A popular dish in Bangladesh, as well as Indian states such as West Bengal, Odisha and Assam, Kishwar, made ‘panta bhaat', with ‘aloo bhorta.
Masterchef Australia 2021 runner-up and role model for many, Kishwar Chowdhury has been one of the most inspiring contestants to have entered the competition. She delighted everyone with her choice of dishes which evoked memories, nostalgia, and sentiments, which only a true chef could. Then she exited the competition. But before she left, she took along more confidence in her abilities. Not the one to go out without a bang, safe to say that Kishwar Chowdhury has won hearts everywhere with her last ode to Bangladeshi cuisine.
In an era where we have reinvented the classics, explored several flavours and new cuisines, it is only fair that our traditional food is also seen from a new pair of eyes, or in this case, from Kishwar Chowdhury’s point of view. She made sure that the world does see food which has been passed down from generation to generation.
In the finale of Masterchef Season 13 , Bangladeshi-Australian Kishwar went up against her competitor Indian-origin Justin Narayan. As the finale was watched by many people around the world, she was applauded for her courage to choose a dish that was considered unfit for a Masterchef finale because it is too simple. But the runner-up has often made dishes to showcase her culture and heritage. That may be the reason, after all, why she has come so far in the competition.
A popular dish in Bangladesh, as well as Indian states such as West Bengal, Odisha and Assam, Kishwar made ‘panta bhaat', with ‘aloo bhorta. To create the dish, one must use leftover rice soaked in water, tweak the flavour with red chilli, then allow it to ferment. In the competition, Kishwar served it with potato mash and sardine fry which is how it is enjoyed in homes as well. The fact that this dish was made in an exact way truly captures the story of an immigrant who made foreign turf her home but still remained loyal to her roots.
As social media began to abuzz with reactions of derision and racism remarks such as those pertaining to people of colour and their love of rice, many people stood up for Kishwar, and defending her proudly. It became clear that representation of dishes that are ubiquitous and routine in one part of the world may often be unfamiliar in another part, and thus derided. Not less important, dishes such as panta bhaat evoked memories of home and comfort, and remind us of community and what ties us together. Inevitably, Kishwar Chowdhury showed the world that food brings people together throughout a journey. The final dish touched a chord with those who know the significance that the dish has carried in Bengali homes and the role that Kishwar Chowdhury has played to put regional dishes on a global platform.
Eventually, Justin Narayan won the competition.