No doubt that the tradition and customs of a state are very well reflected in its cuisines. Every part of the country bears its assortment of gastronomies that make them unique amidst their neighbours. The food habit of any particular state highly depends on its geographical and climatic conditions. They are the prime factors in determining the basic constituents of a meal. This in turn also ensures a healthy and rich food plate to its natives.
Not being an exception, West Bengal also has its own choice of tangy and nutritive palates that are a food lover’s darling. Nevertheless, they say that Bengali and fish are synonyms. But it is not always so. Yes, Bengalis indeed love fish but they love vegetables as well.
There are a plethora of vegetarian dishes in Bengal that are worth to die for. Additionally, a vegetarian meal with plenty of fresh and seasonal veggie is no doubt the best choice to stay fit and fine.
This post covers my choice of 14 vegetarian food items from the Bengali kitchen that will surely leave you drooling.
The compulsory starter for every Bengali occasion is Shukto. This plate has its variation across the state and comprises of bitter gourd as the key ingredient. The dish is prepared with a combination of a variety of vegetables including drumstick, ridge gourd, carrot, brinjal and potatoes. Often the dish is garnished with a teaspoonful of Desi Ghee to add an extra flavour to the preparation.
Though the dish may appear like any ordinary Paneer dish to many, it’s not. These are much softer chunks of cottage cheese that are carefully separated from the milk and then fried. These cheese balls are then cooked in a gravy of tomatoes and spices to give it the form of Chhanar Dalna. The platter is an inevitable part of the Bengali Vegetarian food menu in every family.
The popular menu of mix vegetable is known as Labra here. Apart from the assortment of veggies, Bengali style mix vegetable includes the use of bay leaves and a special mixture of five Bengali spices in the preparation. This adds an extra smell and flavour to the palate. Without interrupting the basic ingredients, many places in Bengal also refer to the plate of Labra as Chochhori or Chachhra.
Here is another veg delight of West Bengal; Dhokar Dana. Soaked lentils are ground, pasted and eventually cooked with spices to form hard solid chunks of Dhoka. Then they are cut into small cakes and cooked in a gravy of assorted spices. The outcome is a tangy and savoury Bengali dish for all occasion.
Mochar Ghonto or Thorer Ghonto
They call it banana blossom curry in English. The hardcore of the banana stem is finely chopped and then cooked until it turns brown. Many people add grated coconuts, mustard seeds, peanuts and chickpeas as well. The final result is a hot and sweet dish ready to be eaten either with rice or chapatti.
Poppy seeds along with little chillies are finely pasted to get an even consistency of Posto Bata. This mushy and tangy mix is then cooked with potatoes to get the Bengali dish of Alu Posto. Apart from using potatoes as the main vegetable, Bengalis also use ridge gourd, okra or ladies finger, brinjal and pointed gourd with the posto.
Prepare the mushy mixture of poppy seeds and again mix them with a little rice flour. As it gets thickened, cut them into small cakes and fry them. These are called Poster Bora. Enjoy this fried patty with rice or even with your evening tea.
The pulpy mixture of poppy seeds is also consumed with rice. For an additional flavour, add a few drops of mustard oil and cook it over the flame for a few seconds. Then enjoy this savoury treat with plain rice.
The ordinary parwal or pointed gourds get the version of Potoler Dolma in Bengal. The pointed gourds are stuffed with a mixture of boiled potatoes, cheese curd and spices. Then they are fried and finally cooked in gravy to achieve the outcome of Potoler Dolma. One can also use non-vegetarian stuffing depending upon their choice of stuff.
Pointed gourds are cooked in a mixture of curd and spices over a low flame to achieve the palate of Doi Potol. This is a comparatively less spicy Bengali dish and is mostly taken with rice.
Vaja Mooger Daal
This is an enhanced version of the ordinary Moong Daal that we get at the restaurants. This Bengali style Moong Daal is blended with finely chopped carrots, beans and green peas. Before cooking the daal just fry it a little on medium heat (Vaja refers to frying). And lastly, add a teaspoon of Desi ghee before serving. You are done!
You can say Begun Vaja is the best side dish of Moonger Daal. It is the most popular and common side dish of all seasons. Cut the brinjal into thick slices while mixing them with little sugar, salt and turmeric. Leave it for 10 minutes and then fry those. Hola! You get the perfect Begun Vaja. It acts as a good side dish with both rice and chapati.
This is the Bengali preparation of jackfruit just before it ripens and turns aromatic. Echorer Dalna is a piquant preparation that accompanies every Bengali vegetarian meal.
Well, they say that Bengalis have a sweet tooth. And it’s very true to some extent. While other parts of India have their assortments of hot and tangy chutneys, Bengalis love to keep it sweet and syrupy. Bengalis have Chatni made from tomatoes, papaya, bottle gourd, dates, fruits, and every other ingredient you can think of. While chutney acts as a side dish in many states, Bengalis ingest Chaatney as a pudding after meals. A veg meal without Chaatney is incomplete here.
After reading this, I hope that now you won’t symbolize a Bengali with fish?