In today's episode, we are going to discover the Bengali way of life through food, anecdotes, and references. We are curious to learn more about the culinary scenario over here. To assist us in this exploration, we are joined by two genial souls who like any true Bengali are ardent foodies. Restaurateurs Piyali and Sunando Banerjee, have translated their passion into the profession through their culinary venture named Hanglaatherium. So brace yourselves for some amazing insights, great company, endearing interaction, and of course some delicious food.
The agenda for the day was a visit to a local market and then to try a usual Bengali meal. Hence we started with a visit to the Gariahat fish and vegetable market. Fish is the protagonist of the rich and vibrant Bengali cuisine. They can't imagine a meal without it except for those religiously significant days when consuming fish is prohibited. Their cogent love for fish gets reflected in the busy and chaotic scene at a fish market where their enthusiasm peaks as they select the best catch for the day.
As we stepped inside the concrete precincts of the Gariahat Fishmarket with our host Piyali, a regular visitor to this place, we were thrilled by the sight and smell of the fresh and live mind-boggling variety of fishes. Piyali walked us through the most popular ones that go into the making of many popular delicacies. So there was Rui, Katla, Pomfret, Bhetki, Tryangra, Illish, Magur, and many more. Piyali's deep knowledge about the nitty gritty of the cuisine and her enthusiasm to acquaint us with the same made us fall in love with the experience. As we made our way through the sea of fishes, we got enlightened about their uses and benefits.
Apart from getting familiar with the identities of the fishes, we also came to know about some socio-cultural facts about Bengali masses through the reference of certain fish. For example how rui or katla fish is a means of cementing the ties between the bride and the groom's family. Then we came to know about the two categories of Bengalis and their long underlying rivalry that has even spilled onto the football fields. This is about the Ghotis and Bangals, their general preferences and of course their starkly different food scenarios in spite of the ingredients landscape being the same.
From there we went to the vegetable section to learn about the favourite picks of the people of Bengal. It was great to know that Bengalis are fond of vegetables as well and the cuisine has some iconic dishes made with the local produce. Piyali showed us some of the usual fares like pumpkin, it's flower and plantain stem and blossom and some of the unusual yet coveted fares like maan kochu, different kinds of greens etc.
After that insightful market visit it was time to head to her home the basic breakfast spread of luchi, sada aloor tarkari, begun bhaja and rosogolla. But before that Piyali's spouse Sunando took us to a nearby crowded eatery selling an interesting breakfast thing called Padani Porota. As the name suggested, it was a flatbread that had borne the brunt of ruthless palm beating. The resultant fluffy and flaky mass is savoured with yellow pea curry or some sweet stuff. It was tasty but not outstanding.
On reaching their home we were joined by one of their close fried Avijit dada. All the walking had made us quite hungry. Piyali quickly whipped up the sada aloor tarkari using just three to four ingredients. Sunando fried the luchi and sson the table. The subtle and soulful meal was accompanied by an amusing conversation about some of the quintessential traits and idiosyncrasies of the Bengali people. We are so grateful for this endearing encounter full of food and cultural connotations.