International Cooking: Food from Bangladesh

I’ve finally made it to my first country from the Indian subcontinent! I’ll admit that this isn’t the kind of food I enjoyed growing up. I don’t think I ever had a problem with spicy food; I just didn’t like some of the flavor combinations. However, I have found I do enjoy some Indian-style dishes more recently and I was excited to discover some food from Bangladesh that I could enjoy.

This was the first week I went to Reddit to ask the country I’m cooking food from what they think I should make. I got some good feedback, and I’m going to try and do this for every country moving forward. Hopefully, I’ll even be able to get some good authentic recipes this way!


Bangladesh is located in South Asia, to the east of India, and has shown signs of inhabitation dating back as far as the Stone Age.

The Muslim conquest of Bangladesh (then known as ‘Bengal) began in 1204, until eventually, Muslim became the primary religion. This is still the case today.

The area now known as Bangladesh was once part of British India, until the Partition of India in 1947 which divided the land into India and Pakistan, with Bangladesh becoming East Pakistan. Two regions were split across India and Pakistan—Punjab, which today lies partially in both India and Pakistan, and Bengal, which is in both India and Bangladesh.

Soon, Bangladesh wanted to become independent from Pakistan, leading to the Bangladesh Liberation War. Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, and despite its Muslim majority, became the first constitutionally secular state in South Asia soon after.

What Do People Eat in Bangladesh?

Bangladeshi cuisine typically involves a range of aromatic spices and ghee, and although there are definitely spicy dishes, there are also plenty that are flavorful without having much heat.

Fish are very popular, and one fish of note is the hilsa or ilish fish, which is considered the national fish of Bangladesh. It can be found in the rivers of Bangladesh and the surrounding countries and is consumed in a few ways, including fried and in a curry.

Fish isn’t the only meat featured in Bangladeshi dishes; chicken and beef are also common.

Daal is something I did not make this week, but it’s a common component of a full meal. Daal is a lentil dish and can be cooked with all kinds of spices; there are many variations.

Rice and flatbreads like roti are served with most meals. The rice can be plain, but it will often be seasoned with spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.

When it comes to sweets, milk or paneer are popular ingredients, paneer being a kind of Indian cottage cheese. I actually wanted to make a dish featuring paneer, but I couldn’t fit it in.

What I Made

Scroll down to read about other popular Bangladeshi dishes I didn’t make!

Mughlai Paratha (Stuffed Flatbread)

Mughlai Paratha

Mughlai paratha is a popular street food in Bangladesh. It’s a fried flatbread that can be filled with all kinds of things, but egg and chilies are common. Since I love eggs and I loved filled flatbreads, I knew I had to try making this.

I used the recipe from The Yummy Delights, which calls for a filling of egg, chilies, red onions, and some other vegetables. The egg goes in raw, which made filling the flatbreads a little challenging, but I think I managed alright. I followed the instructions which state to not cook on high heat, but I still feel my mughlai parathas weren’t as cooked on the inside as I’d like. They were browned after a few minutes on medium, but I guess I should reduce the temperature a little more and cook longer next time. I also think these would have been easier to make if I had made them smaller. I made two, because the recipe says it serves two, but the frying process would have been easier if I had made three or four smaller ones instead. My bread dough was also probably a little thick, and it would have been easier to make it thinner if I had made smaller parathas.

Overall, I did find these to be really delicious. I plan on making them again one day, but I’ll adjust the cooking temperature and time a little to see if I get a better result.

Dhaka Kacchi Biryani (Chicken and Rice)

Dhaka Kacchi Biryani

Biryani is a meat and rice dish which comes in many varieties. I’ve eaten biryani before and liked it, but this is a very different version, originating in the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh. Most biryanis are made by fully or almost cooking the meat before combining with the rice and steaming. For Dhaka Kacchi Biryani the raw (or almost raw) meat and rice are cooked together slowly. Additionally, I found this version’s flavors to be different from what I have experienced before.

The recipe I followed was for a chicken version of this biryani. It contained fried onions and potatoes and was flavored with a range of spices including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and mace. There was also a little red chili powder, but it’s not really a spicy dish. It sounded good and I had high hopes for it.

Unfortunately, I ran into some problems because the recipe was not written very well. This is something I really have to be better about in future. I usually scan the recipe to make sure the ingredients are obtainable and to check if there are any steps that will take a long time, so I can prepare in advance. But I don’t always read thoroughly enough to check that the ingredients are all listed, or that the steps make perfect sense. In this recipe, yogurt was not listed in the ingredients but at one point during the recipe, I was asked to add it to the chicken marinade. I didn’t know how much to add so I had to guess.

This recipe also made a ridiculous amount of food. It was supposed to serve four, so I halved it, and still ended up with plenty for four. It is suggested that you serve it with various other dishes and I don’t see any way anyone could eat what is supposed to be a full serving of this and have room for anything else. Lastly, the recipe wasn’t easy to follow. There were a lot of steps that seemed like they were kind of redundant but I did them anyway. And I had to reread things a lot to make sure I was doing things right.

I served this with a simple raita made of yogurt, garlic, and cilantro, which I think made a good accompaniment.

I can’t say I really enjoyed this dish. I couldn’t seem to bring out any strong flavor from the spices, even after adding a bunch of salt, and I think maybe there was too much yogurt. I think the rice was supposed to be more yellow, but there wasn’t enough saffron. In the end, this was edible, but I can’t help but think it didn’t turn out how it was meant to. Maybe one day I will try to track down a better recipe and give it another shot.

Luchi and Aloo Dum (Fried Bread and Potato Curry)

Luchi and Aloo Dum

Here there are two dishes, but they are commonly served together. Luchi is a deep-fried flatbread, and aloo dum is a potato curry. This combination is often served for breakfast, so that’s what I did. I actually added a boiled egg too when I realized there wasn’t much protein.

To make the luchi, you make a simple dough with flour, ghee, water, and salt. After a short rest, you shape the dough and fry it. Mine didn’t get quite as puffy as those in the recipe I was following, but they turned out tasting really good and I was pretty pleased with them. I got the recipe from Veg Recipes of India.

For the aloo dum, the potatoes are parboiled before being fried in mustard oil. Then you cook the sauce, which is made from garlic, ginger, onion, tomato, red chili powder, cumin, and coriander. A touch of sugar is added, but not enough to make it really sweet. The potatoes get mixed with the sauce, which is combined with some water and cooked down a little before serving. This recipe was also from Veg Recipes of India.

I really liked the aloo dum, and I can see myself making it again. Although I enjoyed the luchi too, I am probably less likely to make them so often since they are deep-fried. Perhaps once in a while!

Kala Bhuna (Spicy Blackened Beef)

Khala Bhuna

This is a dish made of tough cuts of beef that are cooked for a long time with a bunch of spices until the meat is tender and dark in color. It originated in the city of Chittagong in Bangladesh. I wanted to make this the moment I came across it, because it sounded really good. But it also used a lot of oil. So I was kind of on the fence. But the response to my Reddit post made me think I should definitely make it, and I’m glad I did.

The beef is first marinated with onions, green chilies, ginger garlic, and a range of spices. Then you fry some onion and dried red chilies in a respectable amount of mustard oil. When they’re done, you remove them and add the beef and everything from the marinade. You cook for a while, on medium to low heat, and eventually the meat starts to cook and color. The fried onions and chilies get added back, as well as some yogurt, and then you just keep cooking until the meat is tender and dark.

I followed the recipe from Kitchen of Debjani and I can highly recommend it; it was easy to follow and worked fine even though I halved it and reduced the mustard oil a little. I also used pre-cut beef stew meat that I had left over from Austria week instead of the bone-in beef called for in the recipe. Ideally, the meat pieces should be a little bigger and I’m probably not buying this stew meat again for that reason. But ultimately, the dish came out really well. It was spicier than I was expecting, but there was a ton of other flavor as well. I served it with white rice, and I also made a simple salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, and cilantro, which went pretty well.

Bangladeshi Chicken Roast

Wedding Roast

This is a chicken dish which is often served at formal events such as weddings and, in fact, the recipe I used calls it ‘wedding style chicken roast’. Here, chicken leg quarters are used rather than a whole chicken, and this seems common for this dish. The chicken is coated in a thick sauce flavored mostly with garam masala, and is often served with rice and various other dishes. I just served it with mishti polao (see next dish).

I used the recipe from Sharmilaz Kitchen and followed it as well as I could. I did use pre-made garam masala instead of making the ‘roasted masala’ because I don’t have a spice grinder and I’m not confident in my ability to get the spices ground fine enough in a mortar and pestle. I did add a little cayenne pepper in place of the Kashmiri chilies because my garam masala doesn’t have any chilies in it. This wasn’t enough to make the dish spicy, but I don’t think it’s meant to be.

I’m also not sure whether I used the right amount of milk. It gets added later when you are adding the chicken back to the sauce to finish cooking. For one thing, milk is not listed in the ingredient list but it comes up in the directions. The amount is, however mentioned in the video, and it says to add 1 cup or 150ml of milk. I didn’t really register the milliliter amount because I was already cooking at that stage, and so I added a cup, before realizing that one cup is not 150ml, but around 240ml. So either I added too much milk and was supposed to add 150ml, or I added the right amount and the milliliter amount is wrong in the video. Either way, I didn’t notice any adverse effects; the sauce still came out looking more or less like it does in the recipe.

I’m not really sure how I felt about the end result of this dish. It definitely had flavor, but I’m not sure it’s one I liked. It was still entirely edible though, and it’s pretty hard to mess up bone-in chicken in my experience so the chicken itself was pretty good.

Mishti Polao (Sweet Rice with Cashews and Raisins)

Mishti Polao

Mishti Polao is a sweet rice dish flavored with ghee, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves. It gets its yellow color from turmeric, and also features cashews and raisins and, in the recipe I followed, chilies. It is a common side dish for the Bangladeshi chicken roast, so that’s what I served it with.

Unfortunately, once again, I had a badly written recipe. It doesn’t take too much time to make sure you’ve listed all ingredients in both the ingredient list and instructions. This isn’t about a language barrier, which is something I can completely understand and work with. It’s just not a well-written recipe. This has inspired me to make a Fiverr gig for recipe proofreading since there doesn’t seem to be one yet and it’s obviously a much-needed service! It’s not up quite yet but will be in a week or so.

Anyway, so the recipe. I never added the sugar or the chilies because the directions never said to. This is something I probably I would have picked up on if I wasn’t making the chicken roast at the same time. The rice was actually a little sweet even without the sugar, and I honestly don’t think I would have liked it if it was much sweeter. So in some ways it was better I didn’t include the sugar, though it meant the dish didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. The chilies probably would have been a welcome addition, though in the recipe photo they’re left whole and I would have chopped them up.

I’m coming to realize I don’t particularly enjoy the combination of cinnamon, cardamon, and cloves without a decent amount of heat added to it, since this was something that a few dishes this week had in common. I didn’t love this dish, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just not a mix of flavors I enjoy.

Roti (Whole Wheat Flatbread)

Roti

Roti are a simple flatbread made of whole wheat flour, water, and sometimes a little oil. They are cooked quickly on the stovetop, then placed over a flame for a short time, which makes them puff up. Then, at least in the recipe I used, they are brushed with ghee before serving.

I was a little skeptical about the fact that there was no salt in these, but according to the recipe author, they don’t usually have salt. They probably don’t need to have a lot of flavor on their own because they are served with other dishes.

I was pretty happy with how these turned out. They were very easy to make and I think they would go well with all kinds of dishes. I used the recipe from Cook with Manali.

Aloo Bhorta (Bengali Mashed Potatoes)

Aloo Bhorta

Bhorta is a word used to describe a whole range of dishes made of mashed vegetables. Aloo bhorta is what I will always consider to be ‘Bengali mashed potatoes’ because that’s essentially what it is. These potatoes are mashed with mustard oil and sauteed onions, garlic, and chilies. They were really, really good.

I got the recipe from Bong Eats, though I think this is the kind of dish that does not strictly need one. I did find this to be quite spicy, which was fine, but if you don’t tolerate heat as well you may want to reduce the chilies. It was suggested that I make this as a breakfast with roti, which I did, though I added a boiled egg too.

Patishapta Pitha (Filled Crepe)

Patishapta Pitha

Pithas are similar to pancakes, dumplings, or fritters, and they can be sweet or savory. There’s a wide range of pithas, but in Bangladesh, patishapta pitha is popular. The filling for this variety can be dates and coconut or kheer, which is like a condensed milk paste. I decided to make the latter.

The easy part was making the crepes. They are made of regular flour, semolina, a little rice flour, milk, sugar and a dash of salt. I let the mixture sit while I worked on the kheer.

So, it turns out, the kheer takes 90 minutes of stirring on the stove. I was quartering this recipe and I was pretty sure that would mean my kheer would take less time to come together. I kind of hoped that would be the case too. And luckily, I was right—my kheer ‘only’ took about an hour. To make it, you heat milk until it’s just boiling, then stir in some sugar and keep the milk at a simmer, stirring continuously. Eventually, the milk thickens and gets kind of clumpy. At that point, you mix in a paste of milk and flour and stir for another five minutes. Then you’re left with a thick, condensed milk paste, which is the kheer.

My photo doesn’t do this dish justice. The crepes were, well, crepes, but the kheer filling was really good. It’s not something I want to make all the time, but it was worth making at least once.

I used the recipe from Bong Eats.

  • Hilsa curry – this is made with a specific type of freshwater fish known as hilsa (or ilish), which is native to the Padma River in Bangladesh. The fish is marinated in salt and turmeric, then lightly fried until golden and served in a spicy gravy made with mustard oil. This is Bangladesh’s national dish, but I decided to skip it since I can’t get the right fish and I was advised on Reddit that it’s difficult to substitute well.
  • Chingri malai curry – made with large prawns, coconut milk, ghee, ginger, garlic, onions, and turmeric. It is popular to serve on special occasions.
  • Mezbani mangsho – a slow-cooked feast dish traditionally made with beef, though lamb or mutton can be used instead. This contains a lot of spices, as well as poppy seeds, which to me is a rather unusual ingredient. It would usually be served with rice and several other side dishes.
  • Chotpoti – a popular street food consisting mostly of potatoes, chickpeas, and onions. Common toppings include diced chilies, grated boiled eggs, tamarind chutney, cilantro leaves, cumin, or crispy puri. Puri is a kind of deep-fried bread.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this was a good week. The highlight was, without question, the kala bhuna, but I also really liked the mughlai paratha, the aloo dum, and the aloo bhorta. I can definitely see myself making both potato dishes again, since they are so simple yet so delicious.

One thing I wish I did this week was make some kind of vegetable dish (I don’t really count the potatoes). Moving forward, I’m going to try and do better in that respect.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Barbados.

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