It has been proven that Pohela Boishakh – the Bengali New Year – happens to be the largest and the most widely celebrated festival celebrated by Bangla speaking people all over the world. Overcoming the boundaries of faith, Bengalis from India, Bangladesh and all around the world, celebrate the advent of the new Bengali year with frenzy and fervour.
A Bengali festival without turning out to be a ‘feast-ival’ is rare. Traditional Bengali food is as rich as its literature, as sweet as the language itself (Bengali) and being stuffed with food while being chaffed by friends and family around the dining table is all part and parcel of Bengali food fiesta. Pohela Boishakh marks that perfect moment to unleash this repertoire of traditional Bengali dishes to delight yourself and your loved ones.
Although the Pohela Boishakh itself is celebrated either on 14th or 15th of April, depending on whether in India or in Bangladesh, I decided to share some inspirational culinary ideas for you a bit early because when you will be reading this, we will be all set to be in another part of the world to quench our thirst for voyage. While we will be experiencing the Bengali new year in another country and in another culture, there is no harm certainly in inspiring you in advance to make some kitchen magic to mark the celebration of Pohela Boishakh for yourself at home.
The kitchen story that we want to tell you for this Pohela Boishakh comprises of a seven-course mega menu to welcome the Bengali new year 1424. Like a guided tour in any famous well organised museum, a traditional Bengali festival menu is expected to feature various types of items to try out one after another just like moving from one hall in a museum to the next to immerse yourself in the experience. Keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules about the number of courses you should prepare and about the items you need to prepare. Certainly, it is dependent on your preference and availability of the items you have in mind. Given what we have available easily in London, this is the best combination we thought in terms of variety, innovation, time (keeping in mind that we have no domestic help in this part of the world!) and spirit of the occasion. So here is the seven shades of culinary delights for you to paint the dining canvas with on this Pohela Boishakh.
7 course Pohela Boishakh Menu for 1424
- Begun Bhaja
- Lal Shak Bhaja
- Chholar Dal
- Shorshe Ilish
- Mutton Kosha
- Raw mango Chutney
- Chhanar Sandesh
So the 1st item in this seven-course feast plan starts essentially with some fried items and we opted for ever popular ‘begun bhaja’ (fried aubergine slices) to inaugurate your devouring delights. It’s simple, easy to make and a must-eat. Slice the aubergine in 1-inch thickness into round shape, marinade with a pinch of salt, turmeric and sugar. Shallow fry them in vegetable or sunflower oil until golden brown and they will be ready. Perfect to open up your lengthy festival meal with these while the 2nd items waits in anticipation.
Lal Shak Bhaja
After ‘something fried’ you have to make room in your plate for one or more vegetable items to keep assuring yourself that you are indeed taking your ‘green, coloured and leafy elements daily’ before the guilt-god takes over on your food bonanza. Lal-shak is not only rich in nutrients but also it adds that dash of colour on your plate. We have a dedicated post right here to tell you step by step how to prepare a red and rocking lal-shak (red spinach) to feature as one of the seven courses for your Pohela Boishakh celebrations.
Next in line to tantalise your taste buds will have to be a lentil dish and a Bengali event such as this without chholar dal (Bengal Gram) is unthinkable. Not only prepared and served during festivals, the Bengal Gram brings sunshine around Bengali dining tables with its unique texture, taste and colour even in every ordinary day. You can plan in advance and find out here in detail how to make this dal.
Either one by one with some white rice or by mixing bits from here and there, these preliminary dishes in the seven-course star-studded menu – begun bhaja, lal-shak, chholar dal – will surely get you going on course for a feast to remember. Sprinkle some generous amount of ‘gandharaj lebu’ (green aromatic lemon) over your meal to tempt yourself to about to bite off your fingers at some point.
Once the leafy and ‘lentilly’ items are out of your way and inside your stomach, hear some drum rolls please for quintessential meat and fish items of the Bengali culinary heritage. Pohela Boishakh without eating Ilish maach (Hilsha Fish) is like sleeping over 31st December and waking up in 2nd week of January when all the fun got over leaving you napping. Hilsha being the queen of the Bengali fish family, nothing beats the ‘shorshe ilish’ recipe (mustard-hilsha) to adorn your plate and gratify your appetite. It seems I could talk hours after hours how tasty ‘shorshe ilish‘ is and how my maa used to make it the best and how I successfully managed to convert my beautographer to immerse himself unconditionally into the allure of this Bengali fish dish. Why not know for yourself how to make this reigning queen of Bengali dishes by yourself.
After trying out what grows on plants and on ground and also what is available in waters, the menu consists of some meaty elements now. Mutton Kosha or Mutton rezala is what finally provides the richness you had been anticipating during your meal. Interestingly enough, I myself DO NOT eat any red meat except in my childhood when I ate mutton (only meat ever eaten) quite a few times. However, I care to cook because I love to cook for those I care. Mutton Kosha falls into that category of dishes that I recommend to include in your Pohela Boishakh plan, even if you are like me who asks the Beautographer to wash and clean the meat as I am not even comfortable touching it. The reason why I say is that you can really make the slow-cooked, well marinated chunks of lambs or goat meat in its succulent gravy so nicely that it will elevate the dining experience of your loved ones. This is how I made this Mutton Kosha to balance the meaty side of the Pohela Boishakh menu planning.
Raw mango chutney
Perfect moment when you try out the ‘aamer chutney’ (mango chutney) either on its own, with some rice or mix it straight with the Mutton Kosha. A melange of melodramatic sensations will soon follow inside your mouth, if your tongue were a stage then you would have experienced the best musical culinary show to usher you to the new side of the Bengali calendar. Read here to find out how to make this sweet-sour sensational mango chutney to electrify your Pohela Boishakh preparations.
Last but not the least, all is well what ends well and ends well on a sweet note. Dessert time cannot be deserted in a hurry. So get ready for some sweet little explosions to conclude the Pohela Boishakh seven course meal planning and prepare some dashing ‘sandesh’ like this, garnished with twin pistachios and saffron strips to leave you drooling over the gourmandise you found yourself in during this Pohela Boishakh. See if your guests are up for it or not – one, two, three or more – see how many sandesh can each devour till the end!
Begun bhaja, lal-shak, chholar dal, shorshe ilish, mutton kosha, raw mango chutney and sandesh – there goes your seven celebrity Bengali delectable dishes to make this Pohela Boishakh a deliciously memorable one. Remember it is mandatory to eat with your hands and burping is optional.
Shubho Noboborsho (Happy Bengali New Year) to you and your family from Team Onetimeashionista.com!