Phena Bhaat: The Ultimate Bengali Comfort Food
Image Credit: Shutterstock | A phena bhaat equivalent may be found in several Asian paddy-growing civilisations.

There are several very unique Bengali foods that hardly anybody outside of Bengal knows about. Although some people might raise their eyebrow, many Bengalis consider these undiscovered delights to be among the tastiest, most delectable, and favourite meals. One of these traditional Bengali meals is phena bhaat or fena bhat.

Phena Bhaat is a one-pot dish made with seasonal vegetables and served with Bengali mashed potatoes, aloo bhaja, boiled eggs, and whatever else you wish to bring to the table. It is quick and incredibly simple to make. It is a balanced diet that includes fat, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Phena bhaat is basically over-cooked, mushy rice.

A phena bhaat equivalent may be found in several Asian paddy-growing civilisations. There are several names for it, such as kanji in Tamil, kanhji in Malayalam, ganji in Telegu, hsan pyok in Burmese, baw baw in Khmer, chao in Vietnamese, bubur in Indonesian, and so forth.

But the key to the Bengali phena bhaat is the rice. It must be short-grained rice, and the more aromatic the better would be the dish. Gobindobhog rice is hence becomes the obvious choice. You can use any other local short-grained rice or Kalijeera in its place. In order to get a starchy porridge-like texture, the rice must be cooked with plenty of water and vegetables. The vegetables in this dish change seasonally and should not overpower the taste of rice.  During the summer, the standard choice is generally potatoes, followed by a few options of okra, pumpkin, radish, and green papaya.  In the winter, there is carrots, sweet peas, cauliflower and of course potatoes.

It is believed that the culinary technique to muddle and mash the rice with other ingredients, typically by hand, brings the real flavour to this particular dish. 

Ingredients :

  • 1/4 cup short grain rice (gobindobhog/Kalijeera) 
  • 1/4 cup of masoor dal 
  • 1 large potato, chopped into quarters 
  • 1/4 papaya, cut into medium-sized cubes 2
  • 2 carrots, chopped into medium-sized chunks
  • 1/4 pumpkin, cut into medium-sized chunks 
  • 4  radishes, chopped into halves. 
  • 4-5 okra  
  • 1 ginger, chopped into thin slices 
  • 3–4 green chilies, depending on your preference 
  • 1 tablespoon of salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard oil
  • Ghee

Procedure to prepare Phena Bhaat:

  • Wash rice and lentils
  • Put it in a pressure cooker with about 6 times the water
  • Add the chopped vegetables
  • Pressure cook for 2 whistles or 5 minutes
  • Let the pressure release naturally
  • Open the lid, add salt and couple of green chilies
  • Put the pressure cook (with lid open this time) back on simmer flame for another 10-15 minutes, Check the texture of the dish to see that it is soft and with the back of the ladle roughly mash the soft vegetables into the pot
  • If you have added cauliflower, take it out and mash separately.
  • Once you have served the “phena bhaat" in individual plates, mash with the tip of your finger
  • In a separate frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp mustard Oil. Add the slits of green chilies and the ginger and fry for a few minutes
  • Add this to the Congee while serving
  • Add 1 tsp Ghee to the bowl of steaming "phena bhaat" and enjoy 

Serve it with soft boiled egg, so that it look even more colourful.