Glossary of Bengali Cooking Techniques: Bata, Chhechki, And More
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Often Bengali food is stereotyped and restricted to fish curry and rice. While fish and rice are both staples in Bengal, there is a whole world waiting to be discovered beyond that. The are seasonal saags, roots, and vegetables all cooked using some elaborate and some simple cooking techniques. There is a lot of detailing involved including the style of cutting the vegetables, the choosing from a variety of masalas and getting the pairings right. 

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Bengali kitchens have been  zero-waste long before it became fashionable to be so. Leaves, stalks and even peels are used judiciously to prepare unique delicacies. Peels that are ordinarily discarded as kitchen waste, get used and cooked in many Bengali households. For example -  Lauer Khosha (fried peels of bottle gourd), Aloor Khosha (fried peels of potato) Kanch Kolar Khosha (fried peels of raw bananas). The Bengali meal goes from least spicy to most spicy. It usually starts with a ‘teto’ bitter and ends with something sweet. 

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Some of the key ingredients that are good to know would be shorshe tel (mustard oil), panch phoron (a traditional spice blend whose name translates to five spices. It includes Fenugreek seed, nigella seed, cumin seed, black mustard seed and fennel seed.) and posto which is poppy seeds. One of Bengal’s most favourite comfort food is Bhate - with cooked rice, make little parcels of dal, or vegetables, mash it up with mustard oil, salt and green chillies.

There are also Bodas which are freshly prepared croquettes made of dals that are ground into a paste and Boris, also made of lentils, are sun-dried and used for later consumption. There are specialised Goena Bodis from the Medinipur district in Bengal which are intricately designed and resemble a piece of jewellery. 

There are also different cooking techniques used to create each dish. Each method highlights different aspects of flavour, texture, and nutrition. Whether it's the light and airy texture achieved through steaming (Bhapa) or the intense flavours of a mustard paste (Bata), these techniques reflect the intricate and multifaceted nature of Bengali cooking. 

Here are some popular terms and cooking techniques one should be familiar with while attempting to cook a Bengali meal.


This involves grinding ingredients together. Commonly ground ingredients include mustard seeds (sorshe), poppy seeds (posto), kochu bata (ground taro root stem ground with mustard oil, coconut, salt and little sugar) and fresh spices like ginger (aada), garlic (roshun), and green chilies (kancha lanka). 

The Mustard Paste (Sorshe Bata) is used in dishes like Sorshe Ilish (Hilsa fish in mustard sauce) and Sorshe Chingri (prawns in mustard sauce). Poppy Seed Paste (Posto Bata) is integral in making the popular Bengali dish Aloo Posto (potatoes in poppy seed paste). The grinding can be done using traditional tools like a sil batta (flat stone slab and rolling stone) or modern electric grinders.


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Bhaja means frying, particularly shallow frying or pan-frying. This technique is used to cook various vegetables, fish, and snacks, resulting in a crispy texture and enhanced flavour. Vegetables such as potatoes, eggplants, and okra, as well as fish and lentil-based items are usually fried. The most popular. 

While there can be many kinds of bhajas, the most popular ones are aloo bhaja (potatoes), Begun (brinjal) and maach (fish fry). There is also potol bhaja (pointed gourd), kumro bhaja (pumpkin) and kochu bata (ground taro root stem ground with mustard oil, coconut, salt and little sugar) 


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Bhapa refers to the method of steaming. This technique is prized for preserving the natural flavours and nutrients of the ingredients. Commonly steamed items include fish, vegetables, and even desserts. Vegetables or meat are also covered in banana leaves, lau pata (bottle gourd leaves) or kumro pata. (pumpkin leaves) and then steamed. To make the coveted Bhapa Ilish, Hilsa fish marinated in a mustard paste, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed. 

Bhapa Pitha, a dessert where steamed rice cakes are filled with coconut and jaggery,is a popular winter dessert. There is also Bhapa Doi - a traditional Bengali dessert recipe where sweetened yoghurt is steamed. The steaming process can be done using traditional steamers or simple setups like placing a dish in a pot of boiling water with a lid.


The vegetables or fish or both are cut into smaller pieces and sautéed in oil tempered using slit green chilis, fenugreek seeds (methi) or mustard seeds, followed by cooking in sufficient water till the vegetable or fish is well done.A variety of vegetables, such as pumpkin, radish, and beans, typically cooked with panch phoron, green chilies, and a bit of oil. Kumdo or Pumpkin chechki is the most popular kind. Chechkis are also made with vegetable peels. 


Chorchori involves cooking vegetables or fish with minimal water, allowing the ingredients to cook in their own juices, often with the addition of mustard oil and spices. 


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Jhol is a light, soupy curry often made with fish, meat, or vegetables. This technique focuses on creating a balanced, mildly spiced dish with a thin gravy. Jhols are usually made with Fish or meat, vegetables, tomatoes, turmeric, cumin and coriander. For example Macher Jhol, a light fish curry with potatoes, tomatoes, and a blend of spices, Mangshor Jhol: A thin mutton curry cooked with potatoes and a mild spice mix or Lauer Jhol a simple thin curry made with bottle gourd. Jhol is typically served with rice, offering a comforting and balanced meal.


Pora translates to roasted or charred. This technique is used to enhance the smoky flavor of ingredients by roasting them over an open flame or in an oven. Commonly roasted items include eggplants, tomatoes, and green chilies. For example, Begun Pora, eggplant roasted until charred, then mashed with mustard oil, green chilies, and onions. Or Pora Bharta, a mashed preparation of roasted vegetables, often seasoned with mustard oil and raw onions. The smoky flavour from the roasting process adds a unique dimension to these dishes, making them particularly flavourful.


Tok refers to sour dishes, often made using tamarind, raw mango, or other souring agents. It also uses sugar, and spices. For instance, Aamer Tok is a  sweet and sour chutney made from green mangoes, often served as a palate cleanser and Tetul Er Tok is Tamarind chutney flavoured with jaggery and spices. These dishes are typically served as accompaniments, adding a tangy contrast to the meal.


Bhorta involves mashing ingredients together, often with mustard oil, green chilies, and onions, creating a flavourful and textured dish. This can be made with vegetables such as potatoes, eggplants, or fish. Aloo Bhorta is mashed potatoes mixed with mustard oil, green chilies, and onions while Shorshe Ilish Bhorta: Hilsa fish mashed with mustard paste and spices. Bhortas are a comfort food in Bengali cuisine, offering a harmonious blend of flavours and textures.