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mongo_jones

calcutta, january 2020

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then an indian-chinese dinner at tangra, the epicenter of calcutta's indian-chinese restaurant scene, which is to say, the epicenter of indian-chinese food. this is lunch at golden joy.

 

1949987119_GoldenJoyGobiManchurian.jpg.33703bf7f3be635f4bd30d4fd1f2561a.jpg

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and dinner at peshawri, the calcutta outpost of the famous bukhara in delhi, and a convenient way to eat at bukhara for only 70% of the cost. this is steve's dream restaurant.

178863324_PeshawriTandoorichicken.jpg.b40ac7a7a46e0530dd48f9283d17c649.jpg

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Would be interested to learn more about bengali food. I guess in my mind (and I know this is incorrect) its north indian with lots of fish and mustard oil. Also interesting to note the distinction between East and West - is that mostly down to the impact of Muslim dietary restrictions in the East? 

I went to a bengali place in the Bronx a few times and enjoyed it, but don't know that I could explain the difference to someone.

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i'm not going to explain anything until you go click around on a lot of slideshows and increase my page views which i don't monetize in any way.

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Since the NYC restaurant scene is mostly closed, where the hell else am I going to go to see pictures of chicken dishes?

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I would be grateful if you could situate a restaurant you've never been to, lahori spice, in relation to bangladeshi food. (I know lahore isn't in bangladesh but the neighborhood it's in has a huge bangladeshi population.)

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if they're actually from lahore then there is no relation. i would guess that would be the case as for marketing purposes a restaurant operated by bangladeshis would be more likely to use an indian name than a pakistani one.

bangladesh and the indian state of west bengal together are bengal in a broader historical and cultural sense. just as indian and pakistani punjab (where lahore is) are together punjab. this larger bengal is a very big place and it's always difficult to generalize. but broadly speaking you could say that there is an east bengal (which became east pakistan and then bangladesh) and west bengal distinction in terms of food (and dialect), though within both there's a fair bit of variation (keep in mind that north bengal, for instance abuts sikkim and nepal and bhutan and assam). speaking broadly you could say that east bengali food is richer and spicier than west bengali food. of course, religion is also a factor. after partition east bengali/bangladeshi food becomes identified with muslim food, many east bengali hindus (like my father's family) having fled during partition.

the bengali hindu food that i know well, more precisely upper caste bengali hindu food from calcutta is distinct from the north indian food that's better known in the west in a few important ways. for one thing it's very fish-centered (even bengali brahmins eat fish). mustard oil is a favoured cooking medium. traditionally, tomatoes are used as a fruit (as chatni) rather than as a savoury ingredient: my aunts refer to my mother's cooking as being "very punjabi" because she tends to use tomatoes a lot. at this point though it's common to see tomatoes in a lot of meat and fish dishes. ginger is used far more than garlic. most vegetable dishes tend to be simple and made with very few ingredients, a signature one being panch phoron, a blend of 5 seeds. as those of you who've read my veg recipes will know, many dishes take the form of heating mustard oil, dropping in some panch phoron and then sauteeing the veg in the flavoured oil with just some turmeric, salt and maybe a bit of chilli powder and/or green chillies. even meat curries tend to be on the light side. cream etc. is very rarely used. coconut is also used a lot, usually grated but sometimes as coconut milk, as in the quintessential malai curry. another classic bengali ingredient is shorshe-bata or mustard paste, which is used to cook everything from fish to prawns to vegetables. the use of poppy seed paste with vegetables is another bengali thing. i have recipes for most of this stuff on the blog.

oh yes, bengalis also eat a lot of rice. there are some uniquely bengali breads (luchis, a lighter relative of puris, made with white flour, for example) but a typical bengali eats rice at least twice a day.

there's also a nawabi muslim food tradition whose dishes will be more familiar. the british deposed the nawab of awadh in the mid 1800s and exiled him and his retinue to calcutta. an offshoot of awadhi cuisine took root there with delicate biryanis and kormas and things of that nature.

finally, there's sweets. bengali's have a notorious sweet tooth (though not quite as sweet as that of gujaratis) and there's a whole panopoly of (largely) milk-based sweets--which you can probably find inferior versions of in new york; frankly it's hard to get good bengali sweets outside bengal even in india (cities like delhi with large bengali enclaves are rare exceptions).

there's a great youtube channel called bong eats (bong is a nickname for bengali) that you should follow if you want to learn more. great cooking videos and some good context. watching a bunch of those will be more instructive than the above.

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I would be surprised if the name is supposed to mean anything to someone outside the community, but the food I've had from them doesn't seem like what you're describing.

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