Ilish To Shaak : Exploring Different Bhapas From Bengali Cuisine

A wealth of seasonal and fresh foods, such as fish, mustard, and different leafy greens, are available in the winter. Bengali homes can make the most of these wintertime treats with "bhapa" preparations, which yield tasty and nourishing meals. The following is a list of some delectable Bengali bhapa dishes:

1. Bhapa Ilish (Hilsa Fish): In Bengali cuisine, bhapa ilish is a delectable dish that is particularly popular during the monsoon season when hilsa, or ilish, fish is in abundance. The meal is well known for its flavor—which is rich, aromatic, and unique.  The robust and distinct flavour of ilidish adds to the umami richness of the dish. The marinade's flavour blends perfectly with the natural hilsa fish flavour to create a wonderfully savoury dish. A mixture of spicy spices, such as turmeric, green chilies, and nigella seeds (kalonji), is frequently added to the marinade. The dish gains a complex and aromatic flavour profile from these spices. A creamy texture is achieved by adding mustard paste, coconut, and occasionally poppy seeds to the marinade. The firm and succulent texture of the hilsa fish is enhanced by this creaminess.

2. Chingri Bhapa (Steamed Praws): A delicious Bengali dish called Bhapa Chingri is made of marinated prawns with coconut, green chilies, mustard paste, and spices. The prawns are then wrapped in banana leaves and steam-cooked. The prawns get a distinct flavour from this unusual cooking technique, which results in a rich, flavorful, and aromatic dish. A mixture of warming spices, such as turmeric and cumin, adds to the overall richness of flavour. These spices give the food depth and warmth. In addition to adding a subtle, earthy flavour, steaming the prawns in banana leaves helps retain the juices, which keeps the prawns juicy and flavorful. A well-rounded culinary experience is achieved by the dish's harmonious blending of flavours, which include the richness of coconut, the pungency of mustard, and the heat of green chilies.

3. Bhapa Doi (Steamed Yogurt): Bengali desserts like Bhapa Doi are traditional and delight the palate with their rich, creamy texture and well-balanced sweetness. The texture of Bhapa Doi is lusciously creamy and smooth. Melt-in-your-mouth desserts are produced by combining yoghurt, condensed milk, and baking or steaming. Bhapa Doi's sweetness comes from sugar and condensed milk. The surface of the dessert is frequently browned or caramelised, giving it a faint toasted sweetness. Bhapa Doi can be flavoured with rose water, saffron, or cardamom, depending on the variations. These fragrant garnishes enhance the dessert's whole sensory experience. One important ingredient that gives Bhapa Doi a hint of tang is yoghurt.

4. Bhapa Sondesh (Steamed Sweet Cheese): Bengali dessert Bhapa Sondesh is made by steaming the traditional sweet cheese called Shondesh. Naturally sweetened, Bhapa Sondesh is usually made with jaggery or sugar. The mild sweetness lets the delicate flavour of the sweet cheese come through without being overbearing. The Shondesh is given a dense, creamy texture by the steaming process. This gives the dessert a velvety mouthfeel that enhances its overall decadence. Bhapa Sondesh can be flavoured with cardamom, saffron, or other aromatic spices, depending on the recipe variations. The dessert's overall sensory experience is enhanced by these additions. Chopped almonds or pistachios are added to certain recipes to add a nutty crunch and to further enhance the complexity of flavour. 

Video Credit: Youtube/ Cook with Sonali

5. Bhapa Murgi ( Steamed Chicken): Bengali food called bhapa murgi entices the palate with a delectable combination of spices and herbs, as well as a special steaming technique.  Bhapa Murgi is renowned for having a strong and harmonious spice blend. A mixture of flavorful spices, such as turmeric, coriander, cumin, and mustard, gives the meal depth and complexity. Bhapa Murgi frequently uses fresh herbs, such as cilantro and mint, which give the dish's flavour a burst of herbal freshness. These herbs produce a taste that harmonises with the spices. Lime or lemon juice is added to some Bhapa Murgi variations, giving the dish a zesty brightness that counterbalances the richness of the spices. Yogurt's inclusion in the marinade does more than just tenderise the chicken and gives it a great umami flavour.

6. Bhapa pui Shaak (Steamed Malabar Spinach): Malabar spinach leaves are marinated with mustard paste, green chilies, and spices for Bhapa Pui Shaak, a Bengali dish that is steamed after.  The mustard paste in the marinade gives Bhapa Pui Shaak its distinct flavour. It contributes a strong, tangy flavour that is characteristic of many Bengali cuisines. The dish's overall flavour profile is enhanced by the spiciness that green chilies bring to it. You can change the heat to suit your own tastes. The depth of flavour in Bhapa Pui Shaak is enhanced by the use of aromatic spices like turmeric and cumin. These spices give the food depth and warmth. The Malabar spinach leaves give the dish a subtle earthy flavour when they are steamed in banana leaves.