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A Gastronomic Journey to Bengal

Bengali Cuisine is the food style originated in Bengal, in Eastern Indian Subcontinent. The staple diet emphasizes on fish, vegetables and lentils with rice. Milk is an important source of nutrition, and a main ingredient in most of Bengali desserts and sweets. Nearly every Bengali community eats fish or meat. Bengali cooking is very unique with variety of dishes which are not common in other parts of the country. Fresh water fish is mainly used. Bengalis also excel in cooking of regional vegetables. So lets enter a gastronomic journey to Bengal.

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The use of spices for both fish and vegetable dishes is very extensive and unique combinations, which are not found in the other parts of India. The five main spices used in Bengali cooking are:

1. Jeera – English name is Cumin. It is a flowering plant. It comes from family Apiaceae. It is native from East Mediterranean to India. Its seeds are dried and used in many cuisines, in whole and ground form.


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It has a strong flavor and warm aroma due to its essential oil. In Bengali cuisine Jeera is widely used in their regular staple fresh water fish preparation. In Rui Macher Jhol , the tempering is done with chilies and jeera powder.

2. Kalonji – It is often called Black Cumin. It flowers manually and is from Ranunculaceae family. It is native to South and South East Asia. It is used as spice in India and Middle Eastern Cuisines.


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It has pungent, bitter taste and smell. Aaloo Charchari, a bengali dish uses this spice as the main ingredient for tempering along with freshly grated ginger.

3. Black Sarson Seed – It is also known as Black Mustard Seed or Black Rai.


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It has a pungent flavor. Shorshe Illish (Hilsa fish) is very common dish used in Bengali cooking. Black sarson is mainly used in its preparation. Hilsa fish is chopped into pieces. The mustard is ground and mixed with turmeric powder to form into paste. the fish and paste is fried in Mustard oil and salt.

4. Radhuni – English name for this spice is Wild Celery. It is a flowering plant from the family Apiaceae. It is grown extensively in South East Asia and Indonesia. It is a close relative of Ajwain, often used in Bengali cuisine and rarely used in rest of India.


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It is a strong spice. with characteristic smell similar to parsley and taste similar to Celery. In Bengali cuisine red masoor dal is tempered with radhuni.

5. Panch Phoran – This spice is consists of 5 main spices which are Methi Dana (Fenuigreek seeds), Kalonji (Nigella seeds or Black Cumin), Saunf (Fennel seeds), Jeera (Cumin seed) and Radhuni. All these 5 spices are used in whole form.


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The tempering is done in mustard oil. Panch Meshali Chari is mixed vegetable bengali dish, tempered with panch phoran, green chilies and Hing (Asafoetida).

I have written more articles for Food Bloggers Association of India. to read click here.

These key spice ingredients make the Bengali cuisine a much loved and enjoyable treat. So go ahead and enjoy the Bengali culinary experience.

P.S. Food Delight” has been selected as one of the Top 100 Food Blogs by Feedspot. 

Written by Ekta Agarwal

Hello everyone!! I am Ekta Agarwal from Hyderabad, India. Welcome to my blog where I share my recipes (tried and tested), interesting write ups on herbs, spices, cuisines and dining experiences.

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