What to Eat in Bangladesh

The Bangladeshi people typically have three formal meals in a day like the rest of the world. In some families, usually the more well-off ones, brunch and evening snacks are also a thing, so we can consider five meals a day for them. In poorer families, there would only be one or two meals a day.

A typical Bangladeshi breakfast would consist of Roti or Paratha, eaten along with a variety of things like curry, cooked vegetables, sweets, and such.

The staple food of Bangladesh is Bhaat or rice, so sometimes that is also eaten for breakfast. But rice is mostly reserved for lunch and dinner when it is served along with meat curry, egg curry, a variety of different colored vegetables, fish, and curry.

For evening snacks, a lot of variety is seen. Along with a delicious cup of warm tea, there are usually biscuits and a snack named Chanachur. Sometimes fruits like apples and oranges are also eaten. During winter, different types of Pitha are the most widely eaten evening food. Chitta Pitha, Bhapa Pitha, Fulpitha, and Patishapta are examples of delicious Pithas of Bangladesh.

What are the Traditional foods in Bangladesh?

Bangladesh has a rich cuisine filled with many traditional foods that date back to hundreds and thousands of years ago. All these foods are a must-try for all. There is the Hilsa Curry made of slices of Hilsa fish marinated in turmeric and chili paste. It is perhaps the most widely eaten dish in the country, thanks to the abundance of Hilsa fishes cultivated every year.

Then there is the Pulao or Biryani, a famous dish consisting of brown or yellow rice usually eaten with beef, chicken, and egg curry. A traditional sour-sweet drink called Borhani accompanies it sometimes. There is the Chingri Malai curry made of shrimp and coconut milk. And a very special one is Panta Bhaat, made of rice soaked in cold water overnight.

Since Bangladeshis also love vegetables, another traditional food is Chorchori, a dish made of spiced, charred vegetables. Meat dishes like Kala Bhuna and Rezala are also at the party. They have a variety of Bhorta and pickles to go as a side dish. In short, the traditional cuisine of Bangladesh is truly diverse and dancing with flavors.

What is the signature food of Bangladesh?

Every culture has at least one signature food that upholds their identity, introduces their food habits, and represents them to the rest of the world. Bangladesh is also no exception to this rule. Among the large set of dishes enjoyed by Bangladeshis every day, their most popular dish has to be the signature Sorisha Ilish.

What is the national dish of Bangladesh?

A lot of countries have their own national food. Unfortunately, there was no such official declaration of national food in Bangladesh. However, it’s not too hard to guess. There is a famous saying related to the identity of the Bengalees that goes—“মাছে ভাতে বাঙালি.” This literally translates to “Fish and Rice makes a Bengalee.” And indeed, the saying is

Very true.

The majority of Bangladeshis live on rice and love it. Bangladesh is one of the countries with the highest amount of paddy produced every year. Though they have a population of over 150 million, Bangladesh has achieved self-sufficiency in rice. Needless to say, there are few Bangladeshis out there who don’t include rice in at least one meal of the day.

For several generations, fish have been a part of the Bangladeshi diet since long before people could afford to buy meat. Since Bangladesh is a land of many rivers, rivulets, lakes, ponds, and canals, there is an abundance of fish in these blessed waterbodies.

Among the many types of fishes, Ilish, Rui, Katla, Boal, Magur, Shing, Tilapia, Kachki, and others are favorite ones. These fishes are fried and usually cooked in a curry with vegetables and spices.

Lentil is another prominent and widely produced crop of Bangladesh. Bengalees love to mix their rice with lentil soup and eat the liquidy results. So, it’s not hard to understand that the national food of Bangladesh will definitely be a plate of rice soaked in lentil soup along with a slice of fried fish.

Traditional Bangladeshi Dishes

Bangladesh has a rich and diverse traditional cuisine to offer, most of the dishes usually including loads of traditional spices. Here are some of the most prominent ones in the culture-

Sarshe Ilish (Hilsha Fish with Mustard) (সরষে ইলিশ- Sarṣē iliśa)

Hilsha Fish with Mustard

One of the foods that define Bangladeshi’s rich food habits is undoubtedly their signature dish, “Sorisha Ilish.” Ilish, or Hilsa, is the name of the national fish of Bangladesh. And many songs and poems have been written about the silver Ilish of the Padma river over the ages.

Sarshe Ilish is a dish made of pieces of Hilsa fish dipped in a sea of mustard curry and is a favorite among many households of the country. The blend of both Hilsa and mustard seeds and the traditional Bengali spices creates a unique flavor that will please your taste buds. It is a food you must not miss out on if you’re taking a trip to Bangladesh.

Bhuna Khichuri (ভুনা খিচুড়ি-Bhunā khicuṛi)

On rainy days, when the drizzle is pouring outside, the sky is overcast, and the atmosphere is mildly chilly, Bangladeshi children will go request their mothers to cook Bhuna Khichuri for lunch. That isn’t to say it’s only eaten on rainy days, but rather enjoyed throughout the year. Bhuna Khichuri is a lentil-based rice dish that has its origins in this sub-continent, presumably dating back to as long as 305 BC.

The color of this dish is of a darker shade of yellow and is usually eaten in a piping hot platter. Some people eat it with chicken curry, some people with beef curry, some with mutton curry, others with fried eggs or egg curry. Pickles, especially mango pickles, are often eaten as a side dish with Bhuna Khichuri.

Alu Bhorta (আলু ভর্তা- Ālu bhōratā-)

A conversation about Bangladeshi food will never be complete unless the famous side dish Alu Bhorta or mashed potatoes is mentioned. Bengalees are a nation of different types of Bhortas made of different types of ingredients. But the Alu Bhorta has remained a favorite among the people for generations after generations.

This is a very simple side dish where roundly-cut slices of boiled potatoes are mashed, usually by hand. Then it’s seasoned with red chili seeds, salt, and red chili powder to give it the delightful spice Bengalees so love. And that’s it. Alu Bhorta is usually eaten with rice and can be served alongside other types of Bhortas on a single plate.

Panta Ilish (পান্তা ইলিশ -Pāntā iliśa)

The first day of the Bangla calendar, also known as Pohela Boishakh or Noboborsho (New Year), is one of the most prominent celebrations of Bangladesh. It’s a tradition for Bengalees to start this auspicious day with a plate of Panta Ilish with the whole family and mark a new beginning in their lives.

Panta Ilish is basically Panta Bhaat, or soaked rice served in a platter with Bhaja Ilish or fried Hilsa fish. The history of Panta Bhaat can be traced back to the 17th century. According to anthropologist Tapan Kumar Sanyal, the proto-Australoid people of South Asia would cook only once a day in the evening and have Panta Bhaat for the meal.

In this famous traditional dish, the cooked rice is soaked with cold water, while the Hilsa fish is gorgeously seasoned with different Bengali spices. Fresh green chilies, sliced onions, and some Alu Vorta go along with it on the plate.

Beef Kala Bhuna (গরুর মাংস কালা ভুনা)

Beef Kala Bhuna

Bangladeshis love meat as much as they love to fish, and beef has to be their favorite type of meat. Among the many dishes made with it, Beef Kala Bhuna is a unique dish that is native to the Chittagong division of the country. While lunchtime in a typical Chittagong household will be incomplete without a plate of Kala Bhuna, people from other regions also enjoy the food occasionally.

“Kala” means black, which is to say that the beef is cooked to a point where it takes on a very dark color in this dish. But it’s not burnt meat, rather one that gives off a smoky flavor the moment you press it between your teeth. A large variety of spices are used in this dish to diversify the flavor. This dish was originally served all the way back in the early 17th century. Now it’s available in big restaurants all over the country.

Fuchka (ফুচকা-Phucakā)

Fuchka

In Bangladesh, the golden days of childhood are filled with standing by the side of the roads and eating a plate of Fuchka with friends. It is an essential street food deeply carved into their culture and extremely popular among young people. Take a drive through any street of Dhaka, and you’re bound to see a man selling Fuchka (called the Fuchka-Wala) and a crowd of people swarming around him.

This popular food is basically a crunchy shell made of flour, semolina, and the signature ingredient “talmakhana.” But you’re not supposed to eat the shell raw; it’s filled with another popular food in Bangladesh called Chotpoti, which is made of white peas. The Fuchkas filled with Chotpoti is usually served with a sour and liquidy tamarind sauce. The blend of these three gives you a spicy, sour, and crispy experience.

Beef Rezala (গরুর মাংস রেজালা-Garura mānsa rējālā)

Yet another beef dish to bless your taste buds is the famous Bangladeshi food known as Beef Rezala. It is a luxurious food with a rich taste, where savory and sweetness play around in a unique festival of flavors. The history of this dish dated all the way back to the Nawabi rule of Bengal and was initially brought on by the Nawabs or Viceroys of Awdah. Now, all these years later, this dish has become an important part of Bangladeshi cuisine.

The beef is cooked with many spices as usual, but what makes this dish unique from most beef-made dishes is sugar and yogurt that contribute to sweetness. The beef is cut into bite-sized pieces and can be enjoyed by itself or with rice, Palau, and Bhuna Khichuri. It is usually made at home during huge celebrations like Eid or weddings, but mostly they are found in restaurants.

Chitai Pitha / Chitta Pitha (চিতাই পিঠা-Citā’i piṭhā)

Winters in Bangladesh are incomplete without a variety of Piitha puli eaten either for breakfast or for evening snacks. Women sit on the roadsides with their earthen stoves and iron utensils to continuously make Chitoi Pitha from after sunset to late night. People stand around the place and enjoy the Pitha with a Bhorta, usually green chili, red chili, or mustard Bhorta. They use squarely cut newspaper pages as plates.

Chitai Pitha, made of liquid flour, is a Pitha that is soft and fluffy on one side and burnt and crispy on the other side. Together, it will not only melt in your mouth but also give you something crispy to chew on. Aside from Bhorta, it can also be eaten with vegetables and curries like a Roti. Some people also eat it with liquid date molasses for breakfast.

In conclusion, Bangladeshi cuisine is truly one that is filled with unique flavors upholding their culture and identity. Anyone who is planning to visit Bangladesh should definitely try out these foods to stimulate their palates!

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