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The Beginner’s Guide to Bengali Food

Kasturi posted on 19 October

If you’re heading for Durga Puja celebrations around town, you’d better be hungry! Here’s an attempt at deconstructing Bengali food’s complex layers, so that you can stuff yourself silly this year.

Spices & Condiments


Called holud, this is another essential ingredient for all savoury dishes across the board. {Also the main suspect in the post-meals yellow nails affair}.


Seeds, paste, oil—mustard finds its way into every Bengali dish in some form or the other. Even mashed vegetables are tempered with mustard oil {shorshe}!

Poppy Seed

Poppy seed paste or posto, locally known as khus khus, has one of the most unique flavours. Bengalis prefer using it in most vegetables, but one can also mix it with some mustard oil and salt and have a bellyful of bhaat.


A pungent mustard dipping sauce, widely served with all fried delicacies {easily available in CR Park if you’re looking for some}.

Panch Phoron

The Bengali five spice—a combination of whole saunf, kalo jeere, methi, shorshe and Radhuni {celery seed}—roughly in equal proportions in a mix that’s used as tadka. Ooh, sizzle, sizzle.

Street Food

Jhal Muri

This spicy puffed rice is usually served in paper cones, mixed with peanuts, green chillies and onions, and is one of the most popular street snacks.


A remnant of the British era, but different from the continental-style cutlet, this is a spiced minced meat mixture, spread thin and flat, crumb coated and fried. We recommend you try Bijoli Grill’s Kabiraji Cutlet with their super pungent kasundi.


The perfect tea-time snack, chop is basically a desi croquette. Beetroot, egg {deviled}, chicken, banana flower {mocha}, mutton or fish, the options are endless. Covered with mashed potatoes, deep fried and served with hot chilli sauce. Yum!


These dried white peas cooked with gravy have both a plain and mutton version- ghooghni is just what the doctor ordered {for a healthy snack}. With a squeeze of kaffir lime and a sprinkling of onion bits, we can’t stop drooling.


The Calcutta kathi needs no introduction, and has fast become Delhi’s favourite takeaway.


Tamarind chutney, chaat masala, potato mash and flavoured water- there’s no match to Bengali phuchkas! And no, they’re definitely not the same as gol gappa or pani-puri!

Tele Bhaja

Bengalis love their evening snack of puffed rice and tea. And for any seasoned snacker, the tele bhaja makes its appearance over and over again in the form of aubergine {beguni}, potato {alur chop}, onions {pianji} and gram flour {phuluri}.

Aloo Kabli

A mix of potato, onion, tomato, chillis, bengal gram and tamarind paste, aloo kabli is our go-to hunger buster.

Main Course


Bengalis are best known for their fish {maach} preparations, and for good reason. Popular fresh fish varieties are Chitol, Pabda, Koi, Rohu and Hilsa, and dried fish {shutki} is also relished. Again, there are multiple styles of cooking: Bhaja {plain fried}, jhol {gravy}, doi maach {yoghurt gravy}, shorshe {mustard}, kalia {tomato onion gravy} bhapa {steamed fish} and paturi {wrapped in banana leaves and steamed}.

The fish head can be used to make chhanchara {combination of vegetables and fish head}, macher mathar dal {with lentils} and muri ghonto {with rice}. Legend is, the fish brain gives you lots of intelligence!


A traditional Bengali meal usually starts off with something bitter and ends with a dessert. Shukto is the favourite starter; it is a combination of different vegetables and a great palate cleanser.

Prawn {Chingri}

The exquisite Prawn Malai Curry {drool} is made with a rich coconut gravy. Other traditional dishes are: Paturi {banana leaf parcel}, mocha chingri {with banana flowers}, lau chingri {with bottle gourd}, and daab chingri {cooked and served in a tender coconut}. As a rule, rice accompanies fish and prawn dishes.


A medley of vegetables {usually ridge gourd, pumpkin, potatoes, brinjal}, often including greens, this dish is one of the staples in a Bengali household. The quick sizzle of tempered spices, stir-fried multicoloured assorted vegetables, lightly seasoned with panch phoron—simple and so delicious.

Mutton {Mangsho}

One of the biggest joys in life is to enjoy the delicious kosha mangsho {mutton curry} and luchi {a puri made of flour} with your family on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Cooked slowly over a light flame, the meat is blended in a thick gravy with fragrant spices. Don’t be surprised to see potatoes accompanying the meat dishes; it finds a place in the biryani as well!

Dhokar Dalna

Similar to the Marwari gatte ki sabzi, this dish is essentially a fried lentil cake in a simple garam masala gravy. But don’t be deceived by the simplicity of this description—purely satvik {sans any onion and garlic} and using simple ingredients, dhoka is the masterpiece of Bangla cuisine.

Chholar daal

Chholar Daal {Bengal gram lentil} is dal with bits of coconut and raisins. Slightly sweet and had with luchi or kachuri or even a pulao.


You can have various kinds; from the common tomato, aamshotto {mango roll-ups} and date, to the celebratory pineapple or papaya plastic chutney. Summer months also see lots of different kinds of mango or fish ambols.


Rosogolla, Rajbhog, Komolabhog

Yes, they’re all different! The chhanar rosogolla is a bigger variant of the Rajbhog, which is less spongy. A rosogolla that has a citrusy essence, and a yellowy flesh is the Komolabhog.

Kheer Kodom

A sweet encased in khoya, giving you the most perfect bite of a shondesh and a juicyrosogolla all in one. This sweet gets its name rightly from a Kadam flower, since it literally looks like one.

Mishti doi

An earthern pot filled with this light-brown sweetened curd is what every Bengali looks forward to at the end of a meal. A part of every pious occasion and celebration in a Bengali household, go to CR Park or Yusuf Sarai for a real taste of this quintessential dessert.

Cham Cham

Such is the love for this sweet that you can find its varieties in most other cultures too. It can be best described as a boat-shaped rosogolla stuffed with khoya and dry fruits, often topped with malai. Rich and indulgent, it is a real treat.


Prepared with cottage cheese and available in various flavours, our favourite are the conch-shaped ones. Other popular varieties include nalen juger shondhesh {with jaggery}, kacha gola {a softer variant}, and jol bhora tal shash {filled with date palm juice}.

Pati Shapta

Traditionally prepared during Sankranti to celebrate the first rice harvest of the season, pati shapta is essentially a rice flour crepe with a sweet coconut and khoyafilling.


Coming from the Bardhaman district of West Bengal, Sitabhog is known as the food of kings. Sweetened rice noodles, it also has tiny gulab jamuns mixed into this whole, sweet affair.


This is a fried cottage cheese dumpling, similar to a gulab jamun- but don’t tell a Bengali we said that!


Basically motichur, this is a dessert that is best enjoyed with luchi. The mihidana family also includes the larger cousin, bondey. 

Now for the best part–where can you indulge in Bengali food in Delhi? We have a whole list for you right here.

{With inputs from Abhishikta Mallick}