More frozen Bangladeshi treats – so far I’ve tried green mango and wood apple bhortas, plus dal puri and shami kebabs. Now for a snack and a dessert!
The Mughal history of this dish is pretty clear – it’s in the name! Mughlai parathas are turnovers with fillings, usually meat, egg, veggies, and spices, and are likely related to Turkish golzeme.
This one is vegetarian, so just egg and veggies, with spices. You can pan-fry or bake, I went for baking the paratha. It’s mildly spicy, very flavourful, and has a really satisfying crunch to it.
I can’t find a lot of references for “sanar toast” apart from the company’s own website, so I’m not sure if this is a brand name for this dessert – is it the same as a malai sandwhich?
Regardless, it’s a soft, sweet dessert of fluffy cream of wheat and chhena – cheese curds that can be made into paneer. It’s very dainty and creamy, and these frozen desserts can be quickly microwaved.
I’m trying another frozen bhorta, this one made with sour green mango. Bhortas (sauteed spiced veggies) are usually a simple comfort food served with rice. The green mango is wonderfully tart and just slightly spicy. It’s good warm but this would make a really nice savoury summer treat served semi-frozen.
I had with it with the hottest damn hot sauce I’ve had in a long time. Bangladeshi cuisine doesn’t go light on the heat to begin with, but these pickled chillies are hot even by Bengali standards. The first ingredient is naga peppers – likely the Naga Morich, which grows in northern Bangladesh. It’s the hottest naturally-growing chili pepper, at over 1 millionScoville units. As a comparison, jalapeno peppers are about 5000 Scoville. To get hotter than the Naga Morich, you need to start specially breeding the peppers or just using capsaicin extract.
Just a little bit on the plate and this is HOT – full face of fire, sweating, feel where it is in your digestive system hot. It’s also a bit smokey and citrusy (so it goes great with the bhorta) but also holy shit this is hot. Absolutely fantastic. I am in love.
Well Food Ovaltine cookies – Extremely crumbly little cookies made with Ovaltine. Ovaltine is a chocolate malt drink mix that’s really popular worldwide – except in North America, where it’s almost unknown. (Malt drinks are also really rare here.) Apart from leaving crumbs all over my desk, these are not too sweet, with a bit of malty bitterness in the aftertaste.
Frutika – Another thick mango nectar drink, like the Frutta one I tried earlier. Not too sweet, and I think this is from a bigger company, because they have a lot of ads, including this absolutely emotionally devastating one (with subtitles). Remember, this is for a tasty little bottle of mango juice:
Banoful Energy Biscuits – These cookies are advertised as giving you energy, but from the ingredients, I think that’s just because of the sugar. Very soft melt in your mouth butter cookies, quite tasty. I really like the texture of these Banoful cookies – the orange ones were my favourite.
Haque Mr. Cookie Butter Coconut – Really airy and flaky cookies, almost like a rice cookies meets a butter cookie. The coconut flavour is really mild, tastes more like vanilla. But a really lovely texture, even if it makes a lot of crumbs!
Pran Jhal Muri – Jhal muri is a Bengali street food of puffed rice, mixed with chanachur, nuts, and other little treats. This one has peanuts and fried noodles. They’re wasabi flavoured, kind of like wasabi peas, on top of the more classic Bengal spice mix of cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, chillies and mustard oil. Not the flavour combo I was expecting but pretty good, it’s really satisfying to eat by the handful.
Kothbel bhorta – Bhorta 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 kebab – Shami 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.
There’s a nice little Bangladeshi grocery in Ottawa, MF Foodmart, that’s right next door to a great Salvadoran restaurant that I tried when covering El Salvador. At this rate, I’ll be working my way through every grocery and restaurant in town!
Kishwan Litchi Drink – A non-carbonated lychee drink. Given how sweet a lot of South Asian snacks and desserts can be, I was actually expecting this to be super sugary, but it’s not. It’s just the right level of sweetness, and tastes very much like lychee juice, though there’s a slightly artificial aftertaste.
Top Orange Biscuit – A light digestive cookie with a really lovely orange flavour, kind of like fresh orange juice. A bit crisp and crumbly, with a similar texture to arrowroot cookies. I really like these.
Frutta Mango Drink – It’s a mango drink, not a juice, but it’s thick like mango nectar. Sweet and with a really nice natural mango flavour.
Banoful Hot Chanachur – Chanachur is a savoury snack mix, usually sold as “Bombay Mix” in North America. The ingredients vary, but it’s usually nuts, roasted legumes and rice, dry cracker and noodles, and spices. There’s a lot of it in each bag, so you really get your money’s worth, and this brand has got good heat and lots of flavour from the spices – there’s lots of cumin, coriander, black pepper, and more.
Kishwan Twist Potato Snacks – These are spicy tomato flavour, though you can only taste a little bit of tomato. There’s a pleasant bit of heat – they won’t melt your face off but there is some genuine spice to them. A lot of time “spicy” chips don’t even have that! They also have a really satisfying light texture and aren’t greasy – kind of halfway between Israeli Bissli and Thai tapioca chips.
Shemai (or lachcha semai) is a Bengali dessert of vermicelli in warm milk with spices, topped with fruits, nuts, or other treats. It’s popular during Eid, and there’s a lot of flexibility on preparation and toppings. I got a packet of imported shemai vermicelli from Bangladesh – they’re supposed to be divided into nice little nests, but these were well pulverized in the bag by the time they got to Canada. Doesn’t affect the taste, though!
The package gives instructions to cover with warm sweetened milk and served topped with nuts or fruit. Other recipes online are a bit more elaborate – I went for a middle ground and warmed the milk with spices in it as well – bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, and cloves (same spice mix as dudh cha). I didn’t bring the milk to a full boil however, just a gentle scald.
I was out of almonds, my favourite nut for desserts, but I topped my bowl with some fresh apricot slices and a dash of rosewater. The semai soaked up the hot milk really quickly, and had a nice soft texture. The spices infused well into the milk, and really worked with the fruit. It made a lovely quick breakfast, and you could get really creative or fancy if you wanted with your toppings and spices.
Brunch Cheddar Sandwich – A pack of three long multigrain rusks with a cheese filling. This cheddar one tastes simliar to Cheeze-Its but with a sharper, more aged cheese flavour. The rusk itself is both crispy and flaky soft. They also come in other cheese flavours, including parmesan.
Delicia Yin-Yang cookies – These are really beautiful cookies, I can’t believe they look exactly as shown on the package. They’re crisp little cookies with two fillings, one side coconut, and the other Baileys cream liqueur. I thought they were going to be chocolate and vanilla, but the two flavours really work together. They’re quite nice!
Jaco Smile Zefir with orange filling – This somewhere between a meringue and a marshmallow, with a sweet orange filling that tasted a lot like those Kilm Fruit Land gummies. There’s two marshmallows stuck together, and it’s fun, but a serious sugar bomb – makes my teeth sing.
Polus Big Bar caramel – A thick multi-multi-layer wafer cookie with caramel inside and a chocolate coating. A whole lot of crumbs and extremely messy, but really tasty. Sweet but not overpowering, good quality caramel, and they make a lot of other flavours, including condensed milk and coconut. It would be fun to do a taste comparison with the Tiki Gold wafer bars from Trinidad.
I’m in Calgary right now, and with the huge Ukrainian population in Alberta, there’s a lot of good food options here. I went to get some meals to go at Kalinka, an Ukrainian deli and market just off Macleod Trail. I’ve had their chicken cutlets before (they do delivery) and they were really good, so I was looking to see what else was availble. Of course, they make it very clear that they are truly an Ukrainian deli.
For quick lunch snack on the go, I was feeling something sweet from their bakery section. I had tried a savoury pyrizhky earlier back in Ottawa, but here they had ones with sweet fillings too. There were several fruit options, including apple and poppyseed, but I went for sour cherry. It had a nice tart filling inside very thick eggy bread that reminded me of challah. I washed it down with some “Our Juice” cherry and blackcurrant juice from Ukraine.
For dinner with my dad, I picked up more cabbage rolls and beef chebureki. Chebureki are considered a national dish for Crimean Tartars, and I’m adding unofficial tally of “bureks” I’ve tried from different former Ottoman territories: Algerian boreks, Israeli bourekas, and Albanian byreks – all different, but all based on the same idea of pastries with meat fillings.
We reheated them in the oven with the cabbage rolls. The chebureki were really nice, flaky pastry with ground beef and onion inside, and went really well with sour cream and the cabbage rolls’ tomato sauce. My dad loves cabbage rolls, and these impressed him so much that he wrote down Kalinka’s address so he can get more.
Kalinka also had huge handmade varenyky / pierogi selection – they had all kinds of regional variations, Kyivan (beef and pork with garlic), Crimean (beef, pork, and chicken, with Georgian khmeli suneli spice mix), and Canadian (potato with cheddar and bacon).
I went for the Crimean, since that’s totally new to me. The spice mix sounds really interesting, with basil, fenugreek, coriander, mint, savoury, and marigold. I also got a tub of homemade sour cream to go with them (and the cabbage rolls).
I boiled some for breakfast and had them with sour cream and some cooked zucchini. They’re really lovely, I can taste the chicken, and there’s a nice hint of mint and savoury that really works. The homemade sour cream was fantastic, with a sharp tang like kefir.
I have a LOT of questions about the only brand of Ukrainian wine available at the LCBO. First of all, sparkling white is a natural, but sparkling red? Second, KrimSekt’s website says it’s really popular in Germany, but the website is hosted in Canada, out of date, talks about how the wine is grown in Crimea – which Ukraine lost control over most of its historic vineyards in 2014. The two wines are dated after that, but are labelled “Product of Ukraine” – so likely the grapes were grown in a different part of Ukraine. The back of the label says the company is based in Bakhmut, which is just on the Ukrainian border of occupied Donbas and has been near the frontlines since then.
These wines may not even be sold under this brand anymore – owner Artwinery now lists on its own website just “Krim” under a different labelling. When I grabbed these two bottles, they were some of the last ones in the store. The LCBO is now totally out of them, so I may have the last few bottles that are going to make it to Canada anytime soon, especially since the region is facing terrible shelling and fighting – but they’re still active and working to re-open their stores in other parts of Ukraine.
As for the wine itself?
KrimSekt Red 2019 – Smell and first sip is kind of like kosher grape juice, but then there’s a nice bubble, some good acidity, and the vaguest hint of tannin in the end. I’d say this is more of a sweet wine than a semi-sweet, but I really vibe with the idea of a sparkling red.
KrimSekt White 2015 – Aged white wine is an odd though to me, but it seems 7 years isn’t unthinkable. Again, this really should be a sweet wine rather than semi-sweet. It’s very sweet, but again a bit of acidity at the end.
And while I’ve tried both Ukrainian wine and vodka, here’s a non-alc option: kvass!
Poltavskiy kvass – Kvass is a fermented malt drink that’s popular in Slavic and Baltic countries. It can be anything from pretty light to quite dark – this one from the Poltava brewery in Ukraine is on the dark end. It’s got a roasted, slightly smokey dark flavour with nice carbonation and a bit of sweetness, kind of like a non-alc porter, but with the really clear malt drink flavour. I really like this.
Roshen Lovita strawberry jelly cookies – They’re both made by Roshen, but Lovita and Karolina seem to be similar cookies but with different brands. While Karolina was identical to a Jaffa Cake, Lovita has a milder-flavoured strawberry filling under chocolate. Still quite good, but doesn’t have the tang from the orange ones.
Roshen For Coffee Baked Milk cookies – These are flavoured with “baked milk” – made traditionally by leaving milk in the warm oven overnight until it got creamy and caramel-y. They’re similar but softer than the 33 Cows cookies, with a slightly creamy flavour. These are really nice.
Roshen Brut Chocolate 80% – Just good plain extra dark chocolate. Nothing else, no fuss, no muss.
Roshen Joizy – Chewy candies, like a firmer Hi-Chew. Orange, strawberry, and cherry (in purple). I really love the texture of these. There’s supposed to be a juice filling, but they’re really just a nice chew.
Roshen Barbaris – Small hard candies that are flavoured with barberry – a small red berry that is very tart and citrusy and found across Europe and Asia. They fill the same culinary niche that cranberries do in North America. This candy isn’t tart in any way, just a plain sweet red-flavoured hard candy.