Indian Recipe

Bengali cuisine is unique and distinctive.

Written by Banani Chakraborty

Bengali cuisine is unique and distinctive. People all over the globe agree that Bengali cuisine is unique as well as distinctive. Bengali recipe is not only the richest but also the most dynamic in Indian cooking history. People are curious to know the reason. In fact, Bengali cuisine is the most adaptive and innovative.

To begin with, Bengali Cuisine is simple and distinctive. Further, it is elegant, unique and extremely tasty. Only Mughlai food may come close to Bengali food.  It is the most diverse cookeries. They make savoury dishes with all sorts of seasonal vegetables; fishes of ponds, rivers and seas; mutton and chicken. Even, they are rich in desserts too.

In fact, sweets, fish and mustard oil are three inevitable items for the Bengalis.  They cannot live without these three things.

Here I will discuss only the main food of Bengal.

What is unique and distinctive about Bengali cuisine?

Bengali cuisine is a cooking style that originated in Bengal. As a matter of fact, Bengali cuisine reaches a new dimension with the advent of British rule in Calcutta. If we try to search the history of Bengali food, then we will see that a new cooking style emerged.   Bengali food got a new momentum with new recipes like tea, cutlet, chop and etc.  Even today they are ruling the Bengali cuisine.

Culinary influences in Bengali cuisine:

Bengali cuisine is so distinctive and unique due to the influences of the Sultanate, the Mughals, the British, the Nababs, the Chinese.

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Historical influences over Bengali cuisine:

Delhi sultans, Mughal emperors and the British ruled Bengal from 13th century to 1947. Nawabs also ruled Bengal. A good number of Chinese immigrants settled in and around Kolkata. Bengali cuisine is a cooking style that originated in Bengal.

Effect of Tagore family in Bengali cuisine:

Besides, several Zamindar families, like the Tagore family, started to settle in Calcutta in the 19th century. This Tagore family tried various experiments in their household kitchen. They started to adopt different cooking styles like European, Awadhi. South Indian and many more.

Now, we can divide these Bengali cuisines as household innovations, ‘bhoger ranna’, occasional food and restaurant culture.  Further, we may classify them as Vegetarian or Niramish culture and Non-vegetarian or Amish culture.

The Influence of the Widows in Bengali cuisine:

In fact, Bengali widows contributed with an umpteen number of vegetable preparation. Therefore, they deserve special thanks for their relentless experiments of Bengali cuisine. The widows in those days lived a secluded life. Even their kitchen was segregated from the other family members who were non-veg eaters. As they cannot eat fish, meat, egg and etc. non-veg items, so they started to demonstration their hidden versatility of cooking vegetable items.

They choose even the most insignificant and the most minuscule sorts of leafy stems of the creepers. Moreover, they use raw papaya, pumpkin, eggplant, raw banana, potato and etc. In fact, Bengalis use all part of the banana tree.  Adventurous Bengali housewives cooked thor, kachkola or mocha in an engaging style.

Non-vegetarian or Amish culture in Bengali cuisine:

To begin with, Bengali love fish more than meat or chicken. However, they cannot think about a launch without fish. In fact, Bengalis live to eat. Generally, they believe that fishless foods are in vain. To them, a meal without fish is of no pleasure. You can find numerous perennial rivers; ponds and etc. water-bodies along with the Bay of Bengal. Consequently, the bounty of fishes is available all through the year. Among them, hilsha holds the most esteem. Although rohu is honoured as the king of fish.

Daily Bengali cuisine at home:

At first, I will discuss the preparation of delicious food at home. Due to their relentless experiments over the years, Bengali cuisine reached a new height. Moreover, their hard labour comes to fruition. The culmination of which is the present culinary style of Bengal.

It is not only unique but also unbelievably tasty. The distinctive feature of Bengali cuisine is its simplicity and flavours. It will pop up in your mouth after each bite. Further, many dishes are beneficial for the gut as well. Moreover, Bengalis do not want to destroy anything. So they try to use every part of plants or fish. For example, you may take pumpkin or banana or gourd(lau).

If you taste once, then you will definitely become a Bengali food lover. I think, that the experienced persons will agree with me.

Starter with Bengali cuisine:

At first, the Bengalis serve salt and lemon wedges in the beginning. Bengali cuisine generally starts with bitter, followed by salty and sour, then tok and finishes with sweet. Another speciality of Bengal is that the Bengalis serve food course-wise. They begin with appetizers. Then they prefer lighter vegetarian options.  Then the non-veg items followed by fish, seafood and meat.

Their Main cereal is rice which is non-vegetarian. Their curries can outnumber the cuisine of others both in varieties and tastes. To begin with, the Bengali cuisine follows a hierarchical course of dishes. They start with the bitter item like ‘uchhe bhaja’ or shukto.

A lot of people prefer to begin with a dollop of ghee and salt along with rice.

Below are a few lip-smacking Bengali cuisines.



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Shukto is also a very common item after ghee-rice. It is a type of appetizer. It is a stew-like preparation. Actually, It is a mixture of vegetables and bitter gourd.

Generally, Bengalis start their meal with this. You will get the sweet, sour, bitter and salty taste in the same dish. However, this special item is very popular and distinctive Bengali cuisine.

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Vegetarian dishes:

Bengali cuisine has a vast range of vegetable dishes. Some of them are prepared without any onions, garlic or masoor dal. The variety of vegetarian dishes are different shaks, chhyanchara, chechki, chhokka, chorchori, labra, dalna, rosa, and torkari. It clearly indicates the vast range of daily cuisine.

Usually, they prepare vegetarian dishes with delicate spices especially panch phoron.


Another very common item after shukto is chhachda. This delicious Bengali cuisine is not only unique but also tasty. It is a unique amalgamation of Pui Shak, mishti kumro or pumpkin, radish or mulo, melt-in-mouth. Moreover, they use amaranth leaves or naram data shak, shojne data or moringa drumsticks, Badi or lentils dumplings. Further, they use bones, fats, head of the fishes mostly rui and Katla. Sometimes with add poppy seeds and mustard paste. It is a treasure in the Bengali vegan fare.


At first, they boil whole vegetables like potato, pumpkin, bean, papaya, sour mange or dal. Afterwards, they smashed them. Then they season with mustard oil/ghee, green Chile, red shallot and spices.

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Main Course of Bengali cuisine:

The main course starts with lentils accompanied either by bhaja or bhate (sheddho). After lentils come vegetable items like chhakka, chhenchki, mishti dalna. These are slightly spiced preparation. After these, come ghonto and dalna. They are spicy food mixed with fish.


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After that comes Machher matha die sona muger dal’. This is a very special item. It is a very common item for any Bengali occasion like marriage, picnic, Sunday or holiday special, get together, thread ceremony, ‘mukhe bhata’ and etc.

This is a very popular Bengali cuisine. The Bengalis use the fish head into moong dal. Generally, it is a special variety of moong dal, famous as sona muger dal. In fact, you will hardly get this variation of dal in the rest of India.

Mochar ghonto:

At first, Bengali housewife takes hours to peel a banana flower. They spend hours in this lethargic job. Afterwards, the actual cooking starts. That is why it is mind-boggling.

Muri Ghonto:

It is another distinctive Bengali cuisine. It is basically a mixture of deep-fried small-grained rice with some vegetables, lentils, fish-head (gills, brain, eyes and etc.) and spices.  Bengalis eat it with great relish.

Fish items:

Then comes Bengalis the most favourite macher jhol. Fish is the most dominant and common item of Bengali cuisine.  Over forty types of freshwater fishes are common. These fishes include Rui, Katla, koi, Tangra, singi, magur, pabda, parse, ilish and etc.

Bengalis prepare it in an umpteen number of variations and tastes depending on the size, texture and fat. It may be very simple or light or a bit spicy. Like vegetables, Bengalis cook fish items any way like jhol (simple, spicy ginger or tomato-based), jhal (the combination of mustard base and green chillies), ombol.

Further, it may be special recipes like fish Kalia, korma, bhapa or paturi. Besides, there is Chingri macher malai curry or chingri potoler dorma. Bengalis use posto, curd, coconut and seasonal vegetables to cook various fish dishes. There are more than 100 distinct ways to cook ilish.

Parshe Maccher Jhal or tel jhol:

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It is a fish curry of parshe mach along with shorsher tel and shorshe bata. It means it is a combination of mullet fish, mustard oil and mustard paste.


The Bengalis steam fish (vegetables also) with spices.

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Betki Begun:

Zamindars of Bengals love this preparation.

Nona Illish:

It is another unique Bengali cuisine.

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Chingri Maachher Malaikari:

This is a delicious dish of prawns in a thick, spicy coconut gravy. They use fresh coconut milk or cream to make this gravy. Generally, they make this delicacy for special occasions.

Shorshe Ilish:

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Shorshe Ilish is a unique Bengali dish. This is iconic due to Bengali’s unique love for Ilish. This is a preparation of Ilish (Hilsa) fish in Mustard seeds paste.

Meat Items:

Then comes mutton preparation namely bhuno or kosha (spicy mutton curry). It is another unique and rich Bengali cuisine of meat. Bengalis are the only who are fond of both fish and meat. They cannot think their meal without fish or meat or both. You will hardly get any vegetarian.

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It is a very common and popular item. Bengalis prefer this as the last item. Sometimes, they prefer papad with chatni. They use tamarind pulp, tomatoes, unripe mangoes, amloki and etc.


Bengalis also love achar or pickles. Generally, they use mustard oil, mustard seeds, caraway seeds, chillies, aniseeds and many more to get the flavour and taste.

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Sweet items:

At last, comes rosgulla or mishit doi (sweetened yoghurt).

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Desserts of Bengali cuisine:

Apart from the above savoury part, Bengalis are crazy sweet-lovers. Bengal is, of course, the haven for all types of food lovers. If you taste these unique Bengali desserts, then you really relish. Some of these iconic desserts are Rasgulla from Habra or Naihati. ‘Chittaranjan’er rasgulla is really distinctive. Added to this is Shaktigarher langcha (lancha of Shaktigarh). Besides, there are Sitabhog and Mihidana of Burdwan.

Moreover, distinctive Bengali cuisine includes different sorts of home-made rice cakes or pithas with a stuffing of jaggery.  Among them are pati shapta, gokul pithe, rosbora, puli pithe, dudh puli, vapa pithe and many more. They are very famous.

Moreover, naru and nolen gurer shondesh are appealing to the palate. But these recipes are time consuming, hard to make and the methods are painstaking. The modern Bengali housewife hardly finds the time to prepare them. Therefore, they are fast becoming a heritage talk.

Pati Sapta:

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It is a ground rice roll with fried coconut and jaggery paste. This homemade mouth-watering dessert is every Bengalese favourite. It is easy to prepare. You will relish burst of flavors of coconut and jaggery paste with each bite.

Pithe Puli:

It is Rice Momo with stuffing of coconut paste or sweets and dipped in milk and jaggery. Its taste is almost similar to Pati Sapta. But, it is wetter and more succulent due to milk and jaggery mixture. It is another distinctive and irresistible Bengali cuisine.

Gurer Payesh:

Gurer Payesh is a rice dessert made with jaggery and dense milk. Often the Bengalis garnish it with cashew nuts and raisins to celebrate some special occasions.

Chanar payesh is also a delicious dish.

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Salient features of Bengali cuisine:

Now, I will try to discuss the salient features of Bengali cuisine. They play a vital role to distinguish Bengali food from the others. Below is a quick and brief discussion of those many features.

Gondhoraj lebu:

It adds a soothing fragrant variety. It brings a paroxysm of joy. Perhaps, it is a cross between a Mandarin orange and lime. Its origin was Rangpur, Bangladesh.

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Kalonji or nigella seeds in Bengali cuisine:

People of north India use nigella seeds in preparing achar. They add it to have a changed flavour. But, the Bengalis use it to temper the mustard oil. Then they cook different fish recipes.

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Panch Foron:

It is another unique Bengali version of spices which makes Bengali cuisine so distinctive. Actually, it is a mixture of five seeds in whole. These five whole seeds are nigella, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and black mustard. However, you can get different five-spice mixture mainly in the cuisine of Gujrat and Rajasthan. In fact, you will see the maximum use of celery seeds or Ajmoda ka beej in medicine or in Ayurveda. But in Bengali cuisine, it enhances a distinctive aromatic effect, particularly in shukto and lentils.

Garam Masala:

It contains coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, black and white peppercorns, Bay leaves, mace, ilichi and red chilli powder.

Mustard paste:

It is a distinct feature in Bengali cuisine. It plays a great role to make Bengali food unique. Generally, the whole nation more or less use whole mustard seeds to temper food.  But mustard paste is truly unique as it is something beyond. Apart from that, Bengalis use it as a whole seed or as oil for cooking.

Moreover, Bengalis use kasundi which is mustard chutney. They serve it with several sags to make it more delicious. Added to this, they add it in the ‘bhetki macher Paturi’. Besides, they add it in the unique ilish bhape. It is another very famous Bengali cuisine.


You will find plenty of coconut trees in Bengal particularly in coastal regions. Therefore, coconut gravy features a havoc role in Bengali cuisine.

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Adding sugar in Bengali cuisine:

Another distinctive feature of Bengali cuisine is that Bengalis tend to add sugar in almost all vegetables and curries, even dal curry and non-veg dishes.


Bengalis make various delicate dishes of paneer.

Poppy seeds or Posto Bata:

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Another uniqueness of Bengali cuisine is that Bengali people add poppy seeds paste in preparing different veg and non-veg items. Some very popular, common but tasty items are aloo (potato) posto, potol posto, onions (piyaj posto), chingri posto, shukto and etc. Even sometimes housewives make small dumplings of poppy seeds and fry them. Then, they mix them in a mouth-watering curry.

Besides, Bengali people ground poppy seeds to make a tight paste of it. They add salt and green chilies with this paste and eat with steamed rice. At times, they take a little amount of that paste and fry them to prepare posto bara. Then, they eat it with plain rice. Sometimes, they eat posto bara with rice and lentils.

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Raw banana or kachkala, kochu, raw papaya or kacha pepe:

Bengali housewives continuously endeavor different combinations as they don’t waste anything. They invented delicious and unique Bengali cuisine of raw banana or kachkala, kochu, raw papaya or kacha pepe. They prepare delicious but distinctive items like peper shukto, or kochur ghonto or kachkolar kofta.

Gobindo bhog chaaler bhat:

In fact, this is a special toota or broken grain rice. It possesses not only a distinct aroma but also a unique nature. Generally, the Bengalis use it to cook the bhog of the God. They add kheer into it. They prefer to eat it with just ghee and salt.

Khichuri and Begun(Eggplant) bhaja:

Another delicious Bengali cuisine is Khichuri, Begun Bhaja with pickles. Bengalis prefer this in a rainy afternoon or in the peak winter afternoon. Actually, khichuri is hot risotto of small-grained rice, moong daal (lentils), peas, carrots, beans and other vegetables.

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Some distinctive features of Bengali cuisine are:

Bengali cuisine is mainly a gravy base. Besides, the variation of gravy is unparalleled.  They are not like the onion-tomato-ginger-garlic gravy of North India or coconut gravy as in the coastal regions of South India. In addition to onion-tomato-ginger-garlic-coconut, Bengalis use curd, mustard paste, poppy seed paste and etc.

Bengalis use potatoes extensively. They make egg, fish and mutton curry using a potato. Even they use it in mutton biryani.

Bengalis use various spices, vegetables and cooking methods to prepare different distinctive dishes for the same fish.

Bengalis prefer cottage cheese (chhana) based sweets. They do not like sweets of gram flour (besan), coconut or condensed milk-based.

Final words:

Finally, Bengali cuisine is the only culinary that have numerous variations of the same items. They are not only unique and distinctive but also lip-smacking. You should look to taste these recipes as many as possible because they are no match. The mouth-watering Bengali dishes will make you a Bengali food lover.

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Banani Chakraborty

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