I relish cuisines of any and every kind: from Italian to Turkish and Thai; from Persian to traditional English, and more or less everything in between. There is, however, one particular cuisine that always evokes memories of my holidays in Bangladesh, as well as general fond memories of family antics, both day-to-day and on special occasions: Bangladeshi cuisine. Whether sweet or savoury, Bangladeshi (or Bengali) foods are forever bursting with flavour and colour, and today I will share some of my personal favourites with you.
Handesh/Shondesh (date molasses and rice flour-based cakes)
A sticky and sweet fried cake, traditionally made from date molasses and rice flour, ‘Handesh’ works perfectly as a dessert but is also completely acceptable as a snack at any time of the day. These are particularly popular during special occasions and have – in my family – always been a staple Eid-day food. Crisp and well-cooked on the outside and deliciously tender on the inside, these palm-sized cakes never fail to make me think of family gatherings (and happy children running around in a state of sugar-rush). Here’s a brilliant handesh/shondesh recipe for you to check out.
Patishapta, or Fati Bola (filled crêpe-style sweet pancakes)
Often stuffed with a sticky filling called ‘jaggery’ (unrefined sugary goodness) that has a jam-like consistency, ‘Patishapta’, or ‘Fati Bola’, is another sweet item that reminds me of intimate family gatherings. I tend to enjoy this sweet treat on its own, but, from time to time, I may also add a scoop or two of ice-cream (or desi-style Kulfi!) too. Patishapta looks (and tastes) remarkably similar to the crêpe, a thin pancake originating from France, but these Bangladeshi-style treats also have their own added nostalgia-inducing function for me. Perhaps you could look at this recipe for them!
Dalir bora (fried lentil snacks)
Much like handesh and patishapta, ‘dalir bora’ – bite-sized fried lentil balls – are another snack food. It is probably clear at this point that I love my Bangladeshi snacks. Super crispy and wholesome, these (almost always vegan-friendly!) little bites of goodness have been a go-to snack option for me growing up. They take me back to cosy nights in with my family on cold and rainy nights, and they also remind me of the Holy month of Ramadan…they are a very popular fast-breaking food. Check out this recipe.
A good old fish dish
Fish is pretty big in Bangladeshi cuisine, and is considered a staple in my family. We indulge in a variety of, mostly freshwater, fish: tilapia, butterfish, rohu, and catfish to name a few. Often marinated in colourful spices and rich yoghurts, the fish dishes that I have grown up around always make me think of being beside the water whilst holidaying in Bangladesh. Every fish dish (that’s a fun tongue twister) is always fresh and full of flavour. I usually plate mine up with a bed of rice, but you could always switch things up to suit your own preferences. One of my personal favourite fish recipes is by award-winning TV Chef, Nadiya Hussain. A fellow female British-Bangladeshi, Hussain’s cod curry is not only super speedy to prepare and cook but it is also a wonderful way to fuse cod – a fish that, until pretty recently, I was enjoying merely in the form of fish fingers – with mellow Bangladeshi notes.