Bengali Cooking Styles

Ambal

A sour dish made either with several vegetables or with fish, the sourness being produced by the addition of tamarind pulp.

BHAJA

Anything fried, either by itself or in batter.

BHAPA

Fish or vegetables steamed with oil and spices. A classic steaming technique is to wrap the fish in banana leaf to give it a faint musky, smoky scent.

BHATE

Any vegetable, such as potatoes, beans, pumpkins or even dal, first boiled whole and then mashed and seasoned with mustard oil or ghee and spices.

BHUNA

A term of Urdu origin, meaning fried for a long time with ground and whole spices over high heat. Usually applied to meat.

CHACHCHORI

Usually a vegetable dish with one or more varieties of vegetables cut into longish strips, sometimes with the stalks of leafy greens added, all lightly seasoned with spices like mustard or poppy seeds and flavoured with a phoron. The skin and bone of large fish like bhetki or chitol can be made into a chachchori called kanta-chachchori, kanta-meaning fish-bone.

CHHANCHRA

A combination dish made with different vegetables, portions of fish head and fish oil (entrails).

CHHENCHKI

Tiny pieces of one or more vegetable - or, sometimes even the peels (of potatoes, lau, pumpkin or patol for example) - usually flavored with panch-phoron or whole mustard seeds or kalo jeera. Chopped onion and garlic can also be used, but hardly any ground spices.

DALNA

Mixed vegetables or eggs, cooked in medium thick gravy seasoned with grinding spices, especially garom mashla and a touch of ghee.

DAM

Vegetables, especially potatoes, or meat, cooked over a covered pot slowly over a low heat.

GHANTO

Different complementary vegetables (e.g., cabbage, green peas, potatoes or banana blossom, coconut, chickpeas) are chopped or finely grated and cooked with both a phoron and ground spices. Dried pellets of dal (boris) are often added to the ghanto. Ghee is commonly added at the end. Non-vegetarian ghantos are also made, with fish or fish heads added to vegetables. The famous murighanto is made with fish heads cooked in a fine variety of rice. Some ghantos are very dry while others a thick and juicy.

JHAL

Literally, hot. A great favorite in West Bengali households, this is made with fish or shrimp or crab, first lightly fried and then cooked in a light sauce of ground red chilli or ground mustard and a flavoring of panch-phoron or kala jeera. Being dryish it is often eaten with a little bit of dal pored over the rice.

JHOL

A light fish or vegetable stew seasoned with ground spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, chilli and turmeric with pieces of fish and longitudinal slices of vegetables floating in it. The gravy is thin yet extremely flavorful. Whole green chillies are usually added at the end and green coriander leaves are used to season for extra taste.

KALIA

A very rich preparation of fish, meat or vegetables using a lot of oil and ghee with a sauce usually based on ground ginger and onion paste and garom mashla.

KOFTAS (or Boras)

Ground meat or vegetable croquettes bound together by spices and/or eggs served alone or in savory gravy.

KORMA

Another term of Urdu origin, meaning meat or chicken cooked in a mild yoghurt based sauce with ghee instead of oil.

PORA

Literally, burnt. Vegetables are wrapped in leaves and roasted over a wood or charcoal fire. Some, like eggplants (brinjals/aubergines), are put directly over the flames. Before eating the roasted vegetable is mixed with oil and spices.

TARKARI

A general term often used in Bengal the way `curry' is used in English. Originally from Persian, the word first meant uncooked garden vegetables. From this it was a natural extension to mean cooked vegetables or even fish and vegetables cooked together.

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