Durga Puja is one of the most celebratory times of the year for Bengalis – and the traditional delicacies are a feast fit to satiate the lakhs that throng pandals and homes during the season. For a more intimate celebration that involves feasting at home, here are seven festive Bengali recipes to enjoy.
Durga Puja for Bengalis is synonymous with grand celebrations and even grandiose feasting. Usually, during the nine-day festivities, Bengalis are rarely found cooking at home – instead enjoying the wide variety of delicacies and bhog while pandal-hopping. Outside of Kolkata, where Navratri is a rage, the festivities take a different approach that involves fasting and being austere as a way of marking respects to goddess Durga. However, if large crowds and pandals filled to the brim is an experience you wish to skip, without missing out on all the amazing Bengali food, here are seven lesser-known dishes to replicate at home and commemorate the celebrations with your family and friends.
Gur Tentuler Shorbot
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A refreshing beverage made with tamarind pulp, jaggery and gurer batasa – a biscuit like condiment made with high quality jaggery, that is often used in Bengali cooking. The sweet-sour drink is a hydrating and cooling beverage consumed to cool off from the scorching heat during the autumn months when Durga Puja festivities are in full swing. Along with being delicious and balanced in taste, the shorbot also offers many health benefits being a sugar-free drink that can be consumed by everyone.
A dish made with potol or pointed gourd and flavoured with fennel seeds, yoghurt and mellow spices, the mouri potol is an excellent way to experiment with the staple Bengali vegetable. This vegetarian or niraamish recipe is one of the underrated and almost-forgotten delicacies from the pre-Independence era. Fennel seeds are ground to a fine paste along with green chillies and ginger, before whole pointed gourds are simmered in a thick gravy tempered with mustard oil.
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A Bengali-special festive delicacy, the narkel chingri or shorshe narkel chingri as it is commonly known, is a preparation of prawns cooked with ground mustard seeds and coconut, and glazed in mustard oil. A simple preparation that only uses a handful of spices, the narkel chingri is best enjoyed with steamed rice, with a mild sweetness and nuttiness from the poppy seeds which balance out the pungency of the ground mustard.
Literally translating to coriander chicken, this Bengali delicacy is inspired by the classic North Indian flavours and has a herby depth of flavour from the usage of fresh coriander to make the gravy in which pieces of chicken are cooked until tender. Eaten with luchis or rice, this aromatic chicken curry is a mildly spicy preparation that is interesting in a sense that it steers clear of using the classic Bengali flavour elements like mustard or poppy seeds to add flavour.
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Combining three of the favourite Bengali ingredients – ilish (hilsa), mustard and banana leaves, the ilish paturi or kolapaturi is similar in execution and technique to Kerala’s karimeen polichathu. In that, the fish is smothered in a rich mustard paste before being swaddled in banana leaves and pan-fried until tender and steaming on the inside. A variation of this paturi also steams the fish in bottle gourd leaves, instead of using any oil, giving the delicacy a vegetal aftertaste.
A regional delicacy that has been lost in age-old traditions, the kumror chokka is a braised pumpkin dish that was often prepared for special occasions, to serve with luchis. Ripe orange pumpkins braised with potatoes, soaked Bengal gram and panch phoron – the Bengali five spice, this technically savoury preparation has predominantly sweet flavours from the pumpkin. Often times, the Bengal gram is swapped in preparations with chickpeas and is one of the many traditional vegetarian dishes that does not use onions or garlic.
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A creamy, slightly sweet delicacy made with cucumbers, boras or dried lentil dumplings and radhuni – the Bengali equivalent of celery seed; the shoshar shukto is, in essence a popular summer recipe that is meant to be cooling for the body. Tasting best when eaten with steamed rice, the shoshar shukto is typically served during the beginning of a meal. Unlike the shukto that most of us are familiar with, that uses a medley of vegetables, the shoshar shukto only uses cucumbers and bitter gourd most often in a classic recipe.