Friday, October 8, 2010

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Bangladesh

The next step on my culinary journey takes me half-way around the world to Bangladesh.  A populous county in South Asia, Bangladesh suffers from a lot of calamities such as famine, typhoons, and poverty.  Despite all of its troubles, the country's cuisine is quite interesting and which is heavily influenced by geography.  Bangladesh is situated in the Ganges Brahmaputra delta. The proximity to water means that fish is one of the key staples of Bangladeshi cuisine, as are lentils and rice. The cuisine is also well known for the use of spices, including ginger, coriander, cumin, chilies and tumeric.


I searched the Internet to try to find a dish that is "commonplace" in Bangladesh.  Having no knowledge about the cuisine, other than what I was reading on various websites, it was quite a challenge to decide upon a dish.  Ultimately, I chose Makher Taukari or Fish Curry.  This is a fairly easy dish to make and, with a couple of variations, it is also relatively quick to make.  I cut the fish into even sized pieces, so that it would cook evenly and quickly.  I also cut the tomatoes two different ways.  I sliced two of the tomatoes into wedges and I diced two tomatoes.  It provided a difference in terms of texture and presentation.

Serves 2-4

1 pound of fish (I used trout, halibut and turbot), cut into roughly even sized pieces
1 tablespoon of red chili powder
1 tablespoon of tumeric
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon of garlic
2 to 3 green chiles, sliced
3 to 4 tomatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Cilantro, chopped for garnish


1. Saute the onion and garlic.  Saute the onions in the the oil until translucent and then add the garlic.  Saute for a few more minutes.

2.  Add spices.   Add the red chili powder, and tumeric.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and peppers and continue to saute for a couple of minutes.

3.  Cook the fish.  Add the fish and saute for a couple of minutes on each side.  Then add enough water to just cover the fish.  Continue to cook the fish until it is done, a few minutes more.

4.  Plate the dish.  Divide into bowls and sprinkle cilantro as garnish.  Serve immediately.


As I mentioned above, rice figures prominently in Bangladeshi cuisine and so I decided to make some Basmati rice to go with the Makher Taukari.  I combined a couple of recipes to make this dish and it was so good by itself I decided to plate it separately from the curry (although I ended up mixing the two together when I ate it). 

Serves 2-4

1 cup Basmati rice
2 cups of water
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, crumbled
4 cloves
8 peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of butter
Salt, to taste


1.  Toast the spices.  Heat a pot on medium heat.  Add the spices and toast them for a minute or two.  

2.  Saute the onions.  Add the butter and and onions. Saute the onions until transluscent..  Add a little more oil if needed.  Then add the carrots and saute for about five minutes more.

3.  Cook the rice.  Add rice and stir to combine.  Then add water and bring to a boil.  Once you have a boil, reduce it to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.  Check the rice.  If the rice is not tender, let it cook for a little more.  If the liquid is low, add a little at a time. Once the rice has reached the desired tenderness, take it off the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes.

*     *     *

In the end, I would label this part of the adventure a success, primarily because I worked off of recipes that had no pictures, so, especially with the Makher Taukari, it took a little imagination to figure out what the dish would look like.  I think my experience in cooking Italian dishes is reflected in these dishes.  The Makher Taukari turned out to look a little like a brodetto, although it tasted completely different than a brodetto primarily because of use of tumeric.  My experience with Italian cuisine also helped to save the rice, which I forgot to reduce from a boil, resulting in the water steaming off two quickly.  But, my experience in making risottos helped me to save the jasmine rice, adding just enough water to ensure the rice continued to cook without burning or becoming soggy.

Both Clare and I really liked these dishes so I will definitely make them again.  I hope you enjoyed this stop on the culinary trip.  Until the next time...


1 comment:

Lauren said...

One of my best friends is from Bangladesh. When he moved to the US he gained like a bazillion pounds because he'd just sit and eat butter. This has taught me that Bangla cuisine is ok and all, but most people over there don't get to eat it. His mom makes a mean cup of tea though.

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