Dining in Bangladesh means savoring the most exclusive culinary delights. Food is a binding factor that connects people to start a conversation in every part of the world. When it comes to Bangladesh, this expands manifold. Bangladesh is rich in culinary variety. Divided into eight divisions, there is a distinct flavor, which is unique to each sect of this land. Let’s sneak a peek into some of the regional specialties to make the most out of each corner of this country.
With a more complicated name of Citrus Macroptera, “shatkora” or as Sylhetis call it in their accent, “hatkhora” is a cross between a lemon and lime, with a unique taste and aroma. Sylhetis usually love their curries tangy and the shatkora lacks no tang! This is why Shatkora is one of the most beloved ingredients in this territory. The pulp is generally thrown away as it makes curries bitter. The rind is cut up into small pieces and added to curries. Shatkora is used in vegetable stews as well as in pickles. Shatkora beef, which is essentially small pieces of tender beef in a spicy, citrus sauce, remains a famous and loved dish all over Sylhet, with a spillover effect in other parts of Bangladesh.
A stem of the vine known as Piper Chaba, choi jhal is a spice that is adored by the people of Khulna. Residents of Khulna are great lovers of spice and this spice adds an extra dimension of flavor and fragrance to their curries. They happily cut down stems, peel off the skin and chop it up into small pieces for their curry. The choi jhal is an extremely hot spice and not for the mild tongue. Because of this spicy nature, choi jhal remains a yearlong additive in almost every curry in Khulna.
As Chittagong is a port city, one may initially guess that a culinary specialty of this region would very well be something with fish, but this is not so. While fish is plentiful in Chittagong, the star recipe for this region is the Mezbani Beef. Mezbaan is an age-old tradition that essentially means a “host”. It is a self-invited event where you can come, eat and leave. Consisting of items like nolar jhol (tangy beef broth), chanar dal (lentils with meat) and the ever-famous, mezbani mangsho- a specially flavoured and spiced beef, with a taste unlike any other curry, the mezbaan is a spread that is likely to keep you coming back to this hilly region.
Being the longest sea beach in the world, Cox’s Bazar offers up bountiful fish. So much fish, that one can never eat all of it fresh. So, they dry it up! While the culinary tastes of Cox’s Bazar often resemble Bhutanese cuisine, it is not quite the same. To some, shutki may be an acquired taste, as the aroma of dried fish is much stronger than that of regular fish. So much so, that if you curry it in your house, it may hit the nostrils of a pedestrian far across the road. We love making bhartas or mashes, out of everything. Shutkis are no exception. Dried prawns and other fish are mashed up and generously mixed with mustard oil for a yummy supplement to rice. Dried loitta fish becomes something of a delicacy when paired with some eggplant.
Dhaka being the capital city of Bangladesh is a hub of all the cuisines. While you will find shatkora, choi jhal, mezbaan, and shutki bhorta here, Dhaka has its own culinary heritage too! Step into Puran Dhaka, the land of the Nawabs, and experience food that is totally different from anything you taste in the main city. From snacks like the wafery thin Bakarkhani, to the payas, niharis and naans of Nazirabad and Shakhari Bazar, the age old flavours of the Mughal cuisine are everywhere. Old Dhaka is known also for their badaam shorbot (almond milk) and lassis (buttermilk).