BANGLADESH: Shami kebab, dal puri, and wood apple bhorta

Got some frozen Bengali food from MF Foodmart, a little grocery with a lot of imports from Bangladesh – I also picked up a bunch of Bangladeshi snacks from there.

Kothbel bhortaBhorta is a classic Bengali dish of lightly fried mashed vegetables that’s real comfort food – it’s used as a main dish, a side, or even as a topping. It’s usually really simple (as opposed to other Bangladeshi dishes) and this one is just wood apple, chillies, salt and oil. Wood apple (kothbel) is a totally new fruit to me – it’s native to the Bay of Bengal, and it’s been called an acquired taste (and uncharitably, “ugly“). It’s got a bit of a funky, meaty scent to it (no worse than durian), but the flavour is really wonderful. It’s smokey and savoury, but also tart and citrusy – almost like smoked tamarind. The bhorta is also nice and spicy, with lots of green chillies in it.

Chicken shami kebabShami kebabs are common across Pakistan, northern India, and Bangladesh – they’re likely originally Persian, and come from the cultural influence of the Mughal empire. They’re usually beef, but can be mutton and chicken. The meat is ground and mixed with chickpea or lentil flour and spices, then cooked. These ones say to bake them – they come out looking a bit like gingerbread cookies. The spice mix is nice, there’s lots of cumin and coriander, and I think a bit of mint. The texture isn’t great, though, it’s pretty mealy and dry. I think I’ll try frying the rest later and see if that improves the texture.

Dal puri – This is a snack that’s eaten not just across the subcontinent, but has also become a staple of Caribbean cuisine. It’s a crispy flatbread, somewhere between panipuri and naan in texture, with a filling of spiced lentils. These puff up huge when cooked, with a big air pocket (watch the steam!). The lentils have a pretty mild flavour, but it’s the hot crispy bread that’s the really satisfying part.

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