Common Bengali Recipe Styles
The following are a list of characteristic Bengali recipe styles. You can note the Chinese, South East Asian, and Burmese influence in the food of Bengal, not to mention some British influence, because of the formation of Kolkata during the 1700s. Each entry here is actually a class of recipes, producing different dishes depending on the choice of ingredients. There are six different tastes to which the Bengali palate cater to, sweet, sour, salty, bitter, hot and "koshaay".
Ombol or Aum-bol (also known as Tok) : A sour dish made either with several vegetables or fish, especially fish bones. The souring agent is usually tamarind pulp, unripe mango and sometimes amla or amloki is used. Curd, though a souring agent occasionally used with non-vegetarian dishes, will not be called ombol. It is served at the end of the meal as a kind of digestive, and to cleanse the palate.
Achar: Pickles. Generally flavored with Mustard oil, Mustard Seeds, Aniseed, Caraway Seed and Asafoetida, or hing.
Baora - Anything that has been mashed and then formed into rough roundish shape and fried, generally in mustard oil. Generally served with rice as a starter, or served with puffed rice crisps as a snack. The baora actually has quite a few different kinds. When potatoes are fried in a light chickpea flour batter, they are called Fuluri (giving rise to the Trinidadian pholourie)
Bhaja : Anything fried, either just after it has been salted or dipped in any kind of water-based batter. Does not include croquettes, or crumb coated items.
Bhapa : Fish or vegetables steamed with spices.
Bhate : A vegetable, that has been put inside the pot in which rice is cooking, and it has been cooked along with the rice. Generally, you get potatoes, butternut squash, raw papayas, bitter gourd, snake gourd and okra in the rice. Bengalis often eat it with a tinge of mustard oil and salt. However, a very popular one-dish Bengali meal is Alu Bhate Bhat, which is Potatoes boiled along with rice, and then served along with the rice. For this, generally "gobindobhog atop" rice, which is a short-grained, glutinous rice that cooks quickly is used, and is preferred to the long grained rice, because of its creamy quality, and ability to become ever so sticky, which aids the dish when it comes to mashing. During the serve, some fresh Ghee or Butter, and salt to taste, to be mixed and mashed by hand into the right consistency, and then eaten. A raw green chili, and a boiled and shelled egg sometimes accompanies this dish.
Bhorta : Any vegetable, such as potatoes, beans, sour mangoes, papaya, pumpkins or even dal, first boiled whole and then mashed and seasoned with red shallot, fresh chile, mustard oil/ghee and spices.
Chorchori: Usually a vegetable dish with one or more varieties of vegetables cut into longish strips, sometimes with the stalks of leafy greens added, all lightly seasoned with spices like mustard or poppy seeds and flavoured with a pouron. Sometimes a chochchori may have small shrimp. The skin and bone of large fish like bhetki or chitol can be made into a chochchori called kata-chochchori (kata meaning fish-bone). The stir frying process and the lightness of a Chochhori reminds you of the Chop Suey, which is a term for assorted pieces, and this shows the influence of the Chinese in Bengali household cooking. The chochhori would be generally an assortment of vegetable and fish bones and other things that would have been rather thrown away, fried in a korai, or the Indian wok, over high heat at first, and then simmered to let the vegetable cook down to being just done, and then taken off the flame immediately to stop cooking. The cooking procedure adds to the confirmation of the entrance of Chinese style of cooking into Kolkata during the mid 1800s, prior to which this particular dish was not very popular in Bengali cuisine.
Chop: Croquettes, usually coated with crushed biscuit or breadcrumbs.
Cutlet: Very different from the Cutlets of the Brits, this is referred typically to a crumb coated thinly spread out dough, made generally of chicken/mutton minced, mixed together with onion, bread crumbs and chillies. Generally it is then dipped in egg and coated in breadcrumb, fried and served with thin julienne of cucumber, carrots, radish and onions. Often an egg mixed with a teaspoon or two water and a pinch of salt is dropped on top of the frying cutlet, to make it into a "Kabiraji" the Bengali pronunciation of a "Coverage" Cutlet, influenced by the British.
Chhenchki: Tiny pieces of one or more vegetable, generally a dice of vegetables along with general odds and ends, often even the peels (of potatoes, squash, gourd, pumpkin, bitter gourd, or potol for example) - usually flavored with pach-pouron, whole mustard seeds or kalo jira. Chopped shallot and garlic can also be used, but hardly any ground spices.
Chutney: Generally Bengal is one of the pioneers for this particular dish, making it with everything including preserved mango sheets, called amshotto.
Dalna: Mixed vegetables or eggs, cooked in a medium thick gravy seasoned with ground spices, especially gorom moshla and a touch of ghee.
Dom: Vegetables, especially potatoes, or meat, cooked over a covered pot containing water, slowly over a low heat, slightly steaming. The word is derived from the Dum technique popular in Mughlai food.
Dolma: A vegetable, 'potol', stuffed with fish boiled, de-boned, then prepared with garam masala, ginger and onions (alternately coconut-vegetable stuffing is used). A misconception once arose that this was a take on the Greek Dolmathes or Dolmades, but has not been proven so.
Ghonto: Different complementary vegetables (e.g., cabbage, green peas, potatoes or banana blossom, coconut, chickpeas) are chopped or finely grated and cooked with both a pouron and ground spices. Dried pellets of dal are often added to the ghonto. Ghee is commonly added at the end. Non-vegetarian ghontos are also made, with fish or fish heads added to vegetables. The famous murighonto is made with fish heads cooked in a fine variety of rice. Some ghantos are very dry while others a thick and juicy.
Jhal: Literally, hot. A great favorite in West Bengali households, this is made with fish or shrimp or crab, first lightly fried and then cooked in a light sauce of ground red chilli or ground mustard and a flavoring of pach-pouron or kalo jira. Being dryish, it is often eaten with a little bit of dal poured over the rice.
Jhol: A light fish or vegetable stew seasoned with ground spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, chilli, and turmeric with pieces of fish and longitudinal slices of vegetables floating in it. The gravy is thin yet extremely flavorful. Whole green chillies are usually added at the end and green coriander leaves are used to season for extra taste. It is the closest to a "Curry", yet it is more of a jus than a sauce.
Kalia: A very rich preparation of fish, meat or vegetables using a lot of oil and ghee with a sauce usually based on ground ginger and fresh shallots pasted or fried along with a tempering of gorom moshla.
Kofta (or Boras): Ground meat or vegetable croquettes bound together by spices and/or eggs served alone or in savory gravy. Koftas are usually softer than boras
Korma: A term that can also be called "Qurma" of Mughali origin, meaning meat or chicken cooked in a mild yoghurt based sauce with ghee instead of oil, and often poppy seed paste is added to it. People of Southern Bangladesh are known to add coconut milk to many of their dishes and Korma is no exception.
Kosha: Meaning fried for a long time with ground and whole spices over high heat until shallot/garlic/ginger have dissolved into a thick paste. Usually applied to meat and some shellfish.
Paturi: Generally oily fish is sliced evenly, and then wrapped in a banana leaf, after the fish has been hit by a basting of freshly pasted mustard with a hint of mustard oil, chili, turmeric and salt.
Pora: Literally, burnt. Vegetables are wrapped in leaves and roasted over a wood or charcoal fire. Some, like aubergines (eggplants), are put directly over the flames. Before eating the roasted vegetable is mixed with oil and spices.
Torkari: A general term often used in Bengal the way `curry' is used in English. The word first meant uncooked garden vegetables. From this it was a natural extension to mean cooked vegetables or even fish and vegetables cooked together.
Shukto: A favorite Bengali palate cleanser, made with a lot of different vegetables including at least one bitter veg, simmered with a hint of sugar and milk to bring out the bitterness of the fresh vegetables.
Shak: Any kind of green leafy vegetable, like spinach and mustard greens, often cooked till just wilted in a touch of oil and tempering of nigela seeds.