Tag Archives: Bengal

Masor Tenga – Assameese Fish Curry

By Tahira

masor tenga

Being born and brought up in Bengal, my interaction with the other Indian communities had been quite limited. However, once I shifted to Delhi, my first roommates were an Assameese and a Punjabi. That was my first major stint with communities belonging to other parts of India. I was quite perplexed and excited at the same time. Wondering how would I gel with them and also looking forward to a newly learning experience – getting to know people from various cultures and regions.

So, it was from Sanchayita (S) that I got to know a lot about not only Assameese culture but also their food habits. Being a hardcore non-vegetarian she enjoyed almost every delicacy – from fish to chicken – and from pork to pigeons. Every time I wanted to have  non-veg she would be my partner-in-crime (the PG accommodation offered vegan food). So, one fine day she took me to Mukherjee Nagar where I tasted Assameese cuisine for the first time. Geographical closeness definitely has its impact on the cuisine. It reminded of my home especially the tangy taste of Masor Tenga.

Since then I have tasted many a dish peculiar to the north-eastern part of our country. But, the simple tangy Masor Tenga score above all.  This post is definitely dedicated to S and my other friends from Assam

PS: Natives from Assam, you may put in your signature touch to this recipe as most of it have been collected from memory.

Here’s the recipe.

rohuIngredients

  • Fish (rohu/carp) 500 grams cut into medium-sized pieces
  • ŸTomatoes 2 large, sliced
  • ŸMustard seeds, a handful
  • ŸGreen Chillies, 2-3 slit lengthwise
  • ŸLemon (juice of half or 1 full lemon)
  • ŸTurmeric
  • ŸSalt to taste
  • ŸMustard Oil, 4 tablespoons

Method

Marinate fish pieces with salt and turmeric for at least 30 minutes. In a wok heat 3 tablespoons of mustard oil and fry the marinated pieces. Keep aside. In the same wok, add the rest of the oil and throw in the mustard seeds. Once they began to splutter, add green chillies and the tomatoes. Stir for two-three minutes and then sprinkle some salt. Adding salt after the tomatoes will help the tomatoes to become tender thus enabling you to make a pulp. Add turmeric, stir for a minute and then add some water. You can add some salt at this stage depending upon your taste. Keep stirring for a few minutes and then add the pieces of fried fish. Cook for some time on low flame. Drizzle the required amount of lemon juice (depends how tangy you want it to be), bring to a boil.

The gravy should be a runny curry or jool as Assameese call it. So make sure the quantity of water you add. Remove from gas. Serve hot with boiled rice.

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A Day Dedicated to Sons-in-law (Jamai Shoshthi)

Sampurna Majumder takes a sneak-peek into another custom of Bengal – Jamai Shoshthi!

jamai-sasthi

All of us celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and so many other ‘days’. How about a day dedicated to the ‘Son-in-law’? Well, it might come as a surprise, but yes there is a day, dedicated to the well-being of sons-in-law. However, this is peculiar to the land of Bengal.

The land of Bengal, (both West Bengal in India and Bangladesh) celebrates numerous festivals throughout the year. From Poush Parbon and Makar Sankranti in January to Borodin (Christmas) – it’s all about celebrating life.

Celebrated either in the months of May or June (depending upon the Bengali Calendar), Jamai Shosthi is all about strengthening the bond between jamais (sons-in-law) and their soshur bari (in-laws). The daughter, along with her husband (the son-in-law), arrives at her paternal home and the occasion in celebrated over a grand feast after completing certain rituals.

It begins with greeting the jamai with a phota of curd and a brush of a haatpakha (fan) and tying a thread across his wrist.

Jamai Shasthi Indian CeremonyElaborate meals form an essential part of the occasion – luchi, kosha mangsho (mutton curry), ilish maachh (hilsa) and bhaat (rice) and, of course, mishti (sweets).

And of course the jamai arrives with bhaar of rosogolla. So, all the jamais, what are you waiting for? Grab a bhaar and board the first train to your soshur bari to celebrate “Jamais Day”.

Calcutta Chromosomes – III

This is the third part of the series – by Sampurna Majumder 

calcutta-coffee-house

Days passed by. Our bonding became stronger with each passing day. It was K, S and I. Three of us became almost inseparable. Be it bunking classes, or bitching about classmates, or cursing the political system, complaining how back-dated the university is and possibly doing nothing about it…. All this and much more.

Communism has been ruling Bengal for more than three decades. The air around was stiff. We did not even spare that. Cursing the communist rule which possibly ‘ruined’ the state. I could feel the typical ‘Bangaliana’ seeping in to me. I was enjoying every bit of it.

K and S had a fairly good understanding of  the typical Bengali adda. Every time we met it was definitely a treat for me as well as a learning procedure. I learnt that the young Kolkatans had the habit of addressing their seniors as dadas and didis, instead of addressing them by just their first names. I seemed quite funny to me. The idea seemed funnier when they revealed that junior girl students from the departments even dated their so called dadas. I wondered if any of the bhais ever dated their didis or not?

Once we decided to the renowned age old Coffee House. I was quite excited about my maiden voyage to this famous eatery. We walked towards the connector of Bankim Chatterjee Street, where the Coffee House was located. The entry of this grand joint deserves mention. The walls on either side of the staircase seemed to resonate history. History was vibrating form every corner of this building. As we went inside, a completely new world welcomed me. Totally mismanaged  tables and chairs. No one ever seemed to fix them. The place was booming with life. People from all ages and walks of life were to be spotted. K and S told most of the Kolkata aantels, ( a term used to describe the Bengali intellectual) both the ripe ones and the ones in making were to be spotted here.

coffee_houseWe bagged a table and fitted ourselves comfortably. I ordered for a fish kobiraji and not to mention a cup of coffee. I was told that the kobiraji is a must try here. Suddenly I felt a little lost. Despite spending the formative years of my life in this city, somehow these little things were absolutely alien to me. Random thoughts passed through my mind when all of a sudden S pointed towards another table positioned diagonally opposite to us. Five Bengali aantels were engrossed in a serious argument about who is a better romantic poet, Keats or Wordsworth. One argued about Keats’ idea of ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’ while another supported Wordsworth’s views on Pantheism. The third guy emphasized the importance of Keats’ theory of Negative Capability while Wordsworth’s idea of a poem being ‘emotions recollected in tranquility’ scored with the fourth one. K and S turned to smile at me. I was thoroughly enjoying it.

The fish kobiraji had arrived along with the cups of coffee. We three lifted the cups to make a goodwill gesture just as one does before sipping on a drink. It’s never too late to begin. I was on a high with the idiosyncratic Kolkata Kulture.

“Cheers to coffee!”

Rosogolla Revisited!

Bengal and rosogolla are synonymous to each other! Being a true blue Bengali, Sampurna Majumder offers a delicious peep into the sweet’s history.

Rasgulla 3

It was during the British colonial days that the rosogolla suddenly made its appearance on Bengal’s platter. To trace its origins one has to travel way back in time, nineteenth century Bagbazaar, a famous north Calcutta locality. It is where, Nobin Chandra Das, the man who invented the rosogolla resided. He was poor and fatherless and his only source of income came from the sweets that he sold from a ramshackle sweet shop in the by lanes of Bagbazaar. Little did he know that one day he would become a legend.

Nobin Chandra’s rosogolla was born in an age when Bengali sweets meant the ubiquitous sandesh made from sugar and cottage cheese. As was the trend, Nobin Chandra also made sandesh but he itched to do something new, create a sweet that would be juicy and succulent. He decided to experiment the same cottage cheese by boiling it in sugar syrup. Many of his attempts ended in a failure, as once put in the sugar syrup the cheese crumbled. He found that the sugar syrup had to be kept in even temperature so that the casein stays intact. So on one fine day in 1868 the rosogolla was born. However the rosogolla had humble beginnings.

rosogolla4Nobin Chandra waited patiently for the recognition of this wonderful creation. It did not happen until Bhagwandas Bagla, a wealthy non-Bengali merchant made his appearance at Nobin Chandra’s sweet shop along with his family. One of his children was thirsty, and stopped in front of the sweet shop in search of water. Nobin Chandra met their demand. The child was given a glass of water and a rosogolla. He was delighted at the taste of this unique delicacy and asked his father to share it as well. No doubt the father was equally impressed. He bought huge quantities of rosogolla for his friends and family. Though a rudimentary publicity, it proved to be immensely helpful. The rosogolla became a hit and over the years acquired the status of Bengal’s most famous sweet.

Celebrating the Day of Love – the ‘Bangali’ Way

Saraswati puja

As a community, the Bengalis have always been associated with the finer things of life. Aesthetics defined their very existence. For example, adjectives like gourmet and connoisseur of music and art are very commonly associated with them. Since music, art and scholastic are highly regarded by Bengalis, it’s no surprise that Saraswati Puja, the Goddess of Wisdom is widely celebrated by them with much pomp and pleasure.

There goes a traditional saying in Bengal – Baaro Mashey Taro Parbon, literally translated as Thirteen Festivals in Twelve Months. Well, true, from Poush Parbon in January to Bhai Phota (Bhaai Duj) in November – every festival is celebrated with much fervour.

Basant Panchami or Saraswati Puja is usually celebrated sometime in the month of February. Incidentally, the festival often coincides with Valentine’s Day. An interesting fact about Saraswati Puja is that, it is often considered to be the day where everyone has the full freedom to flirt around. Often young couples are spotted roaming around the para hand in hand dressed in new clothes. By the way, let me be more precise, the dress code is also somewhat defined – pyjama-punjabi (kurta) for the tougher sex while the fairer sex dawns a sari usually in various shades of yellow. This phenomenon has earned the day the sobriquet – Bengali Valentine’s Day.

And yes, even if Saraswati Puja means worshipping the Goddess of Wisdom with much devotion, as mentioned earlier, the gourmet Bengali will fish some lip-smacking vegan delicacies on this auspicious day.

Special menu for the day comprise khichudi, labra, beguni, papad and chatni – somewhat simple as compared to a usual elaborate meal a typical Bangali Babu would prefer having.

khichuri

The rice used for a typical Bangali style khichudi is Govindbhog. Other items include potato, seasonal vegetables (cauliflower, carrots), paanch phoron, tej patta and dried red chillies for those who like it hot.

Khichudi is accompanied by labra which is a medley of assorted vegetables; beguni – slices of brinjal deep fried after dipped in a batter of gram flour, fried papad and of course the sweet accompaniment at the end – kuler chatni.

A sumptuous meal of the bhog would wind up the day, while the fun quotient would still continue.

Though in the present times DJs belting out tunes of Honey Singh has long replaced the traditional Bengali ones, the essence continues to enthrall all and sundry.

pujo