10 Foods to Try in Bangladesh

Here is my list of 10 foods to taste in Bangladesh. I have not included biryani because, of course, you will try biryani while you are here! Right? Speaking of right, remember to use the right hand only when eating…

1. Fuchka (and chot-puti which is basically the same ingredients but chopped up): It’s a street food. Small dough balls which are stuffed with a chickpea (garbanzo) salad made with jalapenos. Can be spicy. It is served with a tangy tamarind vinaigrette. There is usually the option to have this served not spicy which means the addition of a yogurt sauce on top. Many vendors mix a special black salt into the yogurt sauce. See #10 for a similar aroma.

2. Bhorta: the biggest secret food. It’s a style of “mashup” foods and other small dishes like mezze/appetizers/tapas. Best restaurant is in Old Dhaka but try to eat it homemade.

3. Rumali: This is my personal favorite because I like yeasty stretchy dough with grilled meat. “Rumali” means handkerchief so the bread is as thin as a handkerchief.

4. Jhalmuri: It’s a street food. A savory puffed rice treat usually served in a recycled paper cone (as in, you can read someone’s homework on the paper) with a paper scooper as a utensil.

Puffed rice.
Puffed rice with flavoring called jhalmuri.

5. Sringara: A street food. Also, commonly served at parties. It’s a deep fried dough ball or triangle. Like a samosa.

6. Pithe: A biscuit with sculptured designs unique to the maker.

7. Hilsha: The national fish. April and Bengali New Year is the time to eat this bony fish. Bangladesh is a country of fish eaters.

8. Jallaby: Also a street food. It’s like a deep fried funnel cake cooled and soaked in sugar water.

9. Mishti doi: Sweetened fresh yogurt. The yogurt in Bangladesh is almost always fresh and made in clay pots which are tossed (ultimate earth to earth recycling). It’s funny because many expats will keep these clay dishes and the Bangladeshis don’t really understand why.

10. Bhorhani: It is a drink made from yogurt but it is mixed with “special black salt” which is sulfuric. This drink is often served at special events like weddings. The Bangladeshis say that the drink cuts through the fattiness of the biryani served at weddings. I didn’t like this drink but I do like lassi and most other yogurt based drinks. I’m just not a fan of the sulfur aroma.

When in Bangladesh, also try the lime soda, fresh juices, fresh mangoes, and coconuts. I liked the lime soda because it was always served with sugar syrup and fresh squeezed lime — a good way to keep scurvy at bay! Of course, there are many that I did not include on my list: “black berries” which look like olives and are bitter in flavor. Rice cakes. Unripe guava is often served and you will see vendors selling these pale green fruit cut up with some spice on them. And so on (I’m not Andrew Zimmern so I’m not including only “bizarre” foods, but, you may not like all of them. I personally liked the unripe guava but found the black berries to be too bitter for me). Also, try the Faluda. It’s a sort of milk shake dessert item with vermicelli noodles and super saccharine sweet syrup (see the photo of the pink milkshake?).

Lastly, I always get asked if I get sick when I eat street foods or anything in Bangladesh. Follow your gut…  food that sits out and reaches that dangerous (is it 58 F?) point where bad bacteria fester, should be avoided. Right? I was lucky but I also calculated my risks and I didn’t take that many. Usually, I let my Bangladeshi friends guide me. They always kept me safe. Oh, and if you are lucky, you will get to try many of these foods at weddings, including the biryani. Enjoy!

The lines are the noodles in the Faluda.
The lines are the noodles in the Faluda.

 

 

Hidden Museum in the City of Free Museums

A non-stereotypical photo of a gaucho.
A non-stereotypical photo of a gaucho.

One of the things I enjoy about Washington, DC, is that almost all the museums are free. Most of the big museums are part of the Smithsonian but there are lots of smaller unknown museums like the one at the Organization of American States. Located near where Virginia Avenue meets Constitution Avenue, this small building has a great garden and some pretty tiles, plus a rotating exhibit. I went to see the photo exhibit about identity. Although the exhibit was Argentinian, a discussion of stereotypes is relevant to all nationalities, including Bangladesh and Colombia. My mental image of Bangladesh before I lived there was one of cyclones and floods. Colombia suffers from other stereotypes.

Every little girl and boy has their own knife for the barbecue.
Every little girl and boy has their own knife for the barbecue.

My photos are taken from the photo catalog because I did not have my camera with me. But, flash photography is allowed in the temporary exhibit. I was just amazed that they were giving away the color catalog for free. Not all the photos in the photo exhibit were of people but I thought they were the best. I’ll write more about art and photography in a later post. Certainly once I have been to the famous gold museum in Bogota. For now, these photographs allowed for a little armchair travel.

The cover shows a typical delivery "truck" in Argentina.
The cover shows a typical delivery “truck” in Argentina.

 

Haute Saison Catering and Cooking Classes – Elegant and Relaxed

Egg custard tarts
Portuguese egg custard tarts

As I am no longer in Bangladesh, I cannot afford a personal chef, so I took a cooking class, which is the next best thing. There is nothing like cooking with a world class chef to remind you of how superb food should taste. Jan Van Haute of Haute Saison Catering is Belgian, but this particular cooking class was in Portuguese food. The cooking class was at a private residence of an expat/international type in DC which was fitting as Jan has a fancy curriculum vitae (he was the Belgium Ambassador’s chef, he cooked for the Belgium royal family, won prizes, worked in Michelin starred restaurants… Despite this, he’s extremely laid back and down to earth — and no, he did not pay me to endorse him!).

Salt cod and chickpea salad.
Salt cod, egg, and chickpea salad.

Our cooking class was a small group of five and it cost $60 per person. For that we got a lovely setting, three course menu, wine, and food to take home. The cooking class was not a regimented class with chopping exercises, and for those of us (ehem, me) who wanted to take photos and drink wine, no chopping was expected of us. Just my sort of class!

Hot, cheesy, chewy, bread balls.
Hot, cheesy, chewy, bread balls.

Here’s what we made:

“Pão de queijo” or Portuguese Brazilian cheese bread
“Salada de Bacalhau a Grao-de-bico” or salt cod, chickpea, and egg salad
Octopus rice stew
“Pastal de nata” or Portuguese egg custard tart
Jan gave us recipes to take home.
Jan gave us recipes to take home.

First we made cheese bread (actually, first we had a glass of wine), which reminded me of the Colombian “pandebono.” While these were in the oven, we made the salt cod chick pea salad. Then we sat down to eat these while the octopus cooked. Then we returned to the kitchen for to make the next two courses. Finally, we returned to the elegant table and chatted. It was much like a dinner party. The owner of the house had been to Bangladesh which I should have guessed as she had a “nakshi kantha,” or Bangladeshi embroidery, on her wall.

Notice the nakshi kantha hanging on the wall.
Notice the nakshi kantha hanging on the wall.

A few words about octopus: The octopus looks quite scary to many people. It is slimy. It is rubbery. But, not that night when cooked properly. The flesh was soft like conch meat. Seriously surprisingly tender and sublime.

This is what the octopus looked like after cooking in the pot for an hour.
This is what the octopus looked like after cooking in the pot for an hour.

The evening and the cooking class ended with us packing leftovers to eat the next day. As part of his philosophy of sharing good food, Jan offers these private cooking lessons. But, as they say in the bread business, “get it while it’s hot!” As his business grows (it just started a few months ago), he may not have time for these small classes. I really hope so because experiences like this are what life can be… plus, it was just so much fun. By the end of the class, I felt more like I was in the company of friends.

The food was revelatory and Jan made us feel totally capable, and at ease, which made for a stellar evening. Wonder what’s on the menu next time?

The octopus stew, creamy and sublime.
The octopus stew, creamy and sublime.

New Look to M’s Adventures – madventures.me

Wearing red for Bengali New Year.
Wearing red and white for Bengali New Year. Mini-tiara is a bonus.

Now that M’s Adventures, the blog, is almost three years old, I decided to try a different design. I’ve also added a few new pages, currently under construction, on food, travel, and bucket-less lists. Please take a look. I am trying to better organize the information I’ve written (more than 180 blog postings so far!), so I hope that this new layout helps. Yes?

Also, happy Bengali New Year!

Buy A Rickshaw to Go for Less Than $3,000!

For some expats, the biggest souvenir they buy in Bangladesh is a rickshaw. I decided to buy one for the blogging experience. There are many places where you can get them. Apparently the folks at River Tours will arrange a sale for you. If you want a used one, it is unlikely that the local rickshaw puller owns his own and so he may not be able to sell it to you. A colleague bought two rickshaws so I got the shop information from him.

The rickshaw shop.
The rickshaw shop.

Then I enlisted the help of two Bangladeshis. One arranged for us to go out to the rickshaw “shop” and made an appointment with the rickshaw maker for us. The shop we went to was back in the rabbit warren of streets to the north of Baridhara (it ended up being somewhere near the train tracks, for those of you who know your way around Baridhara). Without my Bangla-speaking Bangladeshi, I would never have found this shop. The shop was more of a “parts” shop and there were no shiny ready-made rickshaws for sale. That said, looking at the photo, now I see the tires on the roof.

Rickshaw Maker: Hasan

Phone: 0174059294

Address: Maria Cycle store, 97/1 Joar Shahara Bazar Road, Dhaka.

The rickshaw took one week to build, it weighs 250 pounds, and cost 20,000 taka (about $250). I paid 5,000 taka in down payment and rest on delivery as you can see from the receipt but you can pay all of it at once if you prefer. If I had bought two or more, I would have received a bulk discount (and remember that everything can be negotiated so I could have perhaps haggled to a lower price. Frankly, I was distracted by the gentleman on the right in the photo who was performing depilation in his nostrils — I could not take my eyes off his fingers!).

Hasan's number is on the receipt.
Hasan’s number is on the receipt.

I left the decoration of the rickshaw completely up to the craftsmen making it. At one point, the shop owner called to find out which name I wanted painted on the back and my friend told him to put my name on the back! I will most likely paint over it at some point. The rickshaw also has the maker’s telephone number and name painted on it. I like how my rickshaw is decorated although I would have chosen to not have guns painted on it, despite this being the tradition.

Freshly painted rickshaw.
Freshly painted rickshaw. Sells for $3,000 in World Market!

The rickshaw was ready a day early and the rickshaw maker wanted to deliver it as soon as possible. I asked why the urgency… they did not want it to get dirty. It was delivered to me fully assembled and driven by a professional rickshaw driver. Since then, it has only been driven by two people. I will mostly keep it in my future home, as a piece of installation art. Some people have suggested I take it out and give rides on it…

Yesterday, a friend recently sent me the link to World Market’s site advertising Bangladeshi rickshaws on demand for $3,000! But, theirs are not meant for actual use (it says so in the ad). Therefore it is better to buy one while in Bangladesh.

Normally, I try to post a new blog every sixth day, but because of yesterday’s rickshaw email, I decided to publish this now.

The answer to my previous post’s trivia game of “M’s Adventures moves to ______?” is: It is a country with a river famous for being the most _colorful_ in the world. Thanks to the random person on the Internet who decided to play along.

M’s Adventures Moves from Inshallah to Ojala – And Top Search Subjects

Boys of an SOS Village in Bangladesh.
Boys from an SOS Village in Bangladesh.

Very soon, I will stop blogging about Bangladesh and begin blogging with a Spanish accent. I hope. ¡Ojalá! (Which is “hopefully!” in Spanish — it rhymes with, and is used a similar way as, “inshallah” or “god willing” — and I’m guessing, comes from the 700 years of Arab influence in Spain). In Bangladesh, people often end a thought with “inshallah” and I like the segue for my blog.

I have tried to make my blog easy to find on the World Wide Web. The world of online searching, or googling, is like falling down the rabbit’s hole. You can get lost for a long long time… but never wake up wearing Tim Burton makeup. For the past few years, I have blogged primarily about Bangladesh (and yet, there are still so many things I did not blog about — like the SOS Village I visited).

The kiosk where one can buy top off Grameen cash cards closed on an Eid day.
The kiosk where one can buy SIM and phone cash cards, closed on an Eid day.

So, as I plan to switch my focus, here’s a re-cap of the most popular search terms which have lead readers to madventures.me (thank you).

Top search terms of the past 18 months.
Top search terms of the past 18 months.

Because I like random international blending, I was pleased when someone searched for, “where to eat kimchi in dhaka.”

As far as I can tell from reading Google, it will take the searchbots on Google take about six months to register my blog’s new topics and tags so perhaps I should begin to blog about the place I am moving to?

Just for fun, I’ll make it a sort of guessing game… ¿por qué no?

Clue number one of “M’s Adventures moves to ______?” is: It is a country with a river famous for being the most ______ in the world.