Traditional Bengali dinner menu
A simple Bengali dinner is a very homely affair with rice and lentils (bhaat and daal), two fried items like brinjal fry (begun bhaja) and crispy fried potato (aalu jhuri bhaja), mixed vegetable (paanch mishali torkari) and fish in gravy (maacher jhol). The dinner is usually rounded off with sweetmeats (shondesh).
1. The rice (bhaat) accompanies every item through the meal. The first course is usually bhaat with daal along with the aalu bhaja. The same course can extend to accommodate the begun bhaja along with bhaat and daal.
2. The second course consists of the paanch mishali torkari which is cooked with the five basic Indian spices- two types of jeera (black and white), fennel seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds with vegetables like pumpkin, spinach, potato, radish, brinjal and other seasonal vegetables. It can be taken with the bhaat and daal or just with the bhaat.
3. The next course consists of the macher jhol and for dinner there is perhaps nothing better than steamed Hilsa, cooked with grated coconuts and mustard seeds and poppy seeds (crushed to a paste), with some green chillies, turmeric and salt to taste and steamed in the pressure cooker. Steamed Hilsa or Ilish bhape is a mouthwatering delicacy from Bengal that will satiate the palate of all fish lovers. With a taste of its own, this preparation of Hilsa when properly cooked is sure to make the dinner a success.
4. The last course or the dessert for dinner can be a sweetmeat. My personal favorite is the korapak-er shondesh. It is made from concentrated milk and contains a little jaggery and some raisins.