Monday, March 29, 2010


At last we have arrived at our first South Asian country. I was very excited about this because not much curry gets served in this apartment due to Amy's tender palate. So this was quite the occasion for me. Much like its neighbors, Bangladesh is well known for a cuisine of rich and hearty curries that are heavy on spices. The curries of Bangladesh are unique with their blend of native Bengali cooking styles and savory meaty Mughal fare. I could go on and on with a modern history lesson of the country, but I'll do my best to keep this simple and stick to the food. A few paragraphs wouldn't give this country's diverse history any justice.

The first thing that I noticed when serving our Bangladeshi meal was that everything on the plate was a perfect shade of yellow. I'm not sure if this is because of the cookbooks I used, but every recipe had a very large amount of turmeric. Maybe I just planned my menu poorly. Fortunately nobody seemed to mind that all of their food was big bird yellow. I'm sure, however, that there must be plenty of non-yellow Bangladeshi food. Despite the monochromatic color scheme, the food turned out pretty great!

Mashed Dal

Not much to making a good pot of lentil goo. The real trick to this dish is finding the Nigella seeds which I've only had luck finding at large Indian markets in Chicago. They're sometimes labeled as black cumin and are well worth seeking out. They provide a smoky herbal flavor to the beans that I cannot find any substitution for.

1 cup red lentils
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp nigella seeds (black cumin)
2 tbsp butter
5 cups water

1. Wash the lentils in water and drain thoroughly.
2. Put the lentils in a 3 quart pot, add the five cups of water and bring the mixture to the boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and add the turmeric and cayenne. Cover and cook for 1 hour. After all that cooking the lentils should be a goopy puree.
3. In a small frying pan melt the butter and add the sugar, bay leaves, and nigella. Fry these for a minute or until the spices are browned and fragrant.
4. Add the mixture to the lentils, stir and set aside for ten minutes to thicken. Serve at once.

Cauliflower Curry

I love this recipe because aside from the ginger and the cauliflower, most of the ingredients are basic pantry items that never go bad and are always on hand. Also it's a great way to feed vegetarian friends when the meal has a lot of meat.

1 head cauliflower
2 russet potatoes peeled and quartered
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter
1.5 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp corn oil
1/2 tsp corn starch
2 tbsp water
Salt to taste

1. Heat the corn oil in a large heavy pot and add the potatoes and cauliflower along with the spices. Fry this for about five minutes or until the vegetables begin to brown. Stir this frequently to ensure that nothing burns.
2. Add the water, sugar, and bay leaves. Raise to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes or until the vegetable are fully cooked.
3. Before serving, stir the starch with the 2 tbsp water and add to the cauliflower raise to a high heat and reduce the sauce to a thick gravy. Salt to taste and serve.

Chicken Korma

Their are thousands of ways to make this dish and most of them are delicious. The dish has it's roots in Central Asian Mughal cooking and can be found anywhere from Afghanistan to Malaysia. I recommend giving it a try and seeing why it's so popular.

1 tsp saffron threads
1 tbsp rosewater
2 tbsp tap water
2 small white onions halved
1 inch ginger peeled and chopped roughly
4 cloves garlic
2 large onions thinly sliced
2 russet potatoes peeled and quartered
1 liter corn oil for frying.
1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp corn oil
1 stick cinnamon
5 whole green cardamom pods crushed
1 chicken cut into serving pieces
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp mace
1/2 cup yogurt
3/4 cup milk
Salt to taste

1. Soak the saffron in the tap water and rosewater and set aside.
2. Heat pot of oil and add the sliced large onion and fry until browned and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to dry on a paper towel or wire rack.
3. Add the potatoes to the frying oil and fry until lightly browned about 5-7 minutes. Remove and set aside with the onions. Strain the oil after it cools and set it aside for your next deep frying adventure.
4. In a blender combine the small onions with the ginger, garlic, and 4 tbsp water. Blend to a smooth paste.
5. Heat the 4 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter in a deep pot over medium heat and add the crushed cardamom and cinnamon. Heat until the spices are fragrant.
6. Add the blended paste and fry this for five minutes until it is browned.
7. Add the chicken to the pot and fry for another minute. Now begin adding the yogurt a tablespoon at a time stirring often to prevent it from curdling. Reduce the heat if the yogurt begins to burn. After all the yogurt has been added add the milk, nutmeg, mace, fried onions, and potatoes. Raise to a simmer, and cover and cook for 25 minutes over low heat.
8. Before serving add the rosewater and saffron mixture. Gently heat the mixture for a further five minutes and serve with rice or flatbread.

Beef Tehari

I sent out a message to a Bangladeshi friend of mine from college and asked what he thought I should make for this meal. His answer was this dish. It's very similar to many Indian biryani rice and meat dishes, but it's even heavier on the spices and sauciness much like a Jambalaya or Paella. I loved it. Thanks, Kazi!

2 lbs stew beef cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 inch piece of ginger chopped roughly
1 tsp cumin seed powdered
1 tsp coriander seed powdered
2 yellow onions thinly sliced
2 sticks cinnamon
8 cloves
4 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
2 jalapenos seeded
1/2 cup butter
2.5 cups basmati rice
Salt to taste

1. Combine the onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger, cumin, and coriander in a food processor with a cup of water and grind until all ingredients are more or less liquefied.
2. Simmer the beef gently in this liquid for the next hour or so stirring the mix every so often to prevent burning. A cast iron enamel pot is ideal for this dish.
3. In a large frying pan melt the butter and fry the onions over medium low heat until they are nearly browned. Add the remaining spices and cook for about 3 minutes or until they give off a strong smell.
4. Add the basmati to the mix and cook for another five minutes stirring constantly until the rice begins to turn translucent.
and cinnamon. Fry until fragrant.
5. Add five cups of water, salt to taste, raise to a simmer, cover and cook for 25 minutes.
6. Serve.


For me, this meal was a plate of yellow tastiness. It felt great being able to throw on the spices more liberally than I generally get a chance to attempt in my home. Unfortunately It had been a while since I had last dumped this many spice in my food, and I ended up with an upset tummy. Still, it was well worth it for me. Up next is the Comoros! Good luck finding out where that is!


  1. I have a Bangladeshi cookbook that I am happy to lend you!

  2. Thanks, Sash! I'd love to have a look at that book!