Coming from a Bengali family, I don’t feel guilty saying that “we Bengalis live to eat” and this spirit of hogging could be witnessed at its peak during any festival especially Durga Puja. While the rest of the country is busy fasting for Navaratra, we are fondly feasting upon different delicious vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
Yes! You hear me right. I know that a lot of people get offended by hearing that we eat non-veg during Puja and it raises their eye-brows ;). So, let’s not be judgmental as there are multiple facets to this. For most of us, it’s a time when Maa Durga visits us with her family for a short 5-day vacation and this is the biggest reason for the celebrations which also includes flaunting new clothes, pandal hopping, study break for kids and many more things apart from just food indulgence. And Maa Durga understands all these ;). Apart from this, people involved in Puja preparations usually restrain themselves from any non-vegetarian items. This was exactly the case at my home during dad’s service tenure when mom dad used to be involved much more in all these Puja preparations.
So, its time forget all the diet rules, put any misconceptions away and splurge on some of the best Bengali dishes during this festive season:
Before you begin real feasting, the very first thing I would suggest trying would be the Bhog (prasad) which is offered to Maa Durga. A typical bhog includes Khichudi, Labra (the medley of vegetables like potato, pumpkin, radish & leafy veggies), 5 different bhajas (fries), chutney, payesh (kheer) & some mishit (sweet). This might be counted among one of the veg meals which we all (from kids to oldsters) crave for during Pujo. The magical essence of bhog cannot be replicated at our homes (we tried it several times but failed). So, now when I do pandal-hopping in Delhi NCR, I always look for bhog, especially on Ashtami/Navami.
So, let’s get started with the actual list now. I have tried to provide a little description of the dish as you may not be very familiar with the names or the ingredients.
Let’s begin with a list of street foods/snacks to satisfy your taste buds:
- Chop – Aaloo/Mocha (banana flower)/Vegetable/Egg/Chicken/Mutton – These lip-smacking lightly spiced patties/croquettes with all sins of deep frying.
- Mughlai Parantha – Rectangular deep fried parantha stuffed with egg/chicken/mutton/paneer stuffing.
- Kathi Rolls – You get to choose the type stuffing (Paneer/Egg/Chicken/Mutton) with irresistible sauces & spices. Originated in West Bengal, they can easily bid adieu to your hunger pangs in a pocket-friendly way.
- Ghughni chaat – Hot, spicy curry prepared using yellow chickpeas garnished with onion, lime juice/tamarind chutney and dried coconut. Sometimes, keema is also added to it for the mutton lovers.
Vegetarian – If you think Bengalis are all for fish and nothing else, well…then it’s not true at all. Try these mouthwatering dishes yourself and you’re likely to be wrong before passing on any judgment:
- Luchi with Chholar daal / Aloor dum – Fluffy Deep Fried Pooris, made with all-purpose flour (maida). Chholar daal is Bengal gram lentils flavored with ghee, coconut & other spices. This is also a classic breakfast combo. Luchis can also be replaced by Koraishutir Kochuri (Pooris stuffed with mildly spiced peas filling) or Radhaballabi (Dal pooris). Aloor dum is the dum aloo, but in bengali style.
- Aloo Posto – This potato dish prepared with the thick paste of poppy seeds (khuskhus) has got the tendency of rewarding a good sleep/dope effect (You might like to give up booze ;)).
- Shukto – Beautiful bitter vegetable stew served as a first course. This is prepared using different vegetables like brinjals, bitter gourd, papaya, drumsticks making it a health & tasty dish.
- Dhokar Daalna – Fried chana daal patti in a tomato gravy.
- Mochar Ghonto – Florets of banana dry cooked with coconut, potato & mild spices.
- Begun Bhaja – Roundels of Eggplant shallow fried with the sprinkle of turmeric powder, salt & sugar. This is usually served as a side dish along with rice & daal.
- Potoler Dolma – This is Pointed gourd (Parval) with potato/paneer & dry fruits stuffing and then dunked in an aromatic Satvik gravy.
- Chingri Malaikari – Spicy Bengali prawn curry cooked in coconut milk & cream
- Bhetki Maacher Paturi – Bhetki fillet marinated in mustard & coconut paste steamed in banana leaves
- Bhapa Ilish – Hilsa fish steamed in mustard oil with mustard paste. While the taste is truly ecstatic, you better be careful while eating as this fish has sharp bones throughout. Make no fear, opt for boneless and enjoy the meal.
- Kosha Mangsho – Lick your fingers to some spicy thick & aromatic mutton curry
- Chicken / Mutton Biryani – Filled with the rich aroma of spices & ghee, this dish is a combination of tender pieces of mutton cooked in rice, potato & egg.
- Doi Maach – ‘Doi’ means Curd and ‘Maach’ represents fish. Even with fewer ingredients, this dish is truly delectable.
- Muri ghonto – This typical Bengali delicacy is sort of fish pulao prepared with pre-fried fish heads.
Sweets – Bengali cuisine is incomplete if the sweets are not tried and it hardly matters whether you have a sweet tooth or not. It is always difficult to resist ourselves when in a Bengali sweet shop. So, just please your palette with some of the must-have sweets from Bengal.
- Rosogulla – The light spongy-soft cottage cheese balls drowned in thin sugar syrup. I find the non-bengali rasgullas to be mostly chewy.
- Rasmalai – Soft & mouth melting rasgullas soaked in sweetened thickened milk
- Mishti Doi – Delicately sweetened curd usually set is earthen pots.
- Sandesh – Made of khoya and available in different flavours like chocolate, mango or pista.
- Paatishapta – Thin crepes/pancakes rolled and stuffed with sweet khowa / coconut-gur mixture.
- Nolengurer ice cream – Ice cream sweetened with seasonal date palm jaggery
So, let’s Eat, Taste and gear up to get soaked in the festival spirit!!