture, with its bold spices and robust flavours.

In Bengal, fish isn’t just a meal; it’s a cultural statement, a fin-dentity, if you will. If you ask a Bengali about their favourite dish, chances are it has gills and a story. Whether it’s the illustrious Hilsa, the modest Rohu, or the quirky Pabda, every fish has its moment in the Bengali spotlight.

shorshe ilish

Image source: http://tinyurl.com/2x27ejpu

The Hilsa, known as the “King of Fish,” takes centre stage in classics like Shorshe Ilish, an authentic Bengali recipe where the fish is bathed in a mustard sauce, creating a piquant explosion of flavours.

The roots of Shorshe Ilish can be traced back to ancient Bengal, where the Hilsa fish was not only a dietary staple but also held cultural and religious significance.

The practice of using mustard in Bengali cuisine dates back centuries, with mustard seeds being a fundamental spice in the region. The traditional process of extracting mustard oil and using mustard paste in cooking has been an integral part of Bengali culinary heritage.

If one visits Kolkata, one should definitely visit 6 Ballygunge Place to try the famous Shorshe Ilish and have a taste of other authentic Bengali recipes.

Ingredients:

Hilsa fish (500g), Mustard paste (3 tbsp), Turmeric powder (1 tsp), Green chilies (4-5, slit), Mustard oil (4 tbsp), Salt to taste.

Method:

  • Marinate the Hilsa with turmeric, salt, and mustard paste for 30 minutes.
  • Heat mustard oil in a pan, add green chilies, and sauté.
  • Add the marinated fish and cook on low flame until the fish is tender.
  • Serve with steamed rice to experience the full depth of Bengal’s culinary prowess.

Chapter 3: The Rosogolla Chronicles (Rasgulla)

Bengali sweets are an emotion to the bengali cuisine. Picture this: a Bengali feast laid out on a table, and there, amidst the array of sweets, stands the star of the show – the Rosogolla/Rasgulla. Its spongy exterior, soaked in sweet syrup, beckons with a flirtatious charm that captivates the Bengali heart.

The story of Rosogolla traces its roots to the late 19th century in the kitchens of Puri, Odisha. A visionary named Nobin Chandra Das, driven by a sweet passion, experimented with chhana (freshly made cottage cheese) to create a unique sweetmeat. Little did he know that this culinary experiment would birth an iconic dessert.

rosogolla

Image source: http://tinyurl.com/ycyf2nsc

Nobin Chandra Das, like an alchemist of sweets, discovered the perfect balance of chhana, sugar, and a touch of culinary magic. In 1868, he introduced his creation to the world during the Durga Puja festivities, and thus, the Rosogolla made its debut, captivating the hearts and palates of Bengalis.

if you have a sweet tooth don’t forget to visit the most famous Bengali sweet shops like K.C. DasBalaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick, Bhim Chandra Nag, Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy.

Ingredients:

1 litre full-fat milk, 2 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar, 1 cup sugar, 4 cups water , A pinch of cardamom powder (optional), Chopped pistachios or saffron strands for garnish (optional).

Method:

  • Boil the milk, and once it reaches a rolling boil, add lemon juice or vinegar to curdle the milk.
  • Strain the curdled milk through a muslin cloth to separate the chhana (cottage cheese) from the whey.
  • Knead the chhana well until it becomes smooth and doesn’t crumble.
  • Divide the chhana into small portions and roll them into smooth balls, ensuring no cracks.
  • In a separate pot, combine sugar and water to create a sugar syrup. Bring it to a boil.
  • Gently drop the chhana balls into the boiling syrup and cover the pot. Let them simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Allow the Rosogollas to cool in the syrup. Optionally, sprinkle cardamom powder, chopped pistachios, or saffron strands for added flavour and garnish.

Chapter 4: The Shukto Saga

Bengalis are not only into meat but also into veg recipes. Legend has it that Shukto was concocted in the kitchen laboratory of a Bengali genius. This culinary wizard had a penchant for the peculiar, a fondness for the unusual. One day, while experimenting with spices and vegetables, Shukto emerged – a medley of bitterness, sweetness, and a hint of eccentricity.

sukto

  Image source: http://tinyurl.com/yzub6327

It wasn’t the spicy superstar or the sweet sensation; it was the silent rebel. Its bitterness came from the roots of neem and the whispers of bitter gourd – an acquired taste, like an enigma wrapped in a vegetable. But here’s the twist in the tale – Shukto wasn’t all about bitterness. It had a secret weapon, a dash of sweetness that came from the humble banana. The sweetness mingled with the bitter notes, creating a symphony that played on the taste buds like a quirky orchestra.

As time passed, Shukto became an endearing legend in Bengal. It found its way into family recipes, heirloom cookbooks, and the quirky corners of Bengali hearts. Shukto wasn’t just a dish; it was a culinary legacy, a quirky tale that continued to unfold in kitchens across Bengal. Today Shukto is not only an authentic bengali food recipe but an emotion to fellow people.

Ingredients:

1 bitter gourd (karela), thinly sliced, 1 raw banana (kanchkola), peeled and sliced, 1 medium-sized eggplant (begun), diced, 2-3 drumsticks (shojne data), cut into 2-inch pieces, 1 cup radish (mooli), sliced, 1 cup string beans (bora), chopped, 1 cup ridge gourd (jhinge), sliced, 1 cup milk, 1 tablespoon mustard paste, 1 tablespoon poppy seed paste, 1 teaspoon panch phoron (mixture of mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds), 2 tablespoons mustard oil, Salt, to taste, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1-2 green chilies, slit, Sugar, to taste (optional).

Method:

  • Slice the bitter gourd, peel and slice the raw banana, dice the eggplant, cut the drumsticks into 2-inch pieces, slice the radish, chop the string beans, and slice the ridge gourd.
  • Add a pinch of salt and blanch the bitter gourd, raw banana, eggplant, drumsticks, radish, string beans, and ridge gourd for 2-3 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, mix mustard paste and poppy seed paste. Add a little water to make a smooth paste
  • In a deep pan or kadhai, heat mustard oil until it starts smoking slightly.
  • Add panch phoron and let it splutter.
  • Add the blanched vegetables and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add turmeric powder and green chilies. Mix well.
  • Add Spice Paste and Milk
  • Pour in the mustard-poppy seed paste. Stir to coat the vegetables evenly.
  • Add milk to the pan. Mix well.
  • Adjust salt and add sugar if desired. Stir gently.
  • Allow the Shukto to simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The vegetables should be tender, and the milk should thicken slightly.
  • Finish with Panch Phoron
  • Serve Hot

Shukto is traditionally served as the first course in a Bengali meal. Enjoy it with steamed rice.

Chapter 5: Mutton Magic

One of the most famous Bengali dishes in the Bengali household is Mutton Kosha which  has its roots deeply embedded in Bengal’s medieval past. As Nawabs and local aristocrats revealed in their love for meat, the art of slow-cooking mutton with an array of aromatic spices became a culinary tradition. “Kosha” translates to slow-cooked or braised, showcasing the meticulous process that transforms simple mutton into a flavour-packed masterpiece.

mutton

Image Source: http://tinyurl.com/m9hmh3cu

Ingredients:

1 kg mutton, cut into pieces, 2 large onions, finely sliced, 1 cup yogurt, 3 tablespoons mustard oil, 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste, 2 teaspoons cumin powder, 2 teaspoons coriander powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon red chili powder, 4-5 green chilies, slit, Salt, to taste, Fresh coriander leaves (for garnish).

Method:

  • Marinate the mutton in yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and salt. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.
  • Heat mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan until it reaches smoking point. Add sliced onions and sauté until golden brown.
  • Add the marinated mutton and sauté until well-browned.
  • Add green chilies and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.
  • Add water, cover the pan, and let it simmer on low heat until the mutton is tender and the spices have infused.
  • Uncover the pan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mutton is well-browned and the oil separates from the masala.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with steamed rice or your favourite bread.

Epilogue: A Tapestry of Taste

In every bite, Bengal weaves a tale of cultural richness, historical depth, and the warmth of its people. The trio of Maach, Mishti, and More transcends the boundaries of food; it’s an expression of the Bengali identity. So, as you embark on your own culinary journey through authentic bengali dishes, savour the flavours, embrace the stories, and let the essence of Maach, Mishti, and More linger on your taste buds, creating memories that are as timeless as the traditions they represent.

Love Kolkata street food? Have a look at the most popular street foods bengalis can’t do without.

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Kaustov Maji

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