If you ever visit West Bengal or familiar with the Bengali culture, you might have heard the phrase “Bangalir Vuribhoj”, which means Bengali’s feast. But I bet that the feast I am talking about you won’t be able to understand until you visit west Bengal, have a Bengali friend (which you must have if you are a foodie), or you are Bengali yourself. The streets of West Bengal are food heaven, every street has over one food stall, and ‘Cha-er dokan’ (tea stall) is basically on every street corner. You would always find a crowd here. Not only in the morning or evening, but we Bengalis can also have tea at any time of the day. Yes, call us mad or whatever, but as they say “cha is emotion”. The Steaming tea served in an earthen cup accompanied by bakery biscuits or cakes or a fag (*disclaimer enters*).
Okay, enough about ‘Chai’, let’s talk about food. Bengali cuisine is huge, but I see people hear Bengali food and they can only think of Mach and Rosogolla. Well, of course, we love Machh and Rosogolla both, but our cuisine is far beyond these two. So let me take you to this flavourful journey of the top 10 food of west Bengal that you should definitely try:
Illish or Hilsha is a delicate fish that is a must-try. Prepared with mustard paste and green chillis, served with steaming hot rice and a slice of lime put aside, is perfection put in a plate. The aromatic curry is a perfect balance of flavors and spices. The fish, very tenderly fried and sometimes steamed in a banana leaf too. Try this signature dish of Bengal to feel the euphoria.
Who said Bengalis only eat fish? And vegetables are boring? We Bengalis know how to make the veggie tastier too. On a heavy platter of Bengali foods, Shukto is a must to balance out the richness. It is much on a lighter and healthier side, served as the first course.
Shukto is made with many veggies, including potato, brinjal, bitter gourd, drumsticks, and Bori (again, a Bengali specialty made with black gram). The curry is very light in texture and made with a little spice and milk. Shukto is the perfect dish to start your meal before you dive into the main course.
If you are one of those who think Fuchka and Golgappa and Panipuri are all the same, THEY AIN’T! Fuchka is a street food that you only find in Bengal and no matter where you go the taste of Fuchka is unbeatable. Fuchkas here has a different story to tell altogether.
The spicy mashed potato mixed with black chickpeas and peas, filled in the crispy Fuchka ball, and oh, wait! The tamarind water, mixed with coriander leaves and Gandhoraaj Lebu (a unique variety of lime that you find in West Bengal only).
As soon as the Fuchka enters your mouth there is a blast of flavors that happens inside. You might have a short trip to psychedelic as well.
4.Chingri Malaikari/ Daab Chingri
Chingri or prawn is mostly served worldwide, but the way we Bengalis have it is on another level. For Malakari prawns cooked in a creamy sauce of yogurt and coconut milk with green chillis dash. for Daab Chingri we cook jumbo prawn in a flavourful curry of mustard and tender desiccated coconut. Both the dishes are iconic Bengali dishes that you must try.
5.Basanti Polao With Kosha Mangso
Bengali cuisine is the only cuisine where they serve comparatively sweeter dishes as the main course, with a spicy side-dish. Basanti Poalo and kosha Mangso is a perfect example of it. Polao or pulao is aromatic rice cooked with garam masala, raisin, cashew nuts, and a hint of sugar that has Basanti color (yellow tint) to it.
This sweet and salty rice served with spicy mutton curry that is high on the richness and cooked with cloves, cinnamon, and garlic. The mutton cooked slowly till in becomes fork-tender, and they release the oils. This combination will surely trigger your taste buds.
6.Bhetki Machher Paturi
Another iconic fish curry of Bengal is Bhetki Macher Paturi. The bhetki fish is coated in a mustard-coconut paste, then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed slowly the fish is tender. This is a melt-in-mouth preparation that will put you in a food coma of the most satisfying kind. The recipe might feel very simple, but it’s incredibly technical.
You will need a professional Bengali cook for this to give perfection.
So we have entered the dessert section finally.
Pithe and puli is a seasonal dessert that is only available in winters. Bengalis have a specific festival, Poush Sankranti, where they make 14 different Pithe and Puli on the occasion of harvesting crops. Made with rice flour, thickened milk, coconut, and Khejur Gur (date palm jaggery), these sweet treats are so delicious and unique that you must visit West Bengal in winters.
Sandesh is a very popular sweet of West Bengal, made with Khoya (condensed milk) and is mouth-watering. If you are not a sweet-tooth or prefer light sweetness, Sandesh is perfect for you. There are infinite types of Sandesh you will find in Bengal and each one is delicious.
But some Sandesh is too good that I need to mention separately. Jol Bhora, Nolen Gurer Sandesh, Kalakand, and Makha Sandesh are some of Bengal’s best delicacies.
Mishti Doi is another legacy of Bengal. It is a thick creamy sweetened yogurt. It is usually served in an authentic earthen pot that gives you a cultural vibe. Another variant of Mishti Doi is Bhapa Doi. Sweet yogurt is steamed for around 40 minutes and garnished with nuts, making it tastier. Mishti Doi or Bhapa Doi is a sweet treat, served at the end of the meal.
Rosogolla needs no introduction, and most importantly it is Rosogolla, not Rasgulla. It’s made with curdle balls cooked in sugar syrup. Sounds so easy, right? But trust me, it is the toughest to make. Why Bengal’s Rosogolla is better? Because it the softest spongiest piece of sweet filled with thin sugar syrup, when you take a bite the syrup drips out from it, and the Rosogolla melts in your mouth.
Is your mouth watering? Cause mine is.