Six Bengali winter treats that will warm your heart

A journey to stomach through Bengal

Lifestyle

December 11, 2018

/ By / Bengal

Winter may be brief and mellow in Bengal but doesn’t mean the feat is sparse, the colours are dull or the food is sad. In fact it is sumptuous and heart-warming. 

Winter comes with array of festivals in Bengal. Indigenous festivals like Poush Parbon (harvest festival), Saraswati Puja (worshipping the goddess of knowledge), book fair along with colonial legacies like Christmas and English New Year make a perfect occasion to indulge in elaborate feasts. Vibrant seasonal produces like carrots, green peas, newly-harvested potatoes, cabbages become available. People enthusiastically flock to numerous picnics, get-togethers, and parties to relish the seasonal merriment that comes with the sojourn of winter. Of course food is the most important part of the celebration. A winter afternoon is not the same without peeling fresh oranges brought from the market while getting sun-baked in the daylight of December. Here is what winters taste like in Bengal.

 

kochuri-alur-don-photo

Curried potatoes with fluffy bread

Koraishutir kochuri and alur dom: The dish is on a quintessential picnic breakfast menu, and consists of flatbread stuffed with green peas and curried potatoes. A rather mundane luchi (fried flatbread) gets overloaded with generous morsel of grinded peas sautéed with nigella seeds, ginger paste, and little bit of green chillies. The worthy accompaniment, alur dom (curried potatoes) is made with baby potatoes and is mildly spicy. The alur dom is not harsh on the tongue and neither will it make you cry.

 

 

nahoums-palm-cake

In Kolkata, fruit cake is unequivocally in vogue

Christmas fruitcake: Fruitcake around the world has become an obsolete item to be exchanged as gifts on Christmas, and in some countries, it has been reduced to a slander referring to homosexual people. But, in Kolkata,the capital city of Bengal, fruitcake is unequivocally in vogue. With the arrival of Christmas, make-shift stalls are set up across the city to dish out scrumptious fruitcakes encrusted with gingered candies, pitted dates, dried apricots, black currents, and cherries. A conversation with the sweet’s aficionados will give away the names of bakeries, which are hidden gems tucked away in the modest lanes of the City of Joy.

 

patisapta

Crepe with reduced milk filling

Pithe puli – Makar Sakranti is the harvest festival when Bengali mothers embark on rice grinding spree in every household. Rice dust is the prime ingredient to make pithe, a genre of winter-special confectioneries. Like the neighbouring state of Odisha, Bengal also has a diverse collection of pithes. Here are some of the widely-consumed stars from that lot. Patisapta is a crepe filled with reduced milk. Dudhpuli are coconut-filled dumplings stewed in the jiggery-flavoured boiling milk. Chitoi pithe, soft-spongy cousin of idli (south Indian rice cake) is consumed with velvety smooth sauce of jhola nolen gur (liquid date palm jaggery).

 

jay-nagar-er-mowa

Mowas are a fragrant delicacy

Joynager er mowa – This one is really something to write home about. Meticulously crafted with kanakchur khoi (a type of fragrant popped rice, light and soft), date palm jaggery, and sprinkled with shredded mawa (reduced milk), jaynagar er mowa originated in a small town of Bengal called Jaynagar and is named after its place of birth. A smooth, uninterrupted bite into the moist mowa will add warmth and bliss to any person with sweet tooth.

 

bhoger-khichuri

Divine temptation

Khichuri-begun bhaja-chutney– This is a staple Saraswati Puja (a festival of worshipping the Goddess of knowledge) offering. This festive platter contains Khichuri ( a mildly spicy porridge made with fragrant rice and nutty lentil), begun bhaja (aubergine fritters) and chutney (a ketchup like sauce made with tomatoes, spices and sugar). Served in shawl-pata (traditional bowl made out of leaves), infused with the smell of incense sticks and bright marigold flowers, khichuri tastes divine in its truest sense of words.

 

 

koi-mach-fulkopi-diye

Walking Perch fish in a spicy curry

Koi mach fulkopi diye – This humble fish curry with florets of cauliflower doesn’t need any special occasion to indulge in. A regular during winter months in Bengal, this fish curry is seasoned with just ginger and cumin seeds. The main flavouring agents of this delicacy are the koi mach (walking Perch fish) and fulkopi (cauliflower).  Few slices of potatoes and tomatoes are thrown in to add some depth to the curry. The usual trope of all Bengali dishes including this one is- don’t overpower the curry with spices and let the natural flavour of the vegetables and fish shine through. The koi mach, which is full of natural fat, enriches the curry with its distinct oily texture.

There is more to Bengali cuisine than just fish and rice. The path of exploring the culinary world of Bengali food is laden with different smells, colours, and tastes. The connoisseur will be spoilt for choice and his waistband will expand, but at the end of day, the taste buds will be pleased and the heart will be at ease.

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