The main inhabitants of Kolkata are majorly known as Bengalis. After the Partition of India in 1947, two types of Bengalis emerged. The people of East Bengal, known as ‘Bangal’, are people who migrated to West Bengal from Bangladesh after the Indian Independence. The people who are native to West Bengal are also called Ghoti. Bengalis are known to be extremely compassionate about food and love to experiment with numerous aromatic spices. Both the Bangal and Ghoti have their distinct traditional dishes and different methods of preparation to suit and satisfy their taste buds.
Some of the most famous traditional Bengali vegetarian dishes that will leave a lingering deliciousness in your mouth are:
1. Aloo Posto
Traditionally a dish that originated through the Ghoti Bengalis, Aloo Posto is loved by one and all. The main ingredients of the dish are Poppy Seeds and Potato. Poppy seeds have, for long, been an important ingredient in Bengali cuisine. Known to have a cooling effect on the human body, the poppy seeds paste adds a beautiful flavor consistency to the potatoes. There are many different ways to prepare the dish by different variations of the spices. This purely vegetarian dish has no onion and is usually eaten along with Steamed rice and Urad Daal.
Khichdi is a very popular dish known all over India and prepared in a different manner everywhere. The Bengali version ‘Khichudi’ is an extremely aromatic dish that is both convenient and quick to cook and delicious to eat. The dish is made from a mixture of rice and daal cooked with turmeric and other spices and often makes for a full meal if vegetables are added in. Apart from being a household favorite, Khichudi is also offered as Bhog to the idols of the deities during different rituals in festive seasons. During the monsoon season, a plateful of hot steaming Khichudi is mandatory in almost all Bengali households!
Labra is a pure vegetarian side dish that goes along with the Khichuri. It is a variation of the mixed vegetable curry and is high in the nutritional chart for its vitamin contents. The main ingredient of the Labra is spinach that gives the dish a fresh green appeal. The dish is cooked with different Bengali spices like turmeric, red chili powder, and five spices mix. Apart from the spinach, the dish also includes other vegetables like pumpkin, brinjal (egg plant), radish and potatoes. Labra is served with the Khichuri and makes for the main bhog offered to the deity on Ashtami during the festival of Durga Puja.
4. Tok Daal (Aam Daal)
Another well known Bengali vegetarian delicacy is the Tok Daal, a Bengali’s favorite during the hot summer season. Mangoes grow in plenty during the summers and the Kolkata mangoes are known to be famous across the country. The main ingredient that contributes to the sweet and sour taste in the dish is Raw (Green) Mango. The daal is first prepared with turmeric and other spices. Long juicy pieces of raw mangoes are then added in and boiled with the lentils to give it a delectable flavor and taste.
5. Dhokar Dalna
Dhokar Dalna is a dish made from chana daal (chickpeas) and is very popular as a vegetarian dish in most Bengali households. Its scrumptious flavors and beautiful aroma surpasses the elaborate method of preparation and makes it a Bengali’s gourmet delight. Different aromatic spices are mixed with soaked and boiled chana daal. The mixture is then poured into a flat dish to cool and set like a cake. Once the daal is set, small diamond-shaped pieces are cut from it deep fried. The fried pieces are then cooked with more spices into a lentil curry.
With the beautiful flavors and luring aroma of Bengal spices, Kolkata has a huge number of authentic dishes to offer. Most of these recipes that have been handed down through generations are sure to delight your palates and leave you asking for more!