I was never a morning person. I don't like the idea of waking up early. I prefer to enjoy the 10 plus hours of sleep that I must have in order to function on a day-to-day basis. I chose to be a writer because it meant no hectic schedules and no waking up at the wee hours of the day for nine-to-fve rosters. Just some deadlines. Time is of the essence and I have a little too much time on my hands.
Breakfast does not rank high in my priority list. No surprises there. On most occasions I consume toast with my cup of morning coffee. Sometimes, I just put butter or spread an extra layer of orange marmalade over the coating of butter. The bitter smack of the toppings complements the bitter, black coffee.
On occasions, when I feel adventurous, I try out the tested Star restaurant at Thatari Bazaar. Maybe it's just tradition more than anything else, but their coloured 'shuji-halwa' and hot greasy 'parathas' simply feel God-sent.
Enough has been written and re-written on the breakfast galore at the numerous eateries in Old Dhaka. Starting from 'nehari' that is consumed by dipping the fingers into the sticky broth, to some delectable 'tehari' or simply the quintessential 'shuji-halwa.'
As Dhaka has expanded Northward, the old Dhakaiite cuisine has moved to the other parts of the city. I remembered once having an amazing preparation of 'lotpoti', a concoction of chicken giblets with some out-of-this-world chicken stew – a close cousin of the 'nehari.'
And then there is the famous vegetarian breakfast. The union of pumpkin, papaya and potatoes, spiked with 'paanch foron.' Of special note was the vegetarian 'nashta' from Maran Chand and Sons, or Deshbandhu -- names that have been synonymous to quality for eons. Their 'paratha' is not the greasy fanfare and apparently mundane. Yet the specialty probably lies in the simplicity of the combination.
But that was dining out for breakfast in the 90s. These days I settle for some leftover beef curry and some 'chapatis' made from brown 'atta'. Of course it is not possible to make an elaborate breakfast every day, but as far as I can remember, Friday breakfast was always special.
'Bou-khud' is a preparation made from chipped rice, accumulated over a long period and specially cooked on special occasions; usually devoured with omelettes and often with 'shutki bhorta' (onions mashed with dry-fish). Another special dish that made Friday morning meals an eagerly anticipated event in our household was the preparation of what we called 'Kanjir jou'. The preparation was elaborate. One had to put one handful of rice in an earthen pot and soak it in water. Over the period of a week, a substantial amount was accumulated and cooked in low flame in a 'khichuri' like, gooey preparation. The fermented rice gave the taste buds an acrid kick and was devoured with mustard oil or the famed 'shutki bhorta.'
'Nashta' as we called it, was a regal affair. Before venturing out of the house it was mandatory to have a king-sized meal. Sometimes accompanied by 'two' poached eggs – sunny side up – and a 'loaf of bread; that is what I call a filling breakfast.
And 'nashta' as we knew it has changed forever. Our traditional 'alu bhaji/alu dom' has been replaced by breakfast cereals and these are now considered Godsends as they are quick to prepare. Some opt for smoothies, a delectable drink made from yoghurt and on most occasions, seasonal fruits. Some even add oats to their drink.
As Dhaka embraces western concepts, dining out for continental breakfast menus has been a fairly recent addition. Built upon our tradition of venturing into orthodox dining experiences, this new experience is nevertheless a fulfilling one. One can opt for a continental or English breakfast at the many high-end eateries that have sprung up, especially at the North end of the city.
I am particularly drawn to the English breakfast -- a full meal usually consisting of baked beans, sausages and eggs, served with a variety of side dishes as you desire, and accompanied by tea.
And lastly, no breakfast is ever complete without the quintessential breakfast beverage – tea and for some, coffee. Without this, breakfast would be incomplete. For school going children however, the staple is milk, although they might not be too eager to consume it.
Like I said at the beginning, I am not a morning person, but that is no reason for not enjoying the most important meal of the day. The old dictum, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper!" is what I live by.
Special thanks to The Westin, Dhaka for allowing us to do the photoshoot at Seasonal Taste