Chef Arabinda Seth On Eclectic Bengali Cuisine And Lost Recipes
Image Credit: Executive Chef Arabinda Seth

In India, Bengali cuisine has a solid fan following. The culinary fares have a fine balance of savoury, spice, sweet and zesty flavours. In a recent survey, the state capital of West Bengal, Kolkata, was the only Indian city to be featured in the best food destinations in the world. It is a testament to the sheer diversity of edibles and potables the city serves to the gourmands. To work in a prestigious hotel as the Executive Chef in this city isn't a mean job, and the onus to deliver authentic Bengali food in a city known as the Mecca of Bengali cuisine is equally hefty. But Arabinda Seth, Executive Chef, Fairfield By Marriott Kolkata, does it all with elan. 

When asked about his definition of Bengali cuisine, the seasoned chef articulates:

"Bengali cuisine is centred around wholesome and nutritious meals that are easy to digest and nourishing. However, many Bengali dishes remain relatively unknown to the wider world, such as thor, amra, kochu saag, sojnafool bhaja, and others."

A seasoned culinary professional, he is an affable, gregarious man who loves good food. He enjoys going on trips with his family to try new cuisines and gain insight into new cultures. A fitness buff who also dabbles in the study of novel techniques for creating delicious grubs.

Arabinda, with his extensive culinary expertise and savvy managerial prowess, has infused the Fairfield by Marriott Kolkata's many dining selections with fresh exuberance. This man's two decades of extensive exposure to elite hospitality firms have helped propel his career. Instead of settling with what he has learnt, he consciously chooses to be a lifelong student with a deep love for the culinary arts.

He has been very observant about the happenings around him and can take a mental note of things that might appear trivial to any onlookers. Recollecting childhood memories, he gets candid and shares, "When I was younger, I used to observe people fishing and get good catches and farmers harvesting various kinds of vegetables in my village. They would then supply these products to the city, where wholesalers would distribute them to leading eateries. Watching this process always fascinated me and sparked a desire to work in a hotel and create diverse dishes using locally-sourced produce that customers would highly regard." He has visibly translated his dream to reality. Isn't it fascinating to know how small incidences in life have the most profound influence and lead one to the pinnacle of success?

In this industry, Chef Arabinda Seth is often referred to as the repository of culinary knowledge. Ahead of Bengali New Year or Poila Boisakh, we got in touch with him to experience this cuisine through Seth's stance. 


Q. What has inspired you to take a career in F&B?

The fact that guests only remember the cuisine and forget the rest of their experiences in a hotel led me to become a chef. And I entered this industry with the sole vision of creating memorable dining experiences that guests will always remember.

Q. Who has been your idol in cooking, from personal space or in the professional realm?

My idols hail from my professional sphere. I look up to Chef Momtaz Ali Qureshi and Chef Anil Khurana for my inspiration. 

Q. What have been the significant milestones of your career so far?

There are quite a few. But if I have to pick the most life-transforming events, they have to be the promotion of Indian cuisine at the Grand Hyatt Dubai and the Hyatt Regency Kuantan (Malaysia). They have been the major milestones in my career.

Q. How would you define your signature style of cooking?

I specialize in a cooking technique that involves steaming and grilling, which not only imparts delicious flavours to food but also has the added benefit of being a particularly healthy cooking method.

Q. Bengali New Year is upon us, and it brings the local food on the forefront. What is your take on Bengali cuisine?

The culinary traditions of Bengal are incredibly diverse and expansive, with each district boasting its own unique and distinct flavour profiles. Originating primarily from West Bengal, Assam, Bangladesh, and the Barak Valley, Bengali cuisine is a true reflection of the region's rich cultural and historical heritage.

Q. What kind of research do you take up when creating a menu for an authentic Bengali cuisine experience?

My research focuses on discovering the intricacies of traditional Bengali home cooking, which can be pretty challenging to come across in a restaurant setting.

Q. Bengali cuisine has been influenced by various cultures. In your decades of experience, what is your understanding of the authentic taste of it?

Based on my personal experience and understanding, the true essence of Bengali cuisine lies in the dishes that are lovingly prepared by mothers and grandmothers, using traditional cooking methods such as earthen pots and iron kadais.

Q. There have been several dishes which are lost or taking their last breath. Do you intend to revive them?

Several culinary fares were once in the mainstream and used to be frequent on a Bengali Thali. But most of them have disappeared from the scene. Here are a few such lost gems from the kitchens of Bengal. 

Tok dal: Sour lentil soup

Thorer dalna: Curry made with pigeon peas

Sojnafool bhaja: Stir-fried drumstick flowers

Sorshe kumro: Pumpkin cooked in mustard sauce

Dimer charchori: Bengali-style egg curry

Gokul pitha: Sweet fritters made from rice flour and jaggery

Q. Which dishes would you like to put up on a platter for Bengali New Year and why?

Poila Boisakha, or Bengali New Year, is one of the most awaited celebrations for Bengalis worldwide. Anyone loves to indulge in the traditional delicacies of the region. I would pick the following Bengali dishes to put up a festive spread. 

  • Dal bhat: Lentil soup served with steamed rice
  • Aloo bhaja: Crispy fried potatoes
  • Maach bhaja: Fried fish
  • Bengali khichuri: A rice and lentil dish seasoned with various spices and typically served with vegetables and/or meat.

Q. Which Bengali dish do you make the best? Can you share the recipe?

It is the most beloved Mutton Dak Bungalow. This classic meat curry is a signature preparation of this region. 

Recipe: Mutton Dak Bungalow

Decadent mutton dak bungalow, Image By: Fairfield By Marriott Kolkata 

Prep Time: 4 hrs

Cook Time: 29 mins

Serving:  4


  • 500 grams of bone-in goat/lamb meat
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  •  2 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For special Dak bungalow spice

  • 1-inch cinnamon
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 6 green cardamoms
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2-4 whole dry red chillies

For gravy

  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2-3 medium potatoes washed, peeled and halved
  • 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 tsp radhuni optional
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  •  1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 2 green chillies slit
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste


  • In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the meat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  • To make the exclusive dak bungalow spice, dry roast all the components and then grind them into a powder.
  • In a pan with a thick bottom, heat the mustard oil and ghee. Fry the eggs and potatoes separately until they are golden brown. Spice it up with some ground red pepper and turmeric. Toss the potatoes and eggs on some absorbent paper to drain.
  • Toss some radhuni, cumin seeds, and bay leaves in the same oil. Add onions after they begin to sputter and cook until they become transparent.
  • Blend in ginger, garlic, cumin powder, coriander powder, and Kashmiri red chilli powder.
  • Let all the condiment cook, stir them once in a while and fry till the oil separates.
  • Blend in chopped tomatoes and let it cook for 5-6 minutes.
  • Introduce the marinated meat and stir all the ingredients well for the spices to coat evenly.
  • Fill a pressure cooker with the contents of the pan. Pour in a quarter cup of water.
  • Add the special spice blend, salt, and sugar. Put the lid on and cook until the meat is tender. It may take 2-3 whistles. 
  • Once all the steam has been released from the pressure cooker, carefully open it. Stir in the eggs and potatoes. Mix it well, taste it, and then serve it with roti, parantha, or pulao.

Q. What tips and messages would you like to give our readers while making a Bengali culinary spread?

To ensure the authentic taste of Bengali cuisine, it's crucial to incorporate mustard seeds and mustard oil while preparing the dishes. Furthermore, it's advisable to use spices sparingly to maintain the true flavour of the cuisine.

Q. You have mastered making modern soul food and the classics of yesteryears. Does such fusing help in renewing the interests of gourmands?

Innovation can appeal to customers, but it's essential to strike a balance between modern and classic components when incorporating fusion elements.