13 Delicacies From East Bengal That Are A Must Try
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The cuisines of East Bengal, now Bangladesh and West Bengal, share a common heritage but have evolved differently due to various socio-political, historical, geographical, and cultural factors. While both regions cherish their love for fish, rice, and sweets, the nuances in their culinary practices reflect the diversity within Bengali cuisine. In common parlance, the people from West Bengal are referred to as Ghotis and those belonging to East Bengal,  are called Bangals.

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East Bengal’s bold and assertive flavours contrast with West Bengal’s more balanced and diverse use of spices. Both regions, however, celebrate their love for fish, rice, and sweets, making Bengali cuisine as a whole one of the most flavourful and diverse in the world. 

The culinary culture in East Bengal sees a stronger Mughal influence and the use of ingredients such as cashew paste are found in many dishes. The dishes are also richer. Similarly, while both regions love their payesh (kheer) the Ghoti version is made with milk and sugar while the Bangal version uses coconut milk and vermicelli. The Ghotis are also known to be more liberal with their use of sugar even in savoury dishes while the Bangals rely more on spices.

Whether it's the pungent mustard of Shorshe Ilish or the smoky aroma of Begun Pora, East Bengali cuisine offers a unique gastronomic experience. Here’s a list of delicacies from East Bengal that one must try. The use of fresh ingredients, bold flavours, and traditional cooking methods reflect the region's deep connection to its cultural roots and its emphasis on hearty and flavourful food. 

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Shorshe Ilish: This iconic dish features hilsa found in the Padma river, cooked in a rich mustard sauce. This variety of Ilish or Hilsa is revered by Bengalis across the globe. The use of mustard paste and mustard oil gives the dish its distinctive pungent flavour. Hilsa, or ilish, is a prized fish in East Bengal and is often prepared during special occasions and festivals.

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Panta Bhat: A traditional fermented rice dish, the panta bhat is made by soaking leftover rice in water overnight. It is typically consumed the next morning, often with salt, onions, green chilies, and sometimes fried fish or pickles. This dish is especially popular during the Bengali New Year (Pohela Boishakh). It shot to global fame when a Bangladeshi origin, MasterChef Australia contestant, Kishwar Chowdhury, presented it as a finale dish in Season13. A combination of panta bhat and fried hilsa fish is also often enjoyed with onions, green chilies, and salt. 

Shutki Bhorta: Bangladeshi food revolves around small fish and dried fish which often becomes the star ingredient of the dish. Shutki Bhorta is a flavourful mashed preparation made from dried fish (shutki), mixed with onions, garlic, green chilies, and mustard oil. The strong aroma and taste of shutki make this dish a unique delicacy in East Bengal.

Bhapa Chingri: Steaming is a common technique used in Bengali food. In this dish the prawns are marinated in a mixture of mustard paste, coconut, green chilies, and turmeric, then steamed to perfection. The steaming process helps retain the prawns' natural sweetness and combines it with the sharpness of mustard and the creaminess of coconut.

Chitol Macher Muitha: A traditional East Bengali delicacy, Chitol Macher Muitha involves making fish dumplings from the Chitol fish, which are then cooked in a spicy gravy. This dish showcases the region's creativity in fish preparations and is a testament to the East Bengali love for fish.

Bhapa Ilish: Hilsa fish is steamed with a marinade of mustard paste, green chilies, and mustard oil. The steaming process enhances the flavours and ensures that the fish remains moist and tender. While many communities avoid eating fish in the monsoon, this dish is highly cherished during the monsoon season when hilsa is abundant.

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Aloo Bhorta: A simple yet flavourful mashed potato dish mixed with onions, green chilies, mustard oil, and sometimes garlic, this comfort food is a staple in many households and is often enjoyed with rice and lentils.

Begun Pora: The roasted eggplant is mashed with mustard oil, onions, and green chilies. The smoky flavour of the roasted eggplant combined with the pungent mustard oil makes this dish unique to East Bengali cuisine.

Mochar Ghonto: A vegetarian dish made from banana flower, Mochar Ghonto is cooked with grated coconut, potatoes, and a blend of spices. The banana flower gives it a distinct texture and flavour.

Koi Macher Jhal: Koi fish is cooked in a spicy and tangy mustard sauce. This dish is known for its robust flavours and is typically enjoyed with steamed rice.

Loitta Shutki: Loitta fish (Bombay duck) is dried and then cooked with potatoes, onions, and spices. 

Kumro Pata Chingri: Prawns wrapped in pumpkin leaves and then steamed or cooked. The pumpkin leaves impart a distinct flavour to the prawns, making this dish a special treat.

Morog Pulao: A traditional rice and chicken dish where chicken is cooked with rice, spices, and sometimes raisins and nuts. This pulao is different from the biryani and is often served during special occasions and festivals.