8 Mustard-Based Bengali Dishes To Try At Least Once
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Traditional Bengali cuisine, like every other Indian regional cuisine, celebrates a handful of staple ingredients that are used in various forms and eaten commonly across homes belonging to the region. Apart from this, external influences of Anglo, European, Mughal and other South Asian cultures has played a crucial role in defining the identity of the food. However, ingredients like rice, freshwater fish and red meats feature prominently across the regional delicacies that the state prides itself in creating.

On a closer look, distinctive flavours of the panch phoron, kasundi and mustard oil truly characterise and give the cuisine its signature taste. The kasundi, in particular, has been a widely used Bengali condiment made with fermented yellow mustard seeds – giving the product its bright ochre colour. Used in a diverse array of dishes for its pungent taste, the mustard paste has a tang similar to that of jarred olives or dried raw mangoes. Here are seven mustard-based Bengali dishes for you to try.

Shorshe Bhapa Chingri

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A creamy prawn curry that incorporates the rich flavours of ground mustard, coconut and yoghurt, the bhapa chingri is a classic Bengali-style curry enjoyed with steamed rice. With the sweet shrimp complimenting the pungent yet mellow flavours of the mustard-based curry, this dish is an easy recipe to recreate for a weeknight comfort meal.

Shorshe Chalkumro

Chalkumro or ash gourd as it is more commonly known, takes precedence in this mustard-based gravy with a bright yellow colour. Unlike most other mustard gravies, the chalkumro is cooked in a fine paste made with black mustard seeds, milk and mustard oil. This summer-special recipe has an interesting cutting pattern on the ash gourd, which allows the flavours from the curry to penetrate the vegetable deeply and season it throughout.

Dim Shorshe

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The perfect Bengali egg curry recipe to try for beginner cooks, the dim shorshe can be made with just a handful of easily available ingredients, for a hearty meal. Made with halved hard-boiled eggs that absorb the mellow spicy flavours of the gravy replete with kasundi, the curry is an inexpensive and nutritious meal idea to experiment with in the kitchen.

Sheem Data Chorchori

A Bengali-style mixed vegetable dish made with seasonal produce like carrots, peas, beetroot stalks and potatoes, sees the use of mustard in paste as well as powdered form. Additionally, a tempering of the Bengali five spice (panch phoron) adds some more depth of flavour to the Bengali equivalent of the Keralan aviyal or the Goan khatkhate.

Shorshe Begun

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A culinary delight from West Bengal – the shorshe begun or eggplant cooked in mustard, this vegetarian curry has flavour profiles similar to that of the shorshe bhapa chingri. This creamy and lightly spiced curry has slices of fried brinjal added in and is often eaten with plain rice or luchis (Bengali-style puris).

Shorshe Ilish

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The freshwater fish Hilsa or Ilish, is a local herring that utilises both – black and yellow mustard seeds in different applications. Cooked with the standard spices like turmeric and red chilli powder, the hilsa curry flavoured with mustard is finished off with a generous squeeze of lime juice and freshly chopped coriander leaves for flavour.

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Bhetki Paturi

A version of steamed fish marinated with a mustard seed paste flavoured with green chillies, turmeric, mustard oil and salt – the bhetki paturi was traditionally served at weddings with ilish in place of the bhetki. Since the latter was known to have too many small bones that were hard to pick out while eating, it is said that the bhetki fish are wrapped in banana leaf parcels and steamed or pan-fried before serving.

Alu Borir Jhal

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A delicacy cooked with sundried boras or lentil dumplings and thick-cut wedges of potatoes, the alu borir jhal is a mustard curry that can be enjoyed by vegans. The nutty flavour of the boras – made usually with urad dal or masoor dal, perfectly compliment the mellow pungency of the mustard seeds, allowing the potatoes to absorb both flavours and tie the dish together to make it balanced.