We are all aware that Pakistan and Bangladesh were once part of the same country. The majority of the people in both these countries follow the same religion.
Bengal lies in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent. It consists of India’s West Bengal, Tripura, and Barak Valley of Assam as well as the neighboring country, Bangladesh.
All these three countries have a diverse and rich history, with people belonging to various cultures and ethnicities, shaping their region’s culinary palate.
Pakistani cuisine is a blend of cooking techniques from the Indian Subcontinent, Central Asia, and the influence of the Mughals. Every city or village of Pakistan has a unique dish that makes it famous.
Today we bring you a detailed insight into the cuisines of Pakistan and Bengal and what sets them apart.
Since Bengal lies on the Ganges Delta, fish is an essential part of the non-vegetarian diet, along with mutton and goat. People belonging to West Bengal are predominantly Hindus whereas, Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country.
Hence, there is a huge demand for beef in Bangladesh, along with other non-vegetarian options. Rice is a staple and plays a dominant role in its cuisine throughout the region of Bengal.
Bangladeshi cuisine derives heavily from the Mughlai, Arabic, and Persian cuisines. The food is often very spicy because of the generous use of green chilies. East Bengali food is known to be the spiciest all around the world.
Bangladeshi’s prefer river fish over the sea ones as the latter doesn’t offer them the same flavor. Bengali’s refer to the lllish or Hilsha as the ‘queen’ of the fishes. It is the national fish of Bangladesh. People of West Bengal buy llish on auspicious days and also use it as an offering to the goddess Lakshmi.
Vegetarian dishes are also quite famous throughout Bengal. Herbs, spices, and roots are widely used and are also ground together to make a paste that gives a rich taste and flavor to the dishes.
Some popular vegetarian options include Doi Potol (pointed gourd in thick gravy), Mochar Ghonto (banana blossom curry), Chorchori (a combination of vegetables), and many more.
Essentials of Bengali Cuisine
- Panch Phoran (Five seeds): this is a common element of most Bengali dishes and will help you make any Bengali vegetable dish. It consists of radhuni (celery seeds), kalonji (black onion seeds), cumin, fennel, and fenugreek. Each of these varieties adds a distinct flavor to the dish.
- Mustard paste and oil
- Khus khus (poppy seeds)
- Nolen Gur (jaggery from the date palm tree): delicious Bengali sweets like sandesh, gurer rosogolla and nolen gur payesh contain this sweetener.
Bengali meal generally consists of 5-6 courses, although this can vary between Bangladesh and West Bengal.
This region is the only one in the subcontinent that has developed a multi-course tradition wherein food is served course-wise and not all at once.
- Shukto: a thick stew made using vegetables and generally tastes bitter.
- Shaak: a dish of lightly cooked or steamed leafy vegetables.
- Torkari: Mixed Vegetables
- Dal: pulses. It can have seasonal vegetables or fruits in it and can also have fish pieces.
- Bhaate: mashed and steamed vegetables
Bengal is famous for its fish curries. A traditional Bengali Machar Jhol (Fish Curry) contains ginger, turmeric, cumin powder, green chillis, mustard paste, turmeric, and chilies. These ingredients may vary from one region of Bengal to another. Shorshe Maach (Mustard Fish) is a well-liked dish of this region.
Another seafood item used in their dishes is the prawn, to make various delicacies such as Prawn polao, Shorshe Chingri (mustard prawn), and Chingri Maacher malai curry.
Kochi Pathar Jhol (tender Goat Meat Stew), Mangsher Jhol (Mutton Gravy), and Mangsher Aloo (Mutton curry with potato), Deemar Dalna (Egg Curry) are some of the traditional Bengali mutton/chicken and egg dishes.
Rice is an accompaniment to most dishes. However, Bengalis make different types of rice for distinct occasions. Biryani, tehari, and khichuri are some of the different ways to make rice. Rice can also be used to make traditional Bengali sweet dishes such as Payesh.
Luchi is a deep-fried flatbread. Bengalis eat luchi with vegetable dishes, especially dum aloo but luchi with Kosha Mangsho (mutton curry) is also a popular combination.
Unlike other regions of the Indian subcontinent where people eat chutney alongside the main course, Bengalis use chutney as a palate cleanser. It tastes sweet and sour and made using tomatoes, pineapple, mango, tamarind, or a mixture of different fruits, even dry-fruits. Papads made up of potatoes/dried dal accompany chutney.
The proper way to end a Bengali meal is with a sweet dish. The most popular is the roshogulla, followed by Mishti Doi ( sweet yogurt). Other Bengali sweets include Bhapa Doi (steamed yogurt), Chamcham, Sondesh, Payesh (a sweet dish made with rice, milk, and sugar), Lyancha, Chitrakoot and the list goes on.
Pakistan is home to people from various cultural and traditional backgrounds which is apparent in its cuisine. This region can be broadly categorized into five provinces, namely, Sindh (the southern coastal-region), Balochistan (the southwestern province), Punjab (the eastern province), Gilgit Baltistan (the northern-province), and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (the north-west province).
The Punjab and Sindh region of the east consists of highly seasoned and spicy food as compared to the northern-provinces of Jammu and Kashmir, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan that have dishes with mild flavors.
Meat plays a dominant role in Pakistani food. The most popular meat options are goat, lamb, mutton, beef, and chicken. Islamic teachings forbid the consumption of pork.
Seafood, which is a staple of Bengali cuisine, is not consumed widely in Pakistan. Only the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan make use of it in their dishes.
Popular Pakistani dishes are Haleem (meat and lentils combined with coriander, fresh ginger, and chili peppers and garnished with fried onions and lemon, Mutton/Chicken korma, Biryani, Nihari (a spicy stew made by slow-braising lamb or beef overnight along with ginger, pepper, coriander powder, garam masala (an Indian spice mix), and lemon.
The result is tender bone meat with an intensely flavorful and spicy stew), Sajji (a large piece of lamb/chicken stuffed with rice and topped with green papaya paste and slow-roasted for hours), a quintessential Balochistani dish.
Kebabs are a staple in Pakistani cuisine. Some examples include Chapli/Peshawari Kebab, Seekh Kebab, Shami Kebab, Chicken Tikka as well as so many more.
Because Pakistan was once part of India, you will find that the cuisine of Pakistan is an amalgamation of Indian spices and cooking techniques with Mughlai influence as well as influence from the middle east.
There are, however, subtle differences between the same dish found in India and Pakistan. The gravy in Indian dishes is mostly thick while on the other hand, Pakistanis have two types of gravy options, salan (gravy-like) or shorba (soup-like). The spice levels of the food may also vary.
Essentials of Pakistani Cuisine
Pakistani dishes make use of a spice mix known as karri, which consists of ground dried turmeric root, red chili pepper or cayenne pepper, fenugreek seeds, and grounded dried coriander seeds. Jeera (Indian caraway seeds), black pepper, ginger, garlic, and saffron are also frequently used.
Non-vegetarian dishes have cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg in addition to karri.
The use of dried fruits and nuts in rice and vegetable dishes and the practice of grilling marinated meat on skewers highlights the Mughal influence on Pakistani cuisine.
Pakistani cuisine also caters to the needs of vegetarian people. It has most of the same vegetarian meal options as India. Baighan ka Bharta (mashes brinjal), Sarson Ka Saag, Aloo Matar, plenty of dals, and seasonal vegetables along with rice or chapati are made fondly in most Pakistani homes.
Halva-puri, different types of stuffed parathas are a popular breakfast option among the people.
Rice is consumed widely in Pakistan. Different kinds of Pulao (Mash Pulao, Matar Pulao, Kabuli Pulai, yakhni Pulao), Biryani, and Tahiri (a vegetarian form of biryani) are made with rice. No family gathering is complete without Biryani, be it chicken, mutton, or beef.
Types of Bread:
- Taftan (a leavened flour bread with saffron and a small amount of cardamom powder baked in a tandoor)
- Sheermal (a traditional saffron-flavored flatbread)
Some popular sweet dishes of Pakistani cuisine are Phirni, Zarda, Kulfi, Falooda, Kheer, Peshawari ice-cream, Sheer Khurma, Shahi Tukda, and Rabri.
Consumption of seviyaan (sweet roasted vermicelli) during Eid Ul-Fitr, is a tradition among the people.
Gajraila made of grated carrots, boiled in milk, sugar, cream, and green cardamom, topped with nuts and dried fruit is also popular in Pakistan, as well as in other parts of South Asia, including Afghanistan.
Every region has its native and traditional cuisine depending upon a variety of factors which makes it unique and special. While the extensive use of mustard in Bengali dishes sets it apart, the endless non-veg delicacies found in Pakistan is what makes that region special.
Bangladesh and Pakistan differ a lot in terms of their cuisine and taste palate, maybe not so much in the use of meat as both countries consume beef.
Seafood is another area where they both differ. A staple of Bangladeshi food is fish, which is not the case in terms of Pakistan, where only a small section of people consume seafood.
Bengal and Pakistan may have different styles of cuisine and taste nevertheless, one commonality between their people is the love for food.
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*featured image credits: https://newpunjabclub.com/
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