Being a Bengali is a pride in its own. No matter how much we bloom globally, we always hold on to our roots firmly. It's an "intellectually supreme class" as mentioned by director Srijit Mukherji in his movie "Jatishwar". To be honest, I agree with him completely. From being an ardent fan of the legendary actor Uttam Kumar to humming Rabindrasangeet; from hugging our Kol balish at its best to loving debates and theatres. And not to forget the mouth watering bengali food,we love it all. Bengali's are famous for their food all over the world. "Golden crispy luchi", "aromatic chicken curry", " muri ghonto", "beguni", " peyaji" and of course fish! Varieties of fish, which also happens to be a good source of omega 3 fatty acid and is beneficial for skin and brain development. So you see, there are many unsung heroes who participate in creating those "kohl smeared Bangali sundori" or "specs wearing brooding bhalo whereas".
Presenting to you 10 Bengali non-veg dishes which will make you say – “Taste bhi, health bhi” –
1. DIMER JHOL- Mouth watering egg curry cooked with ginger, garlic and tomato. It has an amazing golden-red hue jhol (runny kind of gravy) enriched with great taste and health values as its cooked in slow flame and has the benefits of antioxidant-rich tomatoes and spices with the main hero-egg (good source of protein).
2.PEPE JAGOR DIYE MANGSHER JHOL- It’s a light chicken curry, where the curry is basically like a soup. The chicken is cooked along with carrot, papaya and potatoes. The potatoes are fried separately and added later whereas all the other ingredients go directly into a pressure cooker. They are cooked after the chicken is marinated with lemon or curd. Carrot takes care of vitamin A, carbohydrates and antioxidant. Papaya acts as a meat tenderizer and makes your chicken succulent, besides being a vitamin, folic acid and antioxidant rich source.
3. BHETKI MACHER PATURI- It is a fish preparation, where the fish pieces are covered with mustard paste, grated coconut, green chilies wrapped in banana leaves and allowed to cook slowly in steam. Fish is a good source of low calorie and high protein. It provides ample amount of Omega 3 fatty acid (good for skin, brain, heart), folic acid and vitamin D. The steaming method makes it very healthy.
4.HALKA MACHER JHOL- As the name suggests, the fish is cooked using nigella seeds and green chillies as the main ingredients along with ginger and tomato. It is apt for summer. You get the benefits of fish and feel very light yet full.
5.LAU CHINGRI- It is a preparation of shrimp and bottle gourd. The shrimp is rubbed with salt and turmeric, and bottle gourd is cut into medium sizes. It’s cooked using bay leaves, red chillies and cumin seeds. Ideal for summer, the dish not only promotes the benefits of shrimp but the bottle gourd keeps one cool inside out.
6. MACHER MATHA DIYE MURI GHONTO- It’s a preparation where the fish head is cooked with rice. It’s something like Halim. Completely wholesome. The rice is soaked in water before you start cooking. When onion, tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste all are cooked, the fish head pieces and rice are added with water as per requirement. It is a complete meal. It provides carbohydrate, omega 3 fatty acid, folic acid and vitamin D all packed together.
7 RUI MACHER POLAO- As the name suggests, it is rice cooked with rohu fish. The fish pieces are initially rubbed with salt and turmeric and fried after 15-20 minutes. In a pan sliced onion and tomatoes are cooked in ginger garlic paste along with some chillies. Then the fish is added and cooked for a while and kept aside. After that we fry the soaked rice along with cashew and raisins, add water and allow the rice to cook. Later, we mix it with the fried fish mixture kept aside and serve it. It’s another example of wholesome cooking where you get the carbohydrate and proteins all packed together.
8. ALOO BEGUN DIYE MACHER JHOL- Another rich in nutrient recipe coming from Bengal’s kitchen. After frying the salt-turmeric rubbed fish, we add Nigel seeds and green chillies and allowed it to temper. Then add potatoes cut into wedges and add brinjal slices. While you fry it, add grated tomatoes, red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric, salt and water to allow it to cook. After a while, we add the fried fishes and cook it. Serve it hot with chopped coriander leaves. This is a unique fish curry with the benefits of brinjal and potatoes. The gravy is not only nutritious because of the spices and condiments but also light to the tummy and can be consumed in summer.
9.MOROLA MACHER TOK- As the name suggests, it’s a tangy fish delicacy with the twist of tamarind. After frying the fish pieces crisp, we add sugar and salt into the tamarind paste. In the same frying pan in which fish was fried, we add black mustard seeds, green chillies and allow it to crackle. Then we add potato cubes and fry it. Water is added to cook it. Once the potatoes are softened, we add the tamarind paste and allow it to cook. Finally, the fried fishes are added and cooked for a while. This is an amazing combination of nutrition and flavour. The fishes are small in size, about the size of once’s finger. It is rich in calcium and is beneficial for eyes and heart.
10.SHORSHE ILISH – Now presenting the legendary Shorshe ilish. Legendary because it’s famous, yummy and full of nutrition. Ilish or hilsa is good for controlling cholesterol and hence, should not be discarded. The salt-turmeric rubbed fishes are fried and kept aside. A paste of mustard seeds and green chillies are prepared. Care should be taken regarding the quantity as too much mustard might make it bitter. In a frying pan, onion paste, salt and turmeric are fried till oil is separated. Then we add water, green chilies and the fried fishes followed by mustard paste, salt and water if required.
So, these are real heroes behind the “intelligence” “lustrous hair” “good eyesight” and a beautiful Bengali inside out. Hope you enjoyed reading it and I am sure you would definitely like to try it out someday.
-By Debanjana Bhattacharyya
The author is a post graduate scholar in Food and nutrition.