If you follow me on my social media channels, you might be aware that recently I had my own Bengali Meal Pop-up in Mumbai. I was thinking to do a Bengali village popup meal for quite a few months. And then, there were those wonderful people out there on social media, including food-bloggers and friends in the hospitality industry, who often expressed their interest to taste the traditional Bengali food cooked by me. So one fine day I decided to get started with my own set of Bengali food popups in Mumbai. 19th June 2016 was a special day for me because I started my first mini Bengali popup on that day!
As a toddler, I hardly enjoyed eating anything under the sun. I would keep the food in my mouth for hours and then would gulp down the pulp with water. This continued till I was in Grade VI. It was during that time that I slowly started to appreciate food. Three decades back, we didn’t have a dozens of cuisines to try. What I was exposed to, was authentic Bengali cuisine, and its myriad dishes! Gradually, I started developing a deep interest in traditional Bengali recipes. Since my school days, I started maintaining a diary with my collection of recipes from different sources. When in College, I would just cook variations of a basic mushroom curry or a chicken curry over the weekends. I had never cooked a full Bengali meal, until I got married to AN, who is from East Bengal (Bangal or Bati). Initially, I found the flavours in my new family to be quite different than that of the food cooked in my parental house, as my parents are from West Bengal (Ghoti). Although I missed the subtle flavours cooked by my mother, I loved the more robust East-Bengal dishes that I was exposed to every day. As I was just a learner of Bengali food during the first year of my marriage, there were months of trial and error on perfecting each Bengali dish. There were days when we had to throw the entire dish because it was so inedible! But I didn’t lose hope and kept on researching and practicing cooking Bengali cuisine. And then there was a day when I made Shutki (the spicy, dried Bombay Duck delicacy from Bangladesh), Dal, Shukto and Maacher Jhol, just like the way it was supposed to be. It was the day when I had invited the first set of guests over at home for a casual Sunday lunch. They loved the dishes! Since then, there was no looking back. In addition to other cuisines, I have been cooking authentic Bengali food since 11 years now. My foodblog Cosmopolitan Currymania is five years old now, where I have documented some of these recipes.
Going back to my first Bengali pop-up which was held at my home in Goregaon (E), I was excited and motivated by the response. Being my first pop-up, I was ready to accept the fact that a few seats might go vacant. But I was happy to see that all the eight seats were completely booked within two days.
In my pop-up, I cooked up 13 dishes from rural Bengal. I made sure that I cook those dishes that people generally don’t get to eat often in popular Bengali restaurants. My idea was to introduce my guests to homestyle comfort food, with ingredients like Kathalbichi (sundried ripe jackfruit seeds), Motor Daal (split pea lentils) and Koromcha (fresh cranberries). Here are some pictures of the day.
Paniyo (Digestive Drink):
- AAM PORA SHORBOT (veg): A refreshing sweet-n-sour thirst-quencher made with scorched raw mangoes.
- NARKELER JHURO (veg): Grated fresh coconut crisp-fried to perfection.
- PUI PATAR BORA (veg): Malabar Spinach fritters.
- MACHER DIMER BORA (non-veg): Freshwater fish-roe fritters.
- TOK DAAL (veg): A sour, summer-friendly dal made with the relatively underestimated split pea lentils (Matar Dal) and green mangoes.
- POTOL POSTO ROSHUN DIYE (veg): Whole pointed gourds cooked with a delicious poppy seed paste.
- CHORCHORI (veg): Seasonal vegetable mish-mash with minimal spices.
- SHUTKI (non-veg): A fiery East-Bengal preparation with dried Loitta fish (dried Bombay Duck) and chillies.
- DOI MAACH (non-veg): Fresh-catch Katla Fish cooked in a yogurt-based gravy and served with fried onions. Click here for the recipe!
- CHINGRI KAATHAAL BICHIR DALNA (non-veg): Shrimps and dried jackfruit seeds cooked with carefully chosen spices and tomatoes.
- SHORSHE MURGIR JHOL (non-veg): Chicken curry cooked in a very traditional way with potatoes and mustard paste. Scroll down for the recipe.
- AAM, AANAROSH AAR KOROMCHA ER CHATNI (veg): A sweet chutney made with green mangoes, pineapple and cranberries.
- MY SIGNATURE NOLEN GURER SHONDESH ICE CREAM (veg): A delectable ice cream made with aromatic date-palm jaggery and Shondesh. Served with “Jhola Gur” (liquid date-palm jaggery). Click here for the recipe.
Do drop by my talented blogger friend Alok Verma’s blog All About That Palate to read his review on my Bengali home pop-up.
As many of my readers asked for the Shorshe Murgir Jhol recipe, I am sharing it here. Cooking the dish with pungent mustard oil is recommended for that extra kick! Mustard oil is easily available at any grocery shop.
My First Bengali Pop-up in Mumbai and the Recipe of Shorshe Murgir Jhol
- Chicken drumsticks: 8
- Chicken curry cut: 1 kg
- Curd: 3 tbsp
- Bay leaves: 2
- Cinnamon stick one inch: 1
- Green cardamoms: 8
- Black cardamom: 1
- Cloves: 8
- Peppercorns: 8
- Freshly ground mustard seed paste: 3 tbsp
- Kasundi a sour mustard paste available in Bengali stores: ½ cup
- Salt for the gravy: according to taste
- Salt for marination: 2.5 tsp
- Green chillies halved: 6
- Sugar optional: ½ tsp
- Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
- Onion chopped finely: 2 cups
- Garlic paste: 2 tbsp
- Ginger paste: 1.5 tsp
- Warm water: 3.5 cups
- Mustard oil: ½ cup + 2 tbsp for marination
- Marinate the chicken for 4 hours with 2 tbsp mustard oil, curd, turmeric powder, 2.5 tsp salt and half of the ginger-garlic paste.
- Heat oil in a deep-bottomed kadhai or wok. When the oil starts to give out smoke, reduce the flame and add the bay leaf, cinnamon, green cardamoms, black cardamom, cloves and peppercorns.
- After a minute, add the rest of the ginger and garlic pastes mixed with 2 tbsp water. Sauté continuously. After a few seconds, add the onions and 1 tsp salt. Sauté for around 20 min, or until the onions are very soft and lose their crunch completely.
- Now add the marinated chicken pieces, minus the marinade.
- Cook first on a high flame for around 10 min. Then reduce the flame and cook covered, until the oil leaves the edges of the kadhai: this takes around 20 min.
- Add the mustard seed paste and the kasundi. Keep sauté-ing for around 3 min on a low flame. Add the sugar and the green chillies. Sauté for 5 min.
- Add the warm water and stir the Jhol. Let it come to a boil. Now check the seasoning. If needed, add the salt at this stage.
- Cover the Jhol and let it boil on a simmered flame for 10 min. Give the dish a standing time of atleast an hour for best results.