India is the land of a great variety of foods, and West Bengal is probably the one state in which everyone is known to be a foodie. While it is famous for sweets, we discovered that there are many great non-sweet recipes that have come out from the land of arts and culture. Here are our favourites.
Bengalis are known for their love of food, but too often they’re portrayed as a sweet-loving people – which they are, but that’s definitely not all there is to their cuisine. West Bengal is famously known as the land of fish and rice, but there is a strong British influence in the foods that Bengalis eat, like chops and cutlets that are served in the British tradition but also cooked with thoroughly Indian spices.
Here are a few recipes of Bengali foods that are – for a change – not sweets.
1. Bhapaa Aloo
If you like potatoes and the Bengali five-spice mixture called panchphoron, then you will love this preparation. Baby potatoes are cooked in a distinctive spice mixture, steamed with mustard paste, curd and coconut. Just like any potato curry, you will first peel and boil potatoes under pressure to make them soft. While the potatoes are boiling, on a separate pan, use some oil to whip up a spice mixture until it splutters. Add the mustard paste, coconut paste, green chilli paste and turmeric powder in small instalments, stirring all the time. Salt and lime juice go in last. You can eat this as a snack or as a mixture with rice.
2. Chingri Malai Curry
Seafood and West Bengal go hand in hand. Here you will cook prawns in spices and coconut milk, to be served with rice at the end. The main spices in Chingri Malai Curry are mustard oil, cumin, turmeric powder, and red chilli powder. A little bit of sugar is also recommended for that traditional sweet tingle on the tongue. Coconut milk gives the curry its pasty, pasta-like texture, and a teaspoon of garam masala at the very end will elevate your dish by giving it a spicy kick. Add salt and green chillies to taste.
3. Bengali Lamb Curry
Cooked with onions, garlic and chillies, this is a dish in which lamb is marinated in a yogurt base, and the final garnishing is with roast almonds for that crunchy crispiness. The first step is to marinate the lamb with yoghurt, turmeric powder, castor sugar, salt, red chilli powder and mustard oil. On the pan, stir onion, ginger and garlic paste together until brown in a bit of mustard oil. Add the marinated lamb, some green chillies for flavour and some water. Allow it to simmer. This is a slow-cook dish, but the taste is worth it. Garnish at the end with roast almond crumbs and serve hot.
4. Sorsebata Ilish Mach
No Bengali food list is complete without a fish dish. Hilsa (or Ilish) is Bengal’s favourite fish, and in this dish you will cook it quite traditionally in the five-spice mixture, and you will coat it with mustard and poppy seed paste. If you’re not a big fan of poppy seeds, skip it and stick to mustard. It begins with marination of the fish with salt and turmeric. Add it to a spluttering five-spice mix in mustard oil, add turmeric and red chilli powder, and other spices to taste. Just make sure that the spices don’t overshadow the main hero of the dish, the fish itself. Tomatoes and green chilli will add both colour and flavour to this dish without being intrusive.