BENGALI NIGHTS: IT’S A FAMILY THING
With my travel schedule being what it is, one of the things I most crave when in full “ Willy Loman” mood is a great home cooked meal. I have been doubly blessed this week as I had a superb meal at my dear friend, Cathy’s last Sunday and last night, a superlative Bengali meal at my relatives place on the Upper West.
A lot of bollocks is talked about ethnic food. People argue that only people from that ethnic group can tell you if it is any good or not and that only people from that ethnic group can actually cook it. Errant nonsense and a nonsense into which I bought until a few years ago. What they need is a good teacher.
Trust me, I have been served food claiming to be “Indian” by people from the sub continent that should be served with a knife, fork and stomach pump to save time. The sort of slop that would give even a dustbin ulcers.
By the same token, the two greatest cooks of Bengali food I have ever encountered have been my mother from Wales and my Aunt, Evelyn from the Philippines. Both had excellent “gurus” when it came to learning their craft. Their mother in laws. Evelyn’s apprenticeship has been a long suffering one, though as she is married to my Uncle Sanjoy, a typical Bengali male who believes that the world revolves around him and that the rest of the population was placed there to do his bidding. I, of course, fell very far from that tree. Ahem.
There is of course, no such thing as “ Indian” food. It is like saying “European” food. India offers a bewildering variety of styles and Bengali is, perhaps its most unusual and challenging. Arguably the best vegetarian food in India, it is known ( and disliked by some ) for its simplicity and the limited use of spices and its love of mustard and turmeric. It does not appeal to everyone, but I love it
Last night’s meal was the perfect example. Four or so simple dishes all served at close to room temperature as is the Bengali way.
First a simple chicken “curry” served with rice.
Then a ‘ Chapor Ghonto” a vegetable dish made with a crumbled lentil pancake. Perhaps, my all time favourite dish
A Baigan Paneer ( Aubergine with curd cheese )
And finally, a new dish to me “ Chingri Posto Diyea” a shrimp dish made with a sauce of turmeric and ground poppy seeds and dressed with mustard oil.
You could not find two more generous people than Sanjoy & Evelyn so, as ever the small kitchen was packed with visitors. With a surfeit of food and great company and conversation it is just one of the many memorable nights I have spent with them in this city
All I can say is Dhannyabad