Mumbai Food: Bangladeshi dishes straight from Sylhet at restaurant in BKC
A Dhaka-based home chef will present medium-spiced Bangladeshi dishes that you'll be hard-pressed to find in the city
When home chef Nayana Afroz travelled from Dhaka to Kolkata and Mumbai, she had an acerbic travel companion on the journey - the shatkora lemon. Native to Sylhet in Bangladesh, the citrus fruit looks like a grotesque cousin of lime, but is only larger and tastes like grapefruit. But don't go by the appearance, the fruit is rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, and can do wonders when added to curries and stews. "It elevates the taste because it's more sour and lemony than the average lime," says Afroz, when we meet her at BKC's Jyran: Tandoor Dining & Lounge, where she has been training chefs in the Bangladeshi cuisine. Since you don't get shatkora outside of Bangladesh, Afroz wants to give Mumbaikars a taste of it.
Deem Kolija Bhorta
The Dhaka-based home chef has collaborated with Sofitel Mumbai BKC to present a side of her cuisine that she feels the city is not familiar with - what Bangladeshi Muslims eat during special occasions. The festival, on till April 21 at Jyran for lunch and dinner, is part of an initiative by the hotel to rope in home chefs to put the spotlight on niche cuisines. While the last gig on Andhra Brahmin cuisine was centred around the no-onion, no-garlic formula, this one stands in stark contrast to its predecessor. "The prevalence of onion is a lot more as opposed to West Bengal. You'll see it in not just the meat-based preparations, but even in the greens," says Afroz. On the day of our visit, she has rustled up a shatkora mutton gravy, a classic Sylheti dish. It is tangy and best eaten with rice. Not just any rice, but the glutinous or white-boiled rice as it complements the curry without masking its flavours. For vegetarians, she has prepared the piaju or lentil fritters, which happens to be the first item prepared for iftaar during Ramadan. It reminds us of the dal wada, except there's no chana dal in it.
Home chef Nayana Afroz
According to Afroz, Bangladesh has been a potpourri of culinary influences, just like India. "The Turks, Afghans and Persians have influenced the food, and you'll see this especially in Old Dhaka, where the nawabs lived. To give you an example, I have made a murgh masallam cooked in tomato and saffron gravy. It's not at all like what you get in India where yoghurt is used as the souring agent," she explains. The hero ingredient in the Bangladeshi murgh masallam is black pepper, which otherwise doesn't make an appearance in the cuisine. For all other spice requirements, the Bangladeshis rely on red chillies. "We eat very, very spicy food. So much so, that we haven't even spared the khichdi," she laughs.
The conundrum then for Afroz was to present "authentic" Bangladeshi food without tinkering with the taste. In fact, she was told to tone down the spice. "Naturally, I was flummoxed," she says. "But I worked around it by choosing dishes that do not require a colossal amount of spice." The Narkeli Hash, duck cooked with coconut paste, milk and coconut slivers, is one such. "Duck and coconut go well and is popular in the northern part of the country," she says.
Afroz admits she has played relatively safe by opting for popular, medium-spiced items, but hopes to return with a selection of more piquant dishes. "I've heard Mumbaikars are experimental. I would love to push the envelope," she smiles.
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