For the lure of food: Bangladeshi food finally discovered by Western food lovers

Wafiur Rahman
Thursday, December 21st, 2017


 

I personally have a penchant for all things food on social media. While I do not make it a point to post my food-ventures regularly on social media, I do keep track of the newest restaurants and their reviews, as well as engage in visually-devouring my senses on YouTube for street food videos. The usual popular Asian cuisines such as Thai and Indian are reviewed by most food bloggers.

 

But during this age of globalisation, it was only a matter of time that the hidden gem that we know as Bangladeshi cuisine was bound to carve its own identity at one point or the other.

In mainstream television, celebrity chef Kiran Jethwa had featured the delightful Prawn Biryani on his award-winning show, “Fearless Chef”, while popular Asian-American YouTubers, Fung Brothers (Fung Bros.) had tasted more Bangladeshi concoctions recently in Jackson Heights, New York and uploaded the video on YouTube.

 

Fung Bros’ Bangladeshi food tour

 

David Fung visited Jackson Heights’ Haat Bazar restaurant, which serves authentic Bangladeshi food – along with his entourage of Bangladeshi friends (he endeared them as “Gangladeshi” for their embracing of Hip Hop culture), who took him on a journey about the distinct flavours and staples of Bangladeshi food.

 

They first had David try the ever-popular liver Shingara, topped with tamarind sauce. David attributed this to a very scrumptious snack, with the liver not overpowering the taste of the actual Shingara.

 

This was followed by the main course, which consisted of a Bhorta platter (the popular staples of eggplant, mashed lentils, mashed prawn, dried fish, potato, beans and pumpkin) alongside steaming parboiled rice. Before digging in, he was strongly advised not to miss out on squeezing lime juice on top of the rice. After going through his first mouthful, he was glad he took the lemony advice as it elevated the rice and bhorta combination to a higher level altogether.

 

It would not be complete without trying Hilsha curry, the national fish of the country. They were in luck as a Hilsha egg accompanied the curry as well. Despite facing a tough time in extracting the intricate bones before trying the fish, David had to admit that the taste of the fish is like no other he had ever tried before. This was followed with bouts of Rui Fish Curry, Chicken Roast, Beef Bhuna (the texture he compared to the Indian Beef Vindaloo, but the taste was very unique, yet delicious nevertheless) and Plain Polao.

 

Desserts were not to be missed as they had David try out the delectable Chomchom (a Tangail delicacy), KaloJaam, Jaggery-infused Shandesh and the ever-popular Bhapa Pitha. Amongst the myriad of desserts David tried, the Pitha definitely stood out among the rest of the lot.

 

Although Bangladeshi food is one of the Subcontinent’s best-kept secret, not all people are familiar with it, or they never got the opportunity to taste the authentic cuisine. Thanks to these YouTubers, people can now know more about our cuisine.

 

The Bangladeshis in the video did a great job in introducing the ingredients of the meals! They even taught David how to pronounce the name of each dish. David surmised that he felt like he went on a field trip to a whole new part of the world.

 

Fearless Chef in the Sundarbans?

 

Kiran Jethwa, is a global ‘gastronaut’ and has traversed the world in search of adventurous and unique cuisines and cultures. From hunting with eagles in Mongolia to deep sea diving for fish in Mozambique, Jethwa has experienced the dangers and thrills that people face daily for a living–for a meal.

 

His award-winning show, “Fearless Chef” on Fox Life, featured Bangladesh in one of the episodes last year. His journey to several natural fish havens led him to longitudinally traverse the nation from Mymensingh to Dhaka, down to Mongla port and the Sundarbans. In the episode, he dubbed Bangladesh a “food bonanza.”

Kiran began his visit from the country’s largest fish hatchery, Bhai Bhai Fish Hatchery, in Trishal upazila of Mymensingh district.

 

He then travelled to the capital on the rooftop of a train with a group of baby fish sellers, some of whom descended mid-route on the way to their buyers. In the capital, he observed the hustle and bustle of the Karwan Bazar kitchen market, a wholesale hub that collects produce from all over the country and then distributes them throughout the capital.

 

Finally, in Mongla, Kiran enjoyed the scenic beauty of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and joined in river fishing with a group of local fisherman, who use a family of otters to chase fish into their nets.

 

He cooked prawn biryani – a concoction of biriyani, polao, and paella that turned out, in his words, as more polao than biriyani, and hardly paella – on a covered boat for the fisherman and joined them on their boat to partake in the delicious meal.

 

What next?

 

According to the annual Topics and Trends Report by Facebook IQ, which was released on December 13, forecasted about subjects that are “on the cusp of going mainstream,” according to research from Facebook IQ and third parties. As per the report findings, people online since January 2016 have been hungry for Bangladeshi cuisine (up 7.9 times), showing how much it had been searched all across the globe.

 

The plethora of delicacies, the geography, age-old literature, festivities and the everyday menu – they all combine together to create an extraordinarily rich, diverse, tasty and healthy food, which is Bangladeshi cuisine.  It is only a matter of time when it will be ranked among the mainstream cuisines around the world in the near future.

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