BANGLADESH: Borhani and chotpoti

I was in Montreal this past weekend, and poked around the Bangladeshi neighbourhood in Park Ex – there’s a whole bunch of Bengali grocers and halal restaurants. I got a snack to go from Appayon, a nice little restaurant specializing in Bangladesh cuisine (and big screen cricket tests – England beat the Kiwis).

It was mid-afternoon and I wasn’t hungry for a full meal, so I got a little appetizer of chotpoti. It’s in the same food family as papdi chaat: street food that’s a big mix of chickpeas and other legumes, spices, onions, and crunchy puri pieces. However, chotpoti is served hot, and instead of yogurt, is topped with hard-boiled egg (which is pretty common in Bengali cuisine). This was flavourful and spicy, with lots of coriander and cumin and black pepper as well as a good dose of chilies, and a little bit of tartness, I think from tamarind.

I washed it down with something equally spiced – borhani. Borhani is a savoury lassi, made with yogurt, green chilies, mustard seed, more coriander and black pepper, salt, and mint. There’s a little bit of sweetness naturally in the yogurt and from the mint, and it balances out the peppery punch to make it very sippable.

This month so far is really showing me how much we under-use coriander seed and black pepper in Western cooking – they can really add serious flavour if you’re willing to use a heavier hand.

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