Saturday, March 15, 2008

Adventures in Bangladeshi food (খাবার), pt. 1

Bangladesh has great food. There's just no two ways about it. The problem, however, is finding great Bangladeshi food in the United States. It can be done, but it's not easy. The best way, of course, is to get an invitation to someone's house. Bangladeshi food is best homecooked, but as that's not always an option, we're left to look for a good restaurant.

Sadly, many Bangladeshis in the United States operate restaurants that specialize in toned-down, Americanized versions of Indian cuisine. I've asked why this is, and the answer is always the same. With a shrug, the restaurateur will simply tell you, "that's what Americans like. Nobody knows Bengali food."

And so we search on for the restaurant that caters not to bland American palates, but to experienced Bangladeshi ones.

Your easiest bet is in a big city like New York or London, where well established Bangladeshi neighborhoods like Jackson Heights and Brick Lane support a multitude of shops and restaurants that import home to the local Bangladeshi community. One important note - remember that when you're visiting a Bangladeshi restaurant in a Bangladeshi community, you are a guest. Behave like a gracious one.

After careful research, and some asking around, I finally found a good Bangladeshi restaurant near me. It's not actually in the city, but about an hour by train and bus. Not somewhere I can eat every day, but somewhere that's well worth the trip on a Saturday or Sunday.

Today I had a dal gosht with lamb. This is a sort of lentil and lamb curry over rice. It's delicious. Unfortunately, I forgot to specify that I wanted it spicy, so there was no মরিচ(chili) in today's. (Note to fellow bideshis - if you don't demand the heat, you won't get any.)

After lunch, I walked next door to a Bangladeshi grocery where I picked up some essential groceries - chanachur (snack mix), mango bars, curry noodles, mustard oil, chili catsup, and potato crackers.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make some চা (tea).

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