8 Rare Bengali Dishes From Thakurbari
Image Credit: Image used for representative purpose only. Image courtesy: experiencesofgastronomad.com

For Bengalis, feasting comes as second nature. Whether it is a regular Sunday transformed with a platter of Aloor Dum, Cholar Dal and Luchi followed by Mishti Doi, or a wedding, annaprasan or Durga Puja, a feast of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes is a must in every Bengali home. Poila Boishakh, also known as Pohela Boishakh, celebrated as the first day of the Bengali new year, is not an exception—so, a feast on 14 April every year is a must for Bengalis. Usually, a Pohela Boishakh feast includes those Bengali favourites you might already be well aware of—Kosha Mangsho, Daab Chingri, Shorshe Ilish and a variety of sweets. For Poila Boishakh 2023, however, you could try something new—or rather something old in a new avatar. We’re talking here about the lost dishes of Bengal, especially those from Thakurbari. 

For those unaware of what it refers to, Thakurbari literally refers to the home of the Thakurs, i.e. the famous Tagores who have and forever will exemplify the epitome of Bengali culture. Thakurbari particularly refers to the Tagores’ ancestral home in Jorashanko, which was built in the 1780s under Dwarkanath Tagore. Generations of Tagores, who are famed for their wide travelling experiences as well as openness to experiments in all forms of art, have lived in Jorashanko and the family is reputed to have innovated many recipes that are now considered culinary gems that are quickly getting lost in the hustle of this century.  

So, how do we know about these recipes at all? Cookbooks are a sure-shot source any day. One prime example is Thakurbarir Ranna by Purnima Thakur, who compiled 250 recipes from a notebook passed down to her by Indira Devi, Rabindranath Tagore’s favourite niece. This 1985 cookbook is quite the gem, and so are some others that provide a glimpse into the Thakurbari kitchen. Pragyasundari Devi’s 1902 book, Amish O Niramish Ahar, is another example of women from Thakurbari recording the family’s recipes for generations to come. If you are looking to create a true Bengali feast with a touch of Thakurbari heritage this Pohela Boishakh, then here’s a list of selected recipes you could try out. 

Video courtesy: YouTube/Bong Eats

Doodh Katla 

You might have heard of Katla Kalia, a rich dish packed with spices, onions and tomatoes. But this Thakurbarir Doodh Katla will actually take your breath away with its simple flavours and exquisite taste. The soothing summery curry is made by reducing milk flavoured with bay leaves, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and onion juice, and then cooking beautifully prepared Katla pieces in the gravy. The dish is rich, yes, but so smooth and nuanced that the results are unbelievably delicious. 

Bhaater Kofta

So, you love Arancini balls? Meet the Italian dish’s true-blue Bengali counterpart, Thakurbarir Bhaater Kofta. Flavoured with nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, raisins, khoya and saffron, the fragrant Gobindobhog rice balls are coated with yoghurt and semolina for a crunchy exterior. Slightly sweet and utterly aromatic, this Bhaater Kofta works great both as a starter as well as a tea-time snack. 

Kancha Aam Diye Mangso

The simplest reason to have this one for Pohela Boishakh is that it pairs that early summer staple—raw mangoes—with the all-time Bengali favourite, mutton. The mutton is marinated with yoghurt, onion paste, ghee and ginger, and then cooked with spices like bay leaves, dry red chillies, turmeric and veggies like pointed gourd—and of course, raw mango chunks. Mildly spiced and that perfect blend of tangy-spicy-sweet, this mutton dish is a must have. 

Komola Phulkopi

Cauliflower flavoured with oranges? Yes, the Tagores thought up the best sorts of combinations you can ever imagine. This pure-vegetarian curry is made without any onion and garlic. Instead, the cauliflower florets are cooked in the mildest of whole spices and mustard oil, and orange juice is added around the end to finish the cooking. Garnished with orange segments, this Thakurbarir Komola Phulkopi looks and tastes like the summer treat you need. 

Image used for representative purpose only. Image courtesy: kitchenofdebjani.com

Aam Echorer Torkari 

Another early summer recipe that utilizes that perfect gift of the season, raw mangoes, Thakurbarir Aam Echorer Torkari is another vegetarian gem that can turn heads and create cravings at your Pohela Boishakh feast. Raw jackfruit and pointed gourd are cooked with mild spices and raw mango chunks until tender. In fact, this treatment of raw mangoes as just another veggie makes this medley dish slightly tangy, a bit spicy and utterly delicious. 

Chire Bhetki Pulao

So, you think you have had plenty of Poha and Pulao in your lifetime? Wait up, because this Thakurbarir Chire Bhetki Pulao will take you by pleasant surprise. The flattened rice or Chire is cooked in this recipe with Bhetki or seabass chunks, onions, peanuts and spices like cumin seeds and garam masala powder. The result is a Pulao that looks like Poha and tastes so good that you would want to have this fishy pulao for breakfast, lunch and dinner on any given day. 

Lau Pata Bhapa Ilish

If you feel an Ilish or Hilsa dish is a must-have on Pohela Boishakh, then try this Thakurbarir Lau Pata Bhapa Ilish. Quite like the Ilish Paturi, this leaf-wrapped Ilish dish screams with the pungent and savoury flavours of mustard paste and green chilli paste. However, the leaves used to wrap the fish steaks aren’t banana leaves, but the more commonly and cheaply available bottle gourd leaves. Adding a dash of pickle oil to the fish marinate adds that extra bit of oomph in flavour. 

Niramish Dimer Dalna

Dimer Dalna refers to a spiced egg dish that is popularly eaten across Bengal. The Thakurbari innovation, however, turns this dish completely vegetarian. How? Boiled potatoes are scooped and hollowed, stuffed with a chana dal paste to resemble egg yolks, and then cooked in spices and a paste of onions. This rich and spicy, but vegetarian, take on the classic Dimer Dalna—better known as Thakurbarir Niramish Dimer Dalna—is another must-have for Pohela Boishakh.