This dak bungalow curry is important because it's a reminder of how Indian food came to evolve through those times
It is interesting how this curry has got its name. Not many people know about the origin of the dish known as dak bungalow curry. The focus is usually on the upcoming trends and innovations in the food space. But we are digging into the history, as dak bungalow curry has a fascinating past.
What does 'dak bungalow' mean?
In the 1840s, during the colonial period, there were these bungalows which were strikingly similar in appearance across the country. They provided standardised accommodation to the English mail carriers who rode horses and needed to rest. The term ‘dak’ means mail. The resthouses, known as ‘bangla’ or dakbangla, were also reserved for government officials of the British empire who were tasked with maintaining outposts of East India Company. Further on, these dak bungalows also provided a place for the judges to hold courtroom sessions on the ground floor. Even today, it is believed that government officials use these dak bungalows to rest. However, they stand in decayed condition. It is uncanny how many stories about murder, love stories, suicides, ghosts and tragedies are associated with the dak bungalow, which was not just witness to the arrival of officials, but everything else that went inside their lives. Once upon a time, this dak bungalow was the only refuge of officials who had to constantly travel to do their duty.
When the dak bungalows were empty, a postman and a caretaker would often be around to look after the building. There was also a khansama – or a cook – who made delectable dishes for the officials when they arrived.
One such dish is known as the dak bungalow curry, or the dakbangla curry. It is often associated with Kolkata. This could be for two reasons: either people started to associate the word ‘bangla’ with Bengali, not knowing that ‘bangla’ in fact means bungalow in this context. Or two, there really could be a dakbungalow in Kolkata which invented the dak bungalow curry, and so a lot of people tend to think that it should be made Bengali style. But again, we don’t know if there is any evidence to support this claim.
This recipe is still preserved in Anglo-Indian homes. This curry is not something that will draw people’s attention today, as there are so many non-vegetarian curries out there to experiment with. But this dak bungalow curry is important because it's a reminder of how Indian food came to evolve through those times; it's made like any other regular non-vegetarian curry except that dak bungalow is cooked with eggs and potato too.
One may also make a dak bungalow mutton curry. But at that time, when the rest of the world was aloof from the magic of Indian spices, this curry really ensured that the British officials had got a taste of how Indian cooking was in those times. Here’s a recipe for dak bungalow curry you can try.