Monday, February 26, 2007

Bangladeshi Food

Another cultural information to offer some insight into what the average Bangladeshi meal consists of. Few things can get between a Bangladeshi and his food – the multiple breakfasts of the Hobbits have nothing on hungry Bengalis that can put away kilograms of rice a day. This outline is for the traditional meal, not the one that half of Bangladeshis have, that being rice twice a day with a bit of fish or veg if they are lucky. The poverty is such that rice is the sole foodstuff for most people.

Breakfast will be a little curried papaya and potato, served up with chapatis (a flatbread), bananas, and an omelette cooked with lots of katcha morich (green chillies). Cha (tea) is a necessary accompaniment, usually incredibly sweet.

Breakfast is taken at sometime between 8 or 9, and almost always exclusively cooked by female household members. Some people I’ve met have genuinely said that they have not had breakfast because their sister did not get up in time: the ability to stick some bread in a toaster is seemingly beyond them.

At about 11, it is tradition to eat again, taking sweet cha (brewed with cinnamon, cloves, milk and bay leaves) with a shingara (a pastry stuffed with potato, chickpeas, peanuts and lentils) and a samosa. In the small restaurants and shacks, piles of shingaras and samosas can be seen growing each morning. They are usually gone by midday.

Lunch is a liberally timed affair. At work I’ve sometimes managed to get them to eat it at 12.30; occasionally it has been as late as 4.30! That day I was pretty furious, and pretty hungry. A huge bowl of rice will appear, and people will fill their plates with the same amount that before I came to Bangladesh I would have served to four people. On top of this is piled a vegetable curry, or a meat/fish dish. It’s all mashed in together with the hand and then scooped up and stuff down the throat. Once the plate is empty, it starts again with more rice and a dahl, a watery soup of lentils and onions and chillies. On the side is usually a plate of lemon and cucumber slices and green chillies. Most Bengalis will eat these chillies raw. I have been training myself to eat them and can now eat a small one or half a big one before it gets too unbearable. Behind the heat there is an incredible flavour: it’s worth trying.

Lunch will sometimes include a very solid mashed potato, a tomato chutney, fish balls, aubergine balls, tomato, coriander and chilli salad or an egg dish.

In the afternoon the fast food places start again and people will eat dahlpuri, a pastry style savoury snack stuffed with lentils or potato, or some onion bahjis, or chanachur, and addictive Bombay Mix style snack.

Dinner can be between 8 and 11, and is either a repeat of lunch, or will be a kebab. Chicken or beef is well cooked over open coals and eaten with a riata (onion, cucumber and yoghurt) and ruti (naan bread). The local kebab place here does a huge chicken kebab, garlic nan and a coke for 110 Taka (about a £1), and is brilliant. I try to go once a week.


meilione said...

Hi Tom

thanks for sharing the information, I working on a research about Bangladesh and it helped me to get a good insight.


Maria said...

Honestly I really like the food in Bangladesh especially the rare mash potato.