Bangladeshi Home Cooking

Eggplant, fish, squash, potato, taro root mash, gourd, peas, red spinach, beans, taro leaf…

A secret was revealed to me… plain home cooking Bangladeshi style. Every time I’ve been to a Bangladeshi home, I’ve been served beef, chicken, biryani, and other bounty of the table. The food in Bangladeshi restaurants is fancy as well. I just want home cooking. Apparently, home cooking involves lots of “mash” made from different vegetables. Like in most cultures, this is not considered good enough for guests.

Veggies, shrimp curry, eggplant dip, pomelo and apple salad…

Finally, a Bangladeshi friend of mine understood me and my out of town guests (it makes me really happy when this level of cultural understanding happens) and he invited us to dinner. He made us “ordinary” food of vegetables. And more vegetables. I loved it. We had taro root in three different ways, tamarind sauce, squash, peas, eggplant, potatoes, fresh chapati, rice, beans, shrimp, and so much more. My favorite was the white taro mash with chiles. My guests were thrilled to be invited to a Bangladeshi home on the very night of their arrival from the other side of the world. I’m glad to have been given a friend who so comprehends me. He explained to me that even he likes to drop in on friends so that he can get real home cooking.

Taro mash. These mashes are typical, apparently.

So now I’ve got to learn this skill. More taro root for me please!

The Art of Flirty Waiters

One of many charming waiters…

A truly talented waiter will bring not only food and drink to your table, but entertainment to your dining experience. Many of the elements of waiting tables is are the same as in acting — timing, pretend, and audience. A good flirt has these skills too. Not sleazy; just piquant. Jordan was filled with talented waiters.

My exchange with Khalil in Jordan was typical:

Khalil (stops clearing the table and looks deeply into my eyes): Wow, your eyes, they are a special color?

Me (I nod): Yes. You have to get up close to notice.

Khalil: Are you married?

Me: Not yet.

Khalil: Your husband will be a lucky man.

Me: Why?

Khalil: Because he will wake up to your eyes every morning.

Bearing fruit…

Khalil continued throughout the meal. The skills comes in delivering these lines without making it sound too cheesy. He’s used these lines for twenty years and he’s perfected his pitch and his timing. Like a perfect tango. I’ll engage. I’m happy to hone my repartee.

Talking smooth…
Serving sweets…

I was tired that night or I would have been much faster and funnier in my response… guess I need more practice. Oh shucks.

With smoke and mirrors…

A Monsoon Wedding in Bangladesh

A happy Bangladeshi bridal couple.

Wedding season in Bangladesh is December-January mainly because the temperature cooler (and family from abroad can make it as well). It’s been ten months since I started this blog and one of the most popular themes I’ve notice people search for is information about Bangladeshi weddings. Now that I had the honor of being invited to another one, I have more photos to show.

Groom poses for photos as he cuts the roast.

My friend and arrived at the community center three hours late due to other social engagements which was just in time to sit down with the bride and groom.

Children are welcome at weddings even late at night.
The bargaining begins…

I know that before I went to my first Bangladeshi wedding, I was curious about what would happen. I hope to go to more weddings while here.

The groom takes his bride and she acts demur.

Famous Falafel at Hashim’s in Jordan

Up close and personal with the roasted eggplant dip.

Quite by accident, we made it to the world famous Hashim’s. All that it’s cracked up to be. Cheap, atmospheric (in an alley between buildings and mysterious characters), and delicious! The total meal of falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, fries, fresh pita, and labneh (yogurt dip) for four people cost $10… so we made one person treat us all. She insisted! Thanks!

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What’s My Name in Arabic?

The front of the Al-Afghani shop in Mecca Mall.

One of the things to buy in Amman is your name in Arabic script as a pendant for a necklace. It takes a week to get done so plan your visit accordingly. There are jewelsmiths who can make it but there is also a place in Mecca Mall. Al-Afghani is a souvenir shop in Mecca Mall. The staff will help you with your name and a week later, you pick up your pendant. Beautiful.

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The Souk on Al-Rainbow Street

My African American friend and I were headed in to the souk when I heard, “wassup, ni*&^%,” flung from a car with booming music. Almost immediately, three young guys standing near us starting apologizing for the comment with a “we are so sorry. They hear this in the rap music. They are stupid.” My friend graciously said that it was nothing. She’d heard it before. The rest of the Jordanians we met were not so uncouth. The souk was filled with pretty people and friendly vendors. Not aggressive but helpful. In general, my black friends got rather a lot of attention, most flirtatious, in Jordan.

The entrance to the souk filled with big buff security guys.

Small but fun, the Friday “Souk Jara” is a fun way to spend a few hours and grab dinner on a Friday night. Much like a flea market, you can buy olive soap, scarves, sesame seeds, puffed wheat snack, and many other things.

At the food court, I enjoyed dinner. The various fruit stands were giving samples with the watermelon juice winning out. I had a fabulous grilled hotdog with all the trimmings except the french fries. Then I had part of a “saj” a fresh dough wrap filled with your choice and then fried like a quesadilla. After that, how could I resist the Volk’s Burger when almost nothing beats the smell of grilled beef?

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For dessert, I had grilled bananas served with ice cream and honey. Mostly, I enjoyed the music, the mix of people, including musicians and eye candy.

See Petra with Friends

In the early morning light of the cavern called “the Siq” in Petra, we three friends were alone in our walk round the twists and turns of the 30 minute walk to that classic view of Petra — the view of the Treasury through the slim gap of the Siq.

Petra by night.

We did actually have company in the form of three other tourists who outpaced us and a local dog. Plus a few of the local Bedouin guides trying to sell us donkey rides. But mostly, we were alone, skipping along the well kept path between the rose pink sandstone. The evening before, we had traipsed in the dark to the same spot with 300 other tourists for “Petra by Night” and I’d recommend it. The night walk costs 12 Dinars ($17) and the day pass costs 50 Dinar ($71) but it was worth it. I avoided the donkey and camel rides but the 20 Dinar ($28) horse cart gallop up the walk is also worth it. The two hour up the 800 steps to the “high place” did not seem worth it to me but you can take a donkey up and then, for those who enjoy vertiginous thrills, it might be worth it. But then you could also walk up in stilettos.

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Although Petra is touristy, it is much less so than many places on anyone’s list of places to see. I recommend getting up and going at 6 a.m. when the park opens. And bring friends.

Mehendi For Weddings, Brides, and Friends

Getting Mehendi, or henna, is usually associated with Bangladeshi wedding holuds (bridal shower), but it can also be done for other celebrations. Sometimes the celebration is the celebration of friendship bonding.

Mehendi flower on the palm.

Mehendi is a temporary tattoo of curling designs done on the feet, legs, hands, and arms. The ladies who do it are quick and the talents vary just as with any craft. The actual tubes they use are long thing cones made of foil paper. Depending on how much Mehendi you get done, it is fairly quick. A hand can take fifteen minutes. What takes a long time is waiting for the dye to dry. The Mehendi can be all natural or synthetic and it comes in several colors. The paste is usually a dark vegetable green but the resulting color may be orange, brown, or black. Once the Mehendi dries, the paste cracks and it will itch. The best way to remove the paste is with olive oil. I found using a spoon also helped.

Scraping the Mehendi paste off with olive oil.
Mehendi hands of friends.

A few weeks ago, a friend was departing for the U.S. and she wanted Mehendi. It would be clear that she had arrived from the ‘desh! Deshi style!

Mehendi on the feet of friends.

A Turkish Village Breakfast

Pastry filled with spinach.

Near the famous Galeta Tower in Istanbul, you can go down a winding side street and find a village style breakfast feast. Sadly, I only have one photo of the food from that meal of fresh eggs fried with spices and unctious olive oil, fresh cheese, doughy breads, colorful chunky fruit compotes, sausages galore, honey, and so many other dishes that my food coma prevented me from recalling the dreams that I ate.

The backside of the cafe hides the quaintness inside.

Dating in the Desh

Courtship, Bangladeshi style.

Bangladesh is a crowded country so getting away from the madding crowd for a quiet “date” with someone you are courting or being courted by… is somewhat a matter of real estate. Famous Lalbagh Fort, considered a mini Taj Mahal, looks quite different from what is shown on the Amazing Race TV show, but it is worth visiting. There is a mausoleum built by a grieving father, a harem with baths, sweet smelling flowers, and a 300-year-old pool. Interestingly, what makes the fort so attractive is not the tomb, pool, or harem. In a crowded country, the walkways and niches provide a private place in a public space for young Bangladeshi couples to court. This a romantic place and there must be something in the air.

Lalbagh Fort’s mausoleum to two daughters.

Love rocks!

Courting Deshi couples wait outside the gate for the Fort to open.
The harem at Lalbagh Fort with the crowded apartment blocks just outside the fence.

Istanbul On My Mind

Still remembering the food, cafes, and views of Istanbul. How I long for the chewy sesame delight that is simit…

Simit is a bagel like bread… and yes, that is honey on the clotted cream…
Golden, crunchy, healthy, and one of 20 breakfast dishes…

Some day, I’ll be back in the city of Istanbulli hearts.

Down at the harbor, get a famous stuffed potato the size of your head!
Atmospheric anyone?
View from the Galeta tower.

Veggies to live for!