Category: Bengali


Dhoka is a special Bong dish which involves numerous steps and is quite time consuming. It’s basically a gravy of fried lentil cakes. I have never attempted the dish though.

Ma recently saw this innovative version of Dhoka made out of eggs. It was a welcome change to the normal Dimer Jhol that we have at least once a week. Ma forgot a few ingredients and a few proportions. I referred to Sandeepa’s recipe for the egg cakes and made the gravy as per my own Egg curry recipe:

Ingredients:

For the Steamed Egg Cakes or Dimer Dhoka

  • Eggs – 6
  • Onion Paste – 1 small, chopped fine
  • Coriander leaves – finely chopped about 1/4 cup
  • Green Chillies – 3 chopped fine (optional)
  • Tomato – ¼ of a medium chopped fine (optional)
  • Ginger paste – 1 tsp
  • Milk – 3 tbsp
  • Salt – as per taste
  • Baking Powder – a pinch

For the gravy:

  • Potatoes – 2, medium sized, cut into quarters
  • Onion – 1, medium sized, sliced
  • Ginger paste – 2 tsp
  • Garlic paste – 1 tsp
  • Red chilli powder – 2-3 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon stick – 1″
  • Bay Leaves – 2
  • Salt – to taste
  • Sugar – a pinch
  • Oil – 2 tbsp (Mustard oil can be used for authentic Bong taste, I genrally mix mustard and sunflower oil)
To pound:
  • Cardamom – 2-3
  • Cloves – 3-4
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Method:

For the steamed cakes:

  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
  2. To it add the chopped onions, chopped green chillies, chopped tomato, chopped coriander, ginger paste, pinch of baking powder, milk and salt. Beat well.
  3. Steam it using a steamer. I greased a steal container and poured the egg mixture and steamed in a pressure cooker till the first whistle and 4 mins on sim. As per Sandeepa’s instructions, I tool out the container as soon as the cooker let off pressure.
  4. Cut into cubes.
  5. The recipe that Ma had seen in TV had an additional step of shallow frying the cubes before putting them into the gravy. This is optional.

For the gravy:

  1. Marinate potato quarters with salt and turmeric powder and shallow fry in oil till the exteriors turn golden. Keep aside.
  2. Temper the remaining oil with cumin seeds and bay leaves.
  3. When the cumin seeds splutter, add chopped onions and a pinch of sugar. Saute till they are golden brown.
  4. Add ginger and garlic paste. Saute till the raw smell goes.
  5. Now add half a cup of water along with red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and salt.
  6. Also add the steamed cakes and potatoes. Gently stir.
  7. Now add a cup of water and pound garam masala, adjust salt if required. Cover and cook till the potatoes are cooked. Remove the lid and cook till the gravy has attained your desired thickness.

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No matter how hard I tried, I always failed with this dish in the initial few years of my marriage. Ingredients are minimal and I had no clue how I could go wrong with such a simple dish. Then came a day when a colleague of mine had brought this dish and I hastily asked her the recipe. She gave me almost the same procedure as I did it. I told her that I followed similar method but mine never turned out half as good as this. She gave a tip that I need to use a bit extra oil. Also, I need to add the poppy seed paste only after the veggies are cooked and then keep it uncovered. All I did that day at work was to wait to get back home and better my culinary skills at perfecting this Bengali classic dish.

Ingredients:
Ridge Gourd – 1 medium, cut into 1 cm cubes
Potato – 2-3 medium cut into 1 cm cubes
Onion – 1 medium sized, finely chopped (optional)
Poppy seeds – 2 tbsp
Green Chillies – 3-4 or more as per your spice tolerance
Salt – to taste
Oil – 6 tbsp (I generally mix sunflower oil and mustard oil)
Panch Phoron – 1 tsp (a mix of fennel, cumin, nigella, mustard and fenugreek seeds)

Method:
1. Grind poppy seeds, green chillies and salt in mixie without adding water first. Then grind by adding water little by little until you get a smooth paste. Keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan. Add panch phoron. Let it splutter.
3. Add onions and saute till tanslucent. (If using onion)
3. Add cubed potatoes and saute till the cubes turn golden in colour.
4. Add ridge gourd cubes, combine. Cover the pan and let it cook in ridge gourd’s juices. If the water seems less at any point you may add a little for the veggies to cook.
5. Once the veggies are cooked, uncover the pan, add the poppy paste and combine. Adjust salt if required
6. Let it cook on high flame till extra moisture evaporates and you get a dry gravy.

  
I had a meagre amount of prawns lying in the freezer. As I was on the lookout for recipes to use it up, I bumped into this recipe by Sandeepa. The original recipe idea belongs apparently belongs to her SIL. My refrigerator always stocks up Brinjals. I decided to give it a try. The recipe was a huge hit. Infact, when we licked off the bowl in which it was served at the end of our meal, Abbas said that his heart ached that such a yummy dish got over too soon. It will certainly feature in our meals frequently from now on.

Ingredients:
Brinjal – 1 medium sized, cut into thin long strips like french fries
Onion – 3 medium sized, sliced
Ginger paste – 1 tsp
Garlic paste – 1 tsp
Tomatoes – 2 small, finely chopped
Green chillies – 3-4 or more as per spice tolerance
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp
Prawns – 10-15 peeled, deveined, cleaned (I used 8 large ones)
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Coriander leaves – handful, chopped
Lemon juice – 1 tsp (Optional, actually I forgot this)
Oil – 6 tbsp + 1 tbsp
Sugar – 1/2 tsp

Method:
1. Marinate prawns with salt and turmeric powder. Shallow fry it, remove from oil. Once cooled, grind to a coarse paste and keep aside.
2. Marinate brinjal fingers in salt, turmeric powder and a pinch of sugar. Keep it aside for a while and then shallow fry them. (Addition of sugar reduces the amount of oil absorbed by brinajl)
3. In the same oil, add sliced onions and saute till golden brown.
4. Add ginger and garlic paste, saute till raw smell goes away.
5. Add chopped tomatoes, use the back of spatula to mash the tomatoes as you go sauteeing.
6. Once tomatoes turn mushy, add chillies, red chilli powder, cumin powder and coriander powder. and combine. Grind into a smooth paste once it gets cooled.
7. In a pan, heat a tbsp of oil. Add cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds.
8. When they splutter, add the fried brinjal fingers, ground masala paste and ground prawns. Add salt and a little water. Cover and cook till brinjals are cooked and the extra moisture dries out.
9. Garnish with coriander leaves and lemon juice.

Of all the Bengali Fish Curries that feature various veggies in different permutations and combinations, this one is my favourite. Medium sized florets floating in the curry appeal to me more than the fish pieces. Here’s the recipe for ya:

Ingredients:
Rui Fish pieces – 5-6
Cauliflower – 1 small – cut into medium sized florets
Potato – 3 medi sized, cut into quarters
Onion – 2 small or 1 big, finely chopped
Ginger paste – 2″ piece
Tomatoes – 2 small
Cloves – 2-3
Cardamom – 2-3
Cinnamon – 1″ piece
Star anise – 1 (optional)
Bay leaves – 1-2
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp for tempering + 1 tsp for paste
Salt – to taste
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp + 1 tsp for frying fish
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 5-6 or more depending on spice tolerance
Coriander leaves – a handful chopped
Sugar – a pinch
Oil – 6 tbsp (I generally mix sunflower oil and mustard oil)

Method:
Preparation:
1. Grind ginger and cumin seeds together to a fine paste.
2. Coarsely pound together cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
3. Marinate cleaned fish pieces with salt and turmeric powder. Shallow fry till crisp yet soft from within.
4. In the same oil, add some salt and turmeric powder. Shallow fry cauliflower florets till they turn crispy from outside. Keep aside. Repeat the same with potato cubes.

To make the curry:
1. In the same oil, add cumin seeds. When they splutter, add bay leaves, star anise and pounded garam masala.
2. Once nice aroma emanates, add a pinch of salt, add chopped onion. Saute till onions turngolden brown.
3. Add ginger cumin paste and saute till raw smell goes away.
4. Add chopped tomatoes and slit green chillies, once they turn soft, mash them using the back of spatula.
5. Add red chilli powder, salt and combine.
6. Add shallow fried florets and potato cubes and combine.
7. Add water as per desired consistency. Adjust salt of required. Add fried fish pieces and chopped coriander leaves. Let it boil.
8. After the first boil, cover it and let it cook on sim till the veggies are cooked.

Kaku and Kakima had invited us for lunch at their place when we were in Kolkata. That was during the first year of my marriage and my first time indulging in an authentic Bengali fare. I simply fell in love with Bong cuisine. All those veggies that I detested earlier suddenly were endearing and I regretted having troubled Amma by being a fussy-picky eater that I was! Abbas teases me saying you were destined to be a Bengali but somehow you were born a Konkani. 
Coming back to Kakima, she addresses me as her ‘Choto Meye’ (younger daughter) and Abbas as her Jamai. She creates wonders in kitchen. If some dish goes wrong, she analyzes it and provides instant solution that magically changes the taste. She loves to feed and serve and always eats only after she makes sure that everyone has eaten. This dish is one of our favourites and I have never been able to match Kakima’s version. Although the recipe is simple and tastes good, we miss Kakima’s love in it each time I make it.
Ingredients:
Spinach – 3 tiny bunches
Potato – 3/4 cup, diced
Pumpkin – 3/4 cup, diced
Brinjal – 3/4 cup, diced
Ridge Gourd – 3/4 cup, diced
Bori – 1/4 cup (optional)
Panch Phoran – 1 tsp
Red chillies – 1 nos, broken into 3-4 peices
Turmeric powder – a pinch
Bhaja Masala powder – 2 tsp (you may substitute with garam masala powder)
Ghee – 1 tsp
Oil – 4 tbsp
Green chillies – 2-3, finely chopped (increase or decrease as suitable)
Sugar – 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves – a handful, chopped (optional)
Water – 1/2 cup
Salt – to taste
Method:
1. Wash spinach leaves thoroughly in atleast 3 changes of water. Finely chop and keep aside. You may use tender stems of spinach by chopping them in 1″long pieces.
2. Heat oil in a pan.Add turmeric and salt. Add cubed potatoes. Saute till potatoes are uniformly roasted and turn golden in colour. Remove from pan and keep aside.
3. Repeat the same procedure for pumpkin, brinjal and boris.
4. In the remaining oil, add panch phoron and red chilli pieces.
5. Once the tempering splutters, add all the sauteed veggies, ridge gourd, boris and spinach leaves and stems. Add salt, sugar, green chillies, coriander leaves, water and combine.
6. Cover and keep on low flame. Stir once in a while. Once all veggies are cooked, increase flame and cook till extra water (if any) evaporates. This dish is neither too dry nor has any gravy.
7. Remove from flame. Sprinkle bhaja masala powder and ghee on top. Cover immediately. Give a brief stir before serving.

After having successfully made rasagullas at home, I was flying high. Abbas put me back on ground and assigned me another mission of making Mishti Doi at home. I love it when people demand some food to be prepared by me. After surfing a lot of Bengali recipes over the net, I came up with this version. After 2-3 trial and errors, the following measurements worked out best! It’s very easy to prepare, only thing that needs utmost care is the right temperature of milk at which you need to add curd and shut it off to set.
Ingredients:
Milk – 1/2 litre
Curd – 2 tbsp (I used Nestle Dahi)
Sugar – 4 tbsp
Water – 1 tbsp
Method:
1. Heat milk and 2 tbsp of sugar in a heavy bottomed pan till it reduces to almost half.
2. Heat remaining sugar and water in a separate pan till it attains a golden brown colour. Add this to simmering milk and boil for another 10 mins.
3. Strain and pour the milk into a bowl in which you want to set the Doi.
4. You need to add curd as the milk cools down and is luke warm. (If milk is too hot it will curdle, milk is too cold it will not set)
5. Close with a lid and place in a warm place overnight or till it sets. (Refrain from disturbing the bowl to check again and again. You may place the bowl in your oven with the lights on whole night.)

I love the red Amarnath leaves more than the green variety. When we were in Chennai, never found the red ones. So Ma had sent a few bunches of red Amarnath with Abbas, I made this stir fry and ate to heart’s content. But red ones are abundant here in Bangalore. Combo of greens with garlic is a match made in heaven and I add extra doze of garlic than perhaps required coz I am a fanatical garlic lover.
Ingredients:
Amarnath leaves – 2 cups packed, cleaned and chopped
Potato – 1 small, cut into 1″cm squares
Garlic cloves – 8-10, finely chopped
Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Onion – 1 small, finely chopped (optional)
Red chilly – 1, broken into 3-4 pieces
Nigella seeds / Kala jeera – 1/4 tsp
Oil – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder – a pinch
Method:
1. Heat oil in a pan. Add nigella seeds and red chillies. Add chopped garlic and saute till light brown.
2. Add garlic paste and saute till raw smell goes away. Add onion and saute till transparent and pinkish.
3. Add potato pieces and stir till they turn slightly golden.
4. Now add chopped greens, turmeric powder, salt. No need to add water. Greens will release lot of water. Reduce flame immediately and cover with lid.
5. Stir once in 5 mins and cook till greens and potatoes are cooked.
6. Once cooked, remove the lid, increase flame to high and cook till excess water is evaporated.
Note:
1. Along with leaves, tender stems can also be used.
2. Wash greens thoroughly atleast thrice to remove any sand particles from them.
3. I always soak the greens in a big vessel full of water and then remove leaves and put in a colander. Repeat same atleast thrice until the water u soak greens in comes out clear.
 

When we were going to bid goodbye to Chennai and moving to Bangalore, I had to do most of the tasks as Abbas was working in Bangalore then. He would arrive along with Kakima (My co-sis’s mom) only on the previous day of our departure. Change of address in post office, transfer of gas connection, surrendering Landline phone, dealing with movers and packers, finishing off the groceries in my pantry. I had kept just enough rice, dal, potatoes, 2 red chillies, pinch of cumin seeds, salt for Khichuri to be prepared. As I had to go to office for the last day clearance, Kakima was going to prepare Khicuri with the limited resources she was provided with… I had marinated some boneless chicken pieces which would be deep fried to go along with Khicuri. To this date, we remember that day’s Khichuri as it had turned out to be yummilicious!!!
Kakima is a super talented cook and her Bengali preparations are to die for. We spent a good three months of time together in Bangalore. It was like a picnic everyday. We had the best of foods hogged as if there was no tomorrow. Kaku would go shopping and we would provide him with a list of groceries. Kakima would churn up delicacies one after the other and indulging in them was sheer bliss. Whenever we talk on phone, we recall those wonderful days spent together and the memories of them are soothing!!! I learnt many Bengali dishes from her but have never been able to match the taste that she imparts to them. Abbas and I are eagerly waiting for Kakima and Kaku’s stay with us….
This is how I prepare Khicuri:
Ingredients:
Moong Dal – 1¼ cups (lightly roasted on Tawa)
Masoor Dal – ¾ cup
Rice – 2 cups (You may use Gobinda bhog rice for a distinctive aroma)
Cauliflower – 8-10 big florets, optional (soaked in hot water with turmeric and salt and drained)
Potato – 3 medium sized, peeled and cut into 2 pieces each
Green peas – a handful (optional)
Onion – 2 large, sliced
Tomatoes – 2 large, finely chopped
Ginger paste – 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Red chillies – 2, broken into 3-4 pieces each
Bay leaves – 2
Salt – to taste
Sugar – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 2-3, finely chopped (optional)
Oil – 5 tbsp
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Method:
  1. Wash rice and both dals together 5-6 times or till the water is clear. Strain away all water.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a pan. Add a pinch of turmeric powder and salt. Add cauliflower florets and sauté till they turn golden and crunchy from outside. Remove from oil and keep aside.
  3. Repeat the same for potatoes and keep aside.
  4. Add remaining oil to the same pan. Add cumin seeds, once spluttered add red chillies and bay leaves.
  5. Add chopped onion and sauté till golden brown.
  6. Now add ginger paste and sauté till raw smell goes away.
  7. Add chopped tomatoes and sauté till they turn mushy and oil separates.
  8. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, salt, sugar and combine.
  9. Now add the washed rice and dal, sautéed cauliflower, potatoes and green peas. Mix well. Add 6-7 cups of water, cover with lid and let it boil.
  10. When the water boils, slide the lid a bit and on low flame, let it cook till rice and dal are completely cooked. You may add more water if you like a runny Khichuri. If you want a dry Khicuri, once rice and dal are cooked, remove the lid and cook on fly flame till you get the desired consistency. I like my Khicuri neither dry nor too runny. Pour ghee on top and close the lid.
  11. Serve hot with anything deep fried, green chillies, lemon wedges and ghee. I generally serve along with Begun Bhaja, Dim Bhaja. This time it was Chicken 65.

Tadka

The Amchi soul in me jumps at the sight of Taro leaves, Bread Fruit, Bamboo Shoots and many such rarely available ingredients. Similarly with time, my Amchi Soul has split into two personalities. Its new born twin is Bong, you see… It jumps at the sight of Date Palm Jaggery, Gobindo Bhog Rice, Bodi and the like! A couple of months back we discovered this Bengali Store which stocked up all such goodies which are hardly seen anywhere in Bangalore. Just looking at all that the store had to offer made me nostalgic. I was reminded of our ‘Paara’s Mudikhana dokan’ (local grocery store) and the faces of the storekeepers came floating in my mind like movie clippings. I stood there inspecting each and every shelf to ensure I was not missing anything. I spotted this ‘Tadka masala’ which Bhabi used to use whenever she made Tadka at home. It was then that I realized I hadn’t eaten Tadka in ages…
Green gram captivated me for the first time when Bhabi prepared this dish at home to go along with Puris for breakfast. She also added eggs to it which made it even more special. Tadka can be served with Rotis for lunch or dinner as well…
Ingredients:
Green Gram – 1 cup, washed and soaked overnight
Onion – 2, medium sized, finely chopped
Tomatoes – 2, medium sized, finely chopped
Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
Garlic paste – 1 tsp (optional)
Red chillies – 1, broken into 3-4 pieces
Bay leaf – 1-2
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Green chillies – 2 or more as per spice tolerance, chopped (Optional)
Salt – to taste
Tadka masala – 2 tsp
Turmeric powder – a pinch
Eggs – 2 (opional)
Oil – 3 tbsp + ½ tbsp
Coriander leaves – a handful, finely chopped
Method:
  1. Boil soaked green gram in pressure cooker with salt for 4-5 whistles (2 on high, rest on low). Retain the water.
  2. Omit this step if not adding eggs: Heat ½ tbsp oil in a pan and 2 eggs in it along with salt. Scramble eggs and keep aside.
  3. Heat 3 tbsp oil in the same pan. Add cumin seeds. When they splutter, add red chillies and bay leaves.
  4. Add chopped onion and sauté till they turn light brown.
  5. Add ginger paste and garlic paste (if adding) and sauté till raw smell goes away.
  6. Add chopped tomatoes and sauté till they become mushy and oil separates.
  7. Add boiled green gram along with the water, tadka masala, turmeric powder and salt (Check salt before adding as the gram boiled water would already be salty). Boil till you get the desired consistency.
  8. Granish with scrambled eggs and coriander leaves.
Note:
I used Sunrise brand Tadka Masala. If it is not available, you may substitute with Pav Bhaji Masala or Kitchen King Masala.

Jamai Sasthi is a festival celebrated in West Bengal (not sure about other regions) which was very new to me as are several other Bong festivals. This day is special for sons-in law of Bengal. They are invited for a grand meal at their in-laws’ place and pampered to the zenith. Mothers-in-law observe fasting on that for the well being of their son-in-law or Jamai. A platter full of exquisite dishes is spread for the Jamai and he gets special honour and is under the limelight. Fathers-in-law get busy with shopping for their Jamai leaving no stone unturned to make this day special for him.
When in Kolkata, all my married colleagues wrapped up work as early as possible and rushed to leave for the day. The glow on all married men’s faces looking forward to the feast and special treatment was worth watching. Abbas always sported a sad face as he would never get this ‘Jamai Adar’. So, I would always cook something special and tell him – “What if you don’t get to be a part of Jamai Sasthi? We will have Bor and Chele Sasthi for you!” (Bor meaning Husband and Chele meaning Son)
How I wished there was ‘Bou-ma Sasthi’ as well observed by mothers-in-law for their daughters-in-law. What say women???
Well, this dish is one of the must-haves on a Jamai Sasthi menu along with other delicacies. Here goes:
Ingredients:
Prawns – 400g, deshelled, deveined and cleaned
Mustard Oil – 3 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tbsp
Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
Garlic paste –  1 tbsp
Cumin paste – 1 tbsp
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 6, slit
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar – 1 tsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp (Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon – pounded or powdered)
Coconut milk – 1 1/4 cup (I used Maggi Coconut Milk powder)
Ghee – 2 tsp
Method:
1. Marinate prawns in a pinch of turmeric powder and salt. Shallow fry in oil and keep aside.
2. Heat mustard oil in a pan and add sugar and cumin seeds.
3. When cumin seeds splutter, add ginger paste, garlic paste, cumin paste, red chilli powder and turmeric powder and saute.
4. Add prawns and slit green chillies and stir for a few minutes.
5. Pour in the coconut milk and salt, cook for few minutes.
6. In the end sprinkle garam masala and ghee on top and serve.