What are the things you need in order to set up a kitchen where you can cook Bengali food? Join us for a three-part series where we walk you through the various nuts and bolts (however little!) that keep a kitchen running like a piece of well-oiled machinery. This video (Part 1) focuses on the Bengali pantry.
We have divided our Bengali pantry essentials into three broad categories based on priority, starting from the very basics to more specialised items for advanced cooks. Even though we've approached this from the perspective of a Bengali kitchen, this list could very easily be adapted for Indian cooking in general.
This list of Bengali fish recipes can act as a starting point for your adventures into Bengali cuisine. Bengal loves its fish. Bengalis eat fish in every form. Fish curries, fried fish, fish chutneys, fish pickles, dried fish, you name it. Bengalis also pride themselves in eating every part of the fish including the head, bones, skin, gills, innards, roe and tail. Bengalis put fish in their vegetables and vegetables in their fish.
Vegetables have always been bountiful in Bengal's fertile plains, criss-crossed by the Ganga, Padma and Bramhaputra rivers. The Bhakti movement saw the rise of vegetarianism in Bengal, and since "Vaishnav"s did not consume onions and garlic, it led to a unique vegetarian cuisine with brilliant recipes, where the flavours of the vegetables shine through, with no garlic or onions to mar their simplicity. A market in Kolkata, or Dhaka or indeed all of Bengal overflows with all kinds of leafy greens (shaak), veggies, lentils, rice (paddy being Bengal's staple crop) hold their own ground next to the fish and meat stalls. Having been through hard times several times in its history–famines, wars, Bengalis were forced to be resourceful. Every part of a plant–from its leaf, stem, fruits, the peels, to the seeds–everything is used in cooking, leading to some incredible array of vegetarian dishes.