With Bengal being the flavour of the season, be it in Bollywood, fashion or travel, it’s not strange if you’ve of late been gorging on Bengali food too, or trying to toss up a Bengali spread at home. But, do you often find your mustard-flavoured baked fish too bitter or your Bengali-style mutton curry too spicy? “Small mistakes in the ingredients or the techniques can actually ruin the taste of even the simplest of dishes,” says chef Gopal Krishan, the Bengali cuisine specialist at The Oberoi, Gurgaon. Here are five things you must know about cooking the perfect Bengali food:1. To make the perfect mustard paste, instead of using only black mustard, soak equal portions of black and white mustard overnight. When you crush it in the mixer, put a green chilli, salt and a handful of crushed ice instead of water. Your mustard paste won’t taste bitter.
2. When making the quintessential Chingri Malai curry or Bengali-style prawns in coconut gravy, apart from the coconut gravy, use a little bit of posto or poppy seed paste to make the gravy thicker and creamier.
3. When making Kosha Mangsho or thick red mutton curry, do not go overboard with the chillies. Before you fry the spices, add a spoonful of sugar in the oil and let it caramalise. This will automatically give the dish a nice brown tinge, but in a healthy way. If you must use chillies, go for Kashmiri degi mirch.
4. Do not use readymade garam masala. Authentic Bengali garam masala is a powder of crushed small cardamom, cinnamon and clove. Do not use the big black cardamom or badi elaichi.
5. If you are planning to set some mishti doi or sweet curd at home, always use fresh cow milk and not buffalo milk. Curd made from buffalo milk, as in sweet shops, is unhealthy due to the high fat content and may leave you bloated.
Banana leaf Steamed bhetki
Ingredients: 200gm Govindo Bhog rice, 5gm sugar (Grain), 40gm Kasundi (mustard sauce), 1 Gondhoraj lebu (scented lemon), 1 dry coconut, 1 green chilli, 5gm ginger-garlic paste, 20ml mustard oil, 900gm Bhetki fish fillet
Method: Cook the Govindo Bhog rice. Take kasundi, salt, chopped green chilli, ginger-garlic paste, sugar, coconut and mustard oil in a bowl and mix well to make marination. Now marinate the sliced Bhekti fillet in this mixture for two hours. Take some rice and make a small dumpling in a cylindrical shape. Take marinated bhekti slices and put two of them over the rice dumpling, and wrap it in a banana leaf. Steam in a steamer for 5 minutes. Serve it with a wedge of gondhoraj lemon.
(By Chef Gopal Krishan)