Tuesday, July 10, 2012

food trail : bengali wedding part 1

Bengali weddings are a feast for the senses, the smell of fresh flowers decorating the house, the sight of a blushing bride, the feel of new rustling silks, the touch of haldi on the skin, the sense of excitememt in the air, and above all the taste of a mind boggling number of delicacies specially prepared for the grand occasion. A bengali wedding comprises 4 main events:
Ai buro bhaat
gai holud (haldi ceremony)
 bie  (wedding main)
 bau bhaat

When one attends a Bengali wedding, the first question that one has to answer is "Ki kheli re?"( what did you get to eat) ?!


How did the bride look?how was the decoration?what did one wear? are other popular queries , but nothing beats the deep desire to know the "menu".In fact while eating at one of the many ceremonies, one is wont to ask " raatirer/ kaalker menu ta ki re?" ( what is the menu for the next ceremony?). After years I had the opportunity of attending a cousin's wedding in Kolkata...giving me the wonderful opportunity to take a foodie trail through the many days of celebration. With the gourmet palate of Bengalis....celebration is synonymous to feasting !!!

The first of the wedding functions is the Ai Buro Bhaat...the last meal as a maiden (similar celebrations happen at the groom's house too).If one thinks that this is going to be one tearful meal...one is sadly (or should I say joyfully) mistaken...it is time to feast.


The maiden gets a farewell befitting an princess.
The various courses were rice,dal with fish head,5 types of bhajas,shukto,bhetki machher paturi,kosha mangsho,chutney,papad,
rosogolla,payesh.
Rice is an integral part of the meal.chapatti and poori were conspicuos in their absence.Steamed rice goes well with dal,bhaja,shukto and bhetki machher paturi. But kosha mangsho has to be relished with the aromatic pulao.
from top clockwise:begun bhaja, potol bhaja,bori bhaja,topshe fry,aaloo bhaja,the centre of paturi (non fried)

Five types of bhaja(deep fried) is mandatory in the Aiy Buro Bhaat platter. Jhur jhure aloo bhaja (potato finely sliced and deep fried to golden brown), begun bhaja (egg plant fried with a marinate of salt and turmeric, untill the purple covering turns crisp and the rest of the egg plant butter soft),potol bhaja(parbal fried, I dont know what it is in english but it is my favourite bhaja),,bori bhaja(,topshe mach( small fish batter fried)....different levels of crunchiness in the mouth....from mildly crisp(potol and begun), to crunchy crisp(aloo), crisp with soft centre (topshe mach),to crunchily crisp (bori)!!
Some guilty soul seeing this deep fried extravaganza place a paturi (steamed) in the centre to nullify the effect and prevent the arteries from choking!
Normally mach bhaja for Bengalis is salt and turmeric coated deep fried fish. Topshe mach is the only one which is enjoyed batter fried (with besan).the salty oilty covering, gives way to a sweet tender fish flesh followed by the crunch of fish bones. Yes we eat the bones as well! I am hoping they contribute to the calcium requirements of the day, because all that Bhaja sure made up for all the lipids I need.
 Paturis are banana leaf parceled fish,which is marinated in mustard sauce and steamed. The banana leaf locks in the tanginess of mustard with the sweetness of fish.It goes best with steamed rice.
 
 Shukto is a traditional vegetarian dish...white stew(with plenty of vegetables,specially drumstick,green banana) which is bitter, and the bitterness is not concealed but is the signature flavour of the dish! It is generally served as the first course so that the gastric juices pour so that the meal to follow will be relished.
Where there is a Bengali feast can the rosogolla be faraway?! But this 600 years old delight actually originated in Orissa.This by far is the most famous bengali food item amongst non bengalis and for rightful reasons.
But the best rosogollas, the spongy ones one only gets in Kolkata and surrounding Bengal !!! And the famous Bong accent comes by keep this white, succulent, deliciously sweet mishti in the mouth!!
After a sumptuous meal nothing like winding up with a meetha paan...Bangali patta !!!
Untill  the next wedding food trail, bon appetit my fellow revellers!