Khichuri To Ilish Bhaja: The Delectable Dishes Of Bengal
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The rains in West Bengal are always unpredictable. Sometimes they are pleasant and soft whereas other times they are threatening and destructive. This is the very reason why people in West Bengal believe in praying to nature for easy rains that flourish the paddy fields and conclude the hot summer days on an amicable note. Bengali food mimics the very changes and fluctuations in weather. Rains in Bengal are a little colder as compared to the rest of the parts of the country, which is why the body needs more protection and immunisation.

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This is why Bengalis like to have food that is gentler on the digestive system during monsoon. The food is loaded with green vegetables and some very subtle spices for a merciful monsoon. The piscine trail of Bengal remains enriched with a bounty of produce during monsoon. In contrast to other seasons in Bengal, monsoon gives opportunity for people from all walks of society to have an opulent fish as a central dish at the table due to the abundance of fish in the market.

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Khichuri: Staple Dish

Khichuri in West Bengal is a dish that is always on the tip of the tongue of all natives specifically during the monsoon time. This is a rich and flavourful blend of dal, rice, and some quintessential spices used in Bengali cuisine. However, the range of supportive condiments depends on the social strata of a person. While the rich like to add ingredients like fish and chicken, people from slightly humble backgrounds only resort to adding potatoes and other easily available and affordable fish.

The cultural and religious differences in the Bengali community have also given rise to different interpretations of this very recipe. In a lot of Hindu households, people like to only resort to the vegetarian variety of khichuri. Whereas, in Muslim households, the dish is heavily meat-based. 

Khichuri of Bengal is one of the most traditional and oldest recipes not just in West Bengal, but in the whole of India.The reputation and the acceptance of this decision are like anything else. Also, the khichuri recipe depends upon the type of dal that is used to make it. This can also have an impact on the consistency of the dish. Some people like to make it more varied by adding vegetables like cauliflower, peas, onions, and potatoes. On the other hand, a lot of people believe that keeping it simple and traditional is the key to enjoying it in the best way possible.

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Vegetarian Delights

A lot of people believe that the cuisine of Bengal is highly dominated by horticulture and other meat-based dishes. While it is true that both fish and meat make for a very important part of the gastronomic identity of Bengal, what people don't know is that Bengalis also like to enjoy their local vegetables, specifically the ones that are available in monsoon. Chorchoris and labras or an assortment of different vegetables like potatoes, radish, brinjal, pumpkins, and whatever else is available in the market during monsoon.

All of these vegetables are cut and mixed with mustard oil, ginger, green chillies, and phoron. This subtle tempering helps in elevating the natural flavour of vegetables while also preserving their crunchiness. The difference between a chorchori and a labra is that a labra is made by cutting vegetables into cubicle pieces, while the other one is made by cutting vegetables into elongated shapes. Both of these make for a perfect side dish for khichuri and complete the meal very well.

Main Course

The Bengali certainly have a thing for ilish. The love affair continues even after decades of constant relishing. Ilish or hilsa is abundantly found along the shores of Padma and Ganga and can be accessed by all people. However, due to the re-drawing of maps, accessibility has become a lot more constrained than it used to be before. Ilish is one of the favourite monsoon treats of people in West Bengal. It is made in a very velvety and creamy curry after smoking the fish perfectly. The flavour profile of this fish is so dynamic that it can easily subdue the wrath of even the water god.

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Khichuri is certainly incomplete without some flavourful chutney on the side. This straddled accompaniment is the perfect way to enjoy khichuri in the best way possible. The Bengali style chutney is made by mixing reasons, rolled mangoes, dried red chillies, jaggery, and some other ingredients to make a thick and appetising chutney. The chutney is so delectable that it can be easily called a separate dish altogether.