Bengali Course Meal, The Art Of Bengal's Dining Etiquette
Image Credit: A Bengali full course meal, Wikimedia

Being a Bengali, I have always been surrounded by food talks, traditions and rituals since childhood. Before you assume me or any Bengali as nothing more than a gourmand, I must mention that it has never been just about gorging a huge amount of food. Bengalis or to be precise Bengali cuisine is more profound than this. Apart from being picky about what to eat and often an inclination towards something exotic and exquisite, the culinary fares of this region uphold the importance of a course meal. There are laid-down rules, better described as dining etiquette in Bengali cuisine. One must eat different food items in a spread in a particular order. Like many other proud Bengalis, my parents ingrained such dining decorum in me. 

I remember those once-in-a-while warnings if I ate bhaja or fries before teto or bitter curries served on the platter. No matter how much I loved those dhokas or small lentil cakes in dhokar dalna, I wasn't allowed to touch them before I would finish the servings of saak or green leafy vegetables. Even now, a full-course meal in my home has an array of dishes, and we are bound to follow the order. Doing it otherwise is undoubtedly a bad manner and makes one a subject of ridicule. 

A multitude of Bengali dishes satisfies all of the senses. Its distinctiveness as a cultural phenomenon makes, sensorial food, appear and taste different. All through the meal, it drives the taste buds to salivate. The ultimate exquisite meal will consist of a selection of delicacies described as "Chobbo, chossho, lejjho, peyo" (eat, chew, lick, and drink). So, what is the order of eating an authentic Bengali full-course meal or the dining etiquette one must follow while devouring it? 

A typical Bengali lunch consists of steamed rice which is eaten with different other culinary fares one after the other. 


Bengali iconic dish, Shukto, Image Source:

Starters in a Bengali spread feature a traditional dish with a bitter taste or teto. It can be an item prepared with ucche or bitter gourd. A perfect dish to be mentioned here is the iconic sukto. In the meantime, there is also a serving of different bhaate, which are boiled and mashed vegetables seasoned with mustard oil or clarified butter and green chillies.

Bhaja bhuji

Followed by the teto, one is expected to eat an array of fries and fritters, referred to as bhaja bhuji in Bengali. A few examples are alu bhaja, begun bhaja, dheros bhaja and so on. 

Saak & dal

Next comes saak or green leafy vegetable preparations. It can be a simple stir-fried or made with a blend of vegetables and fried lentil tiny dumplings. Dal is nothing but regular lentil preparation. Usually, it is musur dal or red lentil, bhaja muger dal or roasted yellow split gram, and chola er dal or Bengal gram. 

Tori torkari

Dhokar dalna, Image Source:

Tori torkari stands for different types of curries, primarily vegetarians. This is the time to try on Bengali chhanchra, charchari, labda and chhenchki. Similarly, one can expect mochar ghonto, dhokar dalna, phulkopir torkari, dudh lau, potoler dalna, and so on. Likewise, a little lighter yet tad richer curries made with cottage cheese and eggs are included. 

Maach & mangso

From the bitter preparations, fries, leafy vegetables, and lighter curries, the course gradually gravitates towards heavier delicacies; decadent ones feature maach (fish) and chingri (prawns) to mangsho (meat- mutton or chicken). This is when one can indulge in those famous Bengali non-vegetarian curries, think of bhapa chingri, rui macher kalia, murgir jhol to mutton kosha. 


In Bengali cuisine, tok stands for tart and sweet chutney. After one finish relishing rice with non-vegetarian preparations, different chutneys are to be eaten. It can be a simple tomato chutney or exotic ones made with pineapple. 


Mishti doi, Image Source: Freepik

Here comes the most awaited mishti or sweet preparations. It can be traditional Bengali sweetmeats like rasogolla, pantua, and sandesh to decadent desserts like payesh or pudding made with rice and vegetables. Not to forget the famous mishti doi or sweet curd. 

In traditional setup, shorbot or beverage appears for the 'peyo' part. After chewing a paan or betel leaf, your Bengali course meal comes to an end. Since most households these days don't practice eating pan, the feast culminates with misti. So, now you know the order of devouring an entire course of spread, ideally served for lunch. Following these Bengali dining etiquettes, you can enjoy the essence of each culinary fare.