Even though I had recently prepared a Bangladeshi (or East Bengali) menu, I was so apprehensive about cooking (West) Bengali food that it took me months to set a menu and a date for cooking it. First of all, though I love Indian food, I've never been able to cook it. All my attempts have come out disastrous. Secondly, I read that even for Indians Bengali food is something of an acquired taste. Finally, a typical Bengali dinner menu is so complicated, with so many courses, that the idea of cooking them all overwhelmed me. Eventually, I faced my fears (kind of) and decided on a simplified menu. I also decided to cook the food just for Mike, Mika and I (not that she eats much), so that if it came out terrible a whole dinner party wouldn't be ruined.
A typical Bengali dinner menu will start with rice (which can be a pilaf), dal (lentils) and a bhaja (a fritter, most often a vegetable covered in chick pea flour, of which begun bhaja, or eggplant fritters, seem to be the most popular). This will be followed by a tarkari or vegetable curry, a seafood dish and a meat dish. Following this there will be a chutney or ambals often eaten with papadums. Then will come misti doi or sweet yogurt and finally the mishti or dessert. Bengalis, indeed, are famous for their sweets.
My simplified menu started with basmati rice, a nicely spiced dal dish and fried potatoes (because they were easy). I skipped the vegetable curry (not being a great fan of vegetables myself), but cooked both a fish and a meat dish. I had bought some chutney (rather than make it myself) but I forgot to serve it - oh well, I'm sure I'll have another opportunity. I also skipped making the misti doi, mostly because Mike doesn't like yogurt to being with, and the dessert because they seemed quite complicated, and Bengalis usually buy their sweets already made anyway. So my final menu consisted of only:
- Basmati rice, accompanied by
- Masoor dal with eggs and
- Aloo Bhaja
Bengali Fried Potatoes. Followed by:
- Maccher Sorshe Jhaai
Fish in Mustard Sauce. Followed by:
Lamb Cooked in Milk and Yoghurt
I'm pleased to say that everything but the razala was quite good.
Bengali Food Links