Next time you spot a Bengali and think, "Mochhi bhalobashe?" should make for a legitimate conversation starter, remember you read this list. It is true that most Bengalis love fish but that's not all they are mostly brought up on. It's in common practice to have at least two vegetarian dishes in an average Bengali meal -- a bhaja (fried vegetable) and a torkari (curried vegetable).
As a result, most Bengalis, especially ones who have left Kolkata to work and live elsewhere, routinely sob about the dearth of vegetarian delicacies in their lives. If you have a known Bengali closely, you must have seen him/her in throes of a severe aloo posto craving fit, or ordering uber expensive 'mochar chop' in Bengali restaurants. If you are a Bengali, you know exactly what we are talking about. And oh, hold those tears, it's going to get really, really worse from here. So buckle up non-resident Bengalis for this homesickness. The rest can quietly marvel at the mind-boggling array vegetarian dishes the cuisine has and book a table at the nearest Bengali restaurant.
This one is a bittersweet broth of vegetables that Bengalis commence their meals with. Its ingredients include bitter gourd (karela), potato, drumsticks, brinjal, hyacinth beans (popularly called 'sheem' in Bengali), green banana. To add some texture to it, bori -- a fried lentil dumpling -- is also added to it. The result is heaven... okay, I digress. The result is a delicately flavoured broth spiced with whole spices and sealed with the goodness of vegetables. You'll need some rice to mix with the gorgeous gravy and eat.
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You can check out this blog for a trustworthy shukto recipe. It doesn't mention patience but you'd need a fair amount of that to cook it.
Dhoka is a lentil cake made from two kinds of dal. It's a mix of chana dal and a little paste of dried white peas. The dals are ground and made into a paste and then steamed in a boiler. The resultant cake is then cut into neat little pieces and fried, so that it's crunchy on the outside. It is then cooked in an onion and tomato gravy. The riot of flavours and textures is just so drool-worthy.
Check out Dhrubaa Mukherjee's Dhokar Dalna recipe, one she learned from her mother.
Begun bhaja transaltes into 'fried brinjal' and it is exactly that. Not sure why no one else thought this could be so yummy! Roundels of brinjal is marinated in a little salt, turmeric, chilli power if needed and a pinch of sugar. Then they are fried off till the exterior is crunchy and brown. WIN!
It's basically just what we mentioned above but if you want an avant garde version of the same, check this recipe out. Though most Bengalis can't be bothered to go through these complications.
Nobody loves potatoes like Bengalis do. (We are looking at you vada pav and aloo paratha rights activists). It's a simple curry made from poppy seed paste and potatoes with green chillies, mustard oil and kalonji as the dominant flavouring elements. This one makes every Bengali very, very, very happy. Or homesick, if they have no easy, inexpensive access to it.
Get the Aloo Posto recipe from hungryforever.com here.
This paste is made from coriander leaves, green chillies and a little tamarind. It's meant to be an accompaniment but you can spot people eating it just like that. If you add a little pudina to it, you have a winner of a dip.
Get the Dhonepata Bata recipe by Chandrima from notoutofthebox.in here.
Again, just fried parwal. Simple deep fried food-loving people, these Bengalis.
Get the Potal Bhaja recipe from spicynotes.net here.
This is lightly fried parwal in a curd-based gravy. Spiced with whole garam masala this is light on the palate but a burst of flavours.
Get the Doi Potol recipe by Sonali Chakraborty from mellownspicy.com here.
Ghugni works as a snack, as an accompaniment to bread, luchi, chapati and occasionally as a chaat. Made from dried white peas, and with simple flavours, it's especially lip-smacking when served with raw onions, chopped green chillies, coriander and a little chaat masala. From the spicy version sold by vendors to the slightly less spicy ones made at home, ghugni, people will say, is a mood-lifter of sorts.
You'll get a fair idea of what ghugni means to Bengalis and how it's cooked in this blog.
If you have heard about Kolkata summers, you may have heard about 'lau ghonto' too. It's a light dish made from bottle gourd and fried lentil dumplings. Often, grated coconut is added to liven things up a tad more. It's sweet and salty, also a fun play of textures between the soft vegetable and the crunchy boris.
Get the Lau Ghonto recipe from experiencesofagastronomad.com here.
Literally, THE BOSS. This mish mash of vegetables is cooked painstakingly, preferably in mustard oil. Pumpkin and potatoes are a must in this, and one usually adds carrots, sometime cauliflower to it too. A saag -- popularly called pui but whose English name is Malabar/Ceylon spinach -- is also an important ingredient. What you get a heartwarming, sweetish, spicy vegetable dish perfect to go with everything from khichdi to plain rice.
Get the Labra recipe from ahomemakersdiary.com here.
This thick oniony gravy with a generous amount of tomato is supposed to be made with chhena dumplings. One could make little chhena balls, fry them and then make this gravy. However, these days one settles for paneer too. Yes, this makes paneer edible. Need we say more?
Get the Chhanar Dalna recipe by Dejanir Rannnaghar from kitchenofdebjani.com here.
We will leave this at the declaration that this is the most gorgeous jackfruit curry you will ever eat. Try it once, you won't contest our claims.
Get the Echorer Dalna recipe from curriesanstories.blogspot.in here.
The crunchy white core of the banana stem is chopped into tiny pieces and made into this lightly fried dish. Its sweet and variations of the dish may include a sprinkling of grated coconut and mustard seeds. Though the green chilly is a must and makes it a hot and sweet dish, again meant to be eaten with plain rice.
Get this yummy Thorer Ghonto recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation from bangaliginni.blogspot.in here.
These are fritters made from poppy seed paste. This is as simple as it gets -- poppy seed, green chillies and onion, mixed, made into patties and fried off. You can't stop at one.
Check out the Postor Bora recipe here at bengalibhoj.com.
Oh, they eat the banana flower too. (Do you even know what it looks like?) So, the banana flower is chopped into fine, tiny pieces, ground and then spiced with garam masala and chillies to make this mouthwatering stuff.
Here's how to prepare the banana blossom and cook up some mochar chop as shown by flavorsonmyplate.blogspot.in
It's a dry curry made from banana flower and potatoes. Add a sprinkling of ghee on top and you'll want to make it again and again, even though it's a laborious process.
Get the Mochar Ghonto recipe by archanaskitchen.com from here.
Alu bhaathe literally translates to potato and rice. Often potatoes were dumped in the pot where rice was being cooked. Of course, you can boil them separately. The boiled potatoes are then mashed. Mustard oil, chopped green chillies, finely chopped onions are added to the mash. What you get is the easiest accompaniment that ever existed for plain rice.
Get the Alu Bhaate recipe by eatreadandcook.blogspot.in here.
It's a bit on the lines of baingan ka bharta but minus the frantic frying and spices. It's just the flesh of roasted brinjal, mashed well and flavoured with mustard oil, green chillies, onions, tomatoes etc. Healthy, and meant to be eaten with rice. But hey, you can also eat this with rotis, bread and as a dip for tortilla chips.
Get the Begun Pora recipe by madhurrecipes.blogspot.in here.
SADA ALU CHORCHORI
YOU NEED THIS.
Get the Sada Alu Chorchori recipe here at bongcook.com here.
Shredded potatoes, fried off. JUST THAT. And super yummy.
Get the Alu Bhaaja recipe from bongong.com here.
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