Monday Meal Review: Bangladesh

Entertaining tip: If the food is going to be spicy, invite people who can take the heat!

Sounds like a no-brainer, but little details like this are important. Not knowing your guests’ preferences can turn a great night into a total buzz-kill.

“Oh, I didn’t know you don’t like spicy food!”

“Oops, I had no idea you were allergic to shellfish.”

“What do you mean, you are vegan!?”

“What does kosher mean?”

“Oh, you don’t approve of drinking alcohol with lunch?”

See what I mean?

Awkward, awkward, awkward.

Bangladeshi food is intensely spicy both in heat and flavor. That’s why it was important to find a guest who could appreciate this. As a hostess it is so more much fun to watch people enjoy the experience you created for them, rather than “fake” enjoyment.

Thankfully my husband and our friend Joe (from Joe’s Burger Search) enjoys sweating over their meals. Joe likes hot food so much that he actually makes his own habanero hot sauce in his kitchen, simultaneously creating a 15 foot wide cloud of homemade pepper spray!

I’m thinking of stealing this idea for when I make cookies.

You gotta keep people out somehow!

Potato Curry (Aloor Dom/Aloo Dum) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

The smooth, fiery curry sauce was somewhat addictive in a “tearing my eyes out” kind of way. Because I generally like my food “mild to medium,” I really appreciated that the whole potatoes did not absorb the fire-causing capsicum. This meant that I could take bites of the potato with some or none of the sauce, depending on my mood for that bite!

What I liked least about this dish:

The spice level was a bit much for me. But that’s what I get for asking a native Bengali how much chili powder to add. Their mild is certainly very, very hot for my weak tastebuds (even by western standards). If you want to recreate this blazing hot experience, be sure to buy your chili powder from an Indian market – the blend is not the same as the chili powder we eat with our tacos here in Oklahoma. BUT, should you want to make this dish mild you can, which is great news for wimps like me.

Although there is a long list of ingredients, this dish is easy to make and does just fine for leftovers.

Fish and leeks in Hot Mustard Sauce (Sorse Bata Diya Maach) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

The salmon was so tender…it was almost unbelievable. This was my first time marinating salmon overnight and the results were astounding. Tender and succulent just begin to describe this fish. Of course, you can still ruin the salmon by overcooking or over-marinating (although steaming helps minimize the damage you can do).

What I liked least about this dish:

I went back and forth on the mustard sauce in this dish. At first I thought it was a bit much, but then I got used to the pungency. Plus, when eaten with the other dishes, the flavor made sense.

Spinach Bhaji (Palong Shaak Bhaji) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

The star of this dish is the blend of whole spices, Ponch Phoron. This Bengali spice blend gives “boring” sauteed spinach a new lease on life. Of course the caramelized onion and garlic help, too!

What I liked least about this dish:

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this dish. In the interest of presenting all points of view, however, I’ll tell you this: my husband thought the spices were “weird” and although he “really wanted to like the spinach,” he “couldn’t. The sad result? Only one or two bites were missing from the mound on his plate.

Vermicelli in Sweet Custard (Shemai Custard) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Have I ever told you how being a cook is like being a sorcerer with magical powers? Take this dessert, for example. The only thing that thickens the milk into custard is vermicelli noodles. This “magic” amazes me and makes me all giddy. I mean, really. It is just awesome.

Apart from the cool food magic, the flavor is pretty good too. This dessert reminds me of rice pudding, but with noodles. I enjoyed the cardamom which accents the raisins perfectly.

What I liked least about this dish:

I made this dessert a couple of times in order to get the ratios right. Ugg.  I’m warning you now – the internet abounds with bad versions of this recipe (like bizzaro sweet fettuccine alfredo tasting stuff). Thankfully I was able to find a native who could tell me how the dessert should look and taste. Otherwise we’d be in big trouble.

Anyway, once the trial and error were done the dish is easy to make and worth the effort. (Vermicelli custard is also popular in India btw)… its just getting the recipe right!

Ava’s corner

Ava ate the spinach pureed with potato (but not the potatoes from this meal as I did not want to risk giving her that kind of heat). She also ate the salmon. At first we tried to protect her from the mustard sauce, but after a while we let her have pieces of fish that had some on it. She did not mind at all, and gobbled the whole thing up.


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