Monday, April 18, 2011

Eating and Serving Bangali Food

The Bangli people are perhaps the greatest food lovers in the Indian subcontinent. A leisurely meal of many items which requires long hours of labor and ingenuity in the kitchen has long been a major part of bangali culture. The traditional way of serving food is no the floor, where individual pieces of carpet, called asans, are spread for each person to sit on. In front of this seat is placed a large platter made of bell metal or on large piece of fresh cut banana leaf. Around this platter a number of small metal or earthen bowls are arrayed in which portions of dal, vegetables, fish, meat chutney and dessert are served. In the center of the platter sits a small mound of piping hot rice flanked by vegetable fritters, wedges of lime, whole green chilies and perhaps a it of pickle. Finally in the center of the mound a little hole is made to pour in spoonful of ghee to flavor the initial mouthfuls of rice.
The approach to food id essentially tactile. Bangalis eat everything with their fingers. What, after all, could be better to pick out treacherous bones of fish like hilsa and koi? Apart from this functional aspect, the fingers also provide an awareness of texture which becomes as important as that felt by the tongue. Each individual has a particular style of daintily, their fingers barely touching the food. There are also coarse eaters who can be seen liking their palms ass the way to their wrists and ‘kobji dubiye khawa’ (eat dipping the wrist in food) has become a Bangali phrase to denote gluttonous indulgence.
The other peculiarity about the Bangali eating scene is the unashamed accumulation of remnants. Since succulent vegetable stalks, fish bones and fish heads, meat and chicken bones are all meticulously chewed until not a drop of juice is left inside. Heaps of chewed remnants beside each plate are an inevitable part of a meal.
With all these delicious flavors combined with textures to be chewed, sucked, licked and gulped with suitable chomps and slurps (the better the meal the louder the sounds of appreciation) the bangali meal usually ends with a great fortissimo burp!

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