Bengal’s sweet and spicy flavours – The Hindu

From TheHindu.com | June 20, 2015

Essence of EastBengali delicacies dished out at the ongoing food festivalPhoto: K.R.Deepak

Think mustard oil and the first thing that comes to mind is Bengali cuisine. A quintessential part of Bengali food, you can never separate mustard oil from the dishes. And then comes the distinct aroma of tempering. The ‘Big Bong Theory’ is something like this – if you don’t use the right ‘phoron’ (seasoning used for tempering) for the particular dish, you can never get the perfect taste, explains Chef Bulai Swain of Euphoria Fine Dining Restaurant.

As we entered Euphoria restaurant that is hosting a week-long Bengali food festival, the strong aroma coming from the dishes laid out before us hint at what the chef was talking about. I like the way the chef has selected the dishes for the menu; it offers an elaborate choice in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian sections. One of the specialties of traditional Bengali food lies in the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavours, evident in most dishes. The menu includes some of my top favourites – the ‘kosha mangsho’(mutton curry), ‘chingri malaikari’ (prawn malai curry) and ‘bhetki macher paturi’ (a popular dish made with fish wrapped in banana leaf with mustard paste and slow cooked in steam).

In the vegetarian section, there is the traditional Bengali dish of mixed vegetables called ‘shukto’. It’s one of the most difficult dishes to perfect and, like me, every Bong will tell you that the best ‘shukto’ they ever tasted was the one made by their moms! But interestingly, every household in Bengal has a different version of ‘shukto’. This Bengali dish is made of vegetables cooked in mustard based gravy with bitter gourd being an essential part of it. “The tempering used in the dish is the ‘panch phoron’, a mixture of equal quantities of fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, onion seeds and cumin seeds,” says Chef Swain. For those new to Bengali cuisine ‘shukto’ is a must-try, notwithstanding its mild bitter taste.

Source: Bengal’s sweet and spicy flavours – The Hindu

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