Sunday, April 17, 2011

Courses in a meal

The typical Bangali fare includes a certain sequence of food- somewhat like the courses of Western dining. Two sequences are commonly followed, one for ceremonial dinners such as a wedding and the day to day sequence. Both sequences have regional variations.

The elaborate dining habits of the Banglis are a reflection of the attention the Bangali housewife paid to the kitchen. Courses are frequently skipped or combined with everyday meals. Meals were usually served course by course to the diners by the youngest housewives. Ceremonial occasions such as weddings used to have elaborated serving rituals, but professional catering and buffet style dining is vow common. The traditions are far from dead, though; large family occasions and the more lavish ceremonial jeasts still make sure that these rituals are observed.

The starting course is a bitter. The bitter changes with the season but common ones are uchheye/karala (bitter gourd _ small and/ large variety), helancha (leaf vegetable) in summer or tender neem leaves in spring. Bitters are mostly deep friend in oil, steamed with potatoes and made paste. Portions are usually very small a spoonful or so to be had with rice and this course is considered to be both a palate cleanser and of great medicinal value.

This is followed by shaak (leaf vegetable). From time immemorial Bangladesh is a very green country and it has innumerable variety of leafy vegetable. There such as spinach, fenugreek, or amaranth. The shaak can be steamed or cooked in oil with other vegetables such as begoon (aubergine). Steamed shaak is sometimes accompanied by a sharp mustard paste called kasundi.

The dal course is usually the most substantial course. It is eaten with a generous portion of rice and a number of accompaniments. In Bangladesh, dal is usually eaten at the end of the meal, while in west Bengal it is eaten somewhat before the fish and meat courses.

A common accompaniment to dal is bhaja (fritters). Bhaja literally means deep fried; aborigine or pumpkin or plain potatoes are common. Fried fish (mach bhaja) is also common. Bhaja is sometimes coated in a besan ( chickpea flour) and posto ( poppyseed) batter. A close cousin of bhaja is bora or deepfried savoury balls usually made mixed oith potato, dal, postp, paste or coconut mince.

Another accompaniment is a vegetable preparation usually made of multiple vegetables stewed slowly made of multiple vegetables stewed slowly together without any added water. Labra, chorchori, ghonto, or chenchki are all traditional cooking styles. There also are a host of other preparations that do not come under any of theses categories and simply called torkari (the word merely means cooked materials) in bangali. Sometimes these preparations may have spare pieces of fish such as bits of the head or gills, or spare portions of meat.
 The nest course is the fish course. Common fish delicacies include maacher jhol, tel koi, Pabda maacher jhaal, doi maachh, chingri maachh (shrimp) malai curry, and bhaapa ilish (steamed hilsa)
 Then comes the meat course. Meat is readily consumed in Bangladesh and some consider it the meal’s “cream of the crop” course. Beef is popular in Bangladesh.
 Finally comes the chutney course, which is typically tangy and sweet; the chutney is usually made of mangoes, tomatoes, pineapple, tamarind, raw papaya, or just a combination of fruits and dry fruits. In Bangladesh, chutney is usually eaten during the dal course and no separate course is dedicated to chutney. 

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