Earlier this year, globally renowned vlogger Trevor James aka The Food Ranger visited Dhaka, exploring the city’s culinary gems. To no one’s surprise, videos featuring his food outings in Dhaka took social media by storm. After all, Trevor and his videos are immensely popular -- having travelled and filmed gastronomic adventures in many parts of the globe. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Star, the Canadian globetrotter and food connoisseur currently based in China, spoke about his Bangladesh trip and how he now reflects back on Dhaka.
What were your expectations when you were planning the Dhaka trip?
Trevor: Before landing in Dhaka, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was curious about Dhaka and Bangladesh and didn’t really know what it would be like. I also wasn’t too sure about what the food would be like but was looking forward to tasting the local cuisine.
Before arriving, to be honest, I didn’t really feel it would be much different from other countries in the region. After exploring the streets and trying out food at local restaurants, I was completely blown away!
Having tasted food in so many cities, where do you put Dhaka on the culinary map? What’s unique about this city?
Trevor: To me, it was all about the incredible variety of spices and the vast array of fish dishes to try, and of course the flavour of mustard! After having the bhorta and fish dishes, I was taken aback by the intense and delightful flavours. Food-wise, Dhaka is definitely one of the favourite cities I’ve visited.
If you have to pick just one dish from Dhaka, what would that be?
TREVOR: That’s a tough call! But trying out bhorta for the first time at Nirob Hotel was an unforgettable experience. It made me realise how incredibly complex and delicious food in Dhaka is.
In the videos you shot in Dhaka, you’re frequently heard referring to people as “Mama”…how did that come about?
TREVOR: My friend Shimon, who was showing us around Dhaka, told me I could respond to people with “thank you, mama”. I tried it a few times and found that everyone reacted in a very positive way. So, I kept saying it more and more, and pretty soon it was part of all the videos we filmed!
What kind of vibe did you get from Dhaka while filming? How do you, and your wife and videographer Ting, reflect upon the trip?
TREVOR: I found Dhaka to be a really cool city -- modern in certain areas and traditional in others. We loved exploring the bustling back alleys of Puran Dhaka as well as the modern areas of Gulshan and checked out some of the trendy restaurants there too.
There were some areas that were so busy and crowded… for me that’s what made it so exciting because I love to capture lots of energy and action on camera.
We thoroughly enjoyed our rickshaw ride around Puran Dhaka. It was almost relaxing in a way to sit down, elevated above the foot traffic, watching the street scene and looking out for delicious food to try.
Moreover, we had no idea that we would be barely asked to pay for things. We would insist on paying, but to no avail.
Canadians are known to be polite, but I had no idea hospitality like what we experienced in Dhaka, exists.
My wife Ting fell in love with Bangladesh too. She was unsure about what to expect. Your country may not be that prominent on the tourism trail at the moment, but after leaving the airport and walking around, she kept saying how cool Bangladesh is and how safe she felt.
You also visited Chattogram. What was the culinary experience like in the port city?
TREVOR: The mezbani beef was unreal! The huge pots of beef curry over wood fire were a sight to behold!
Next time we come back, we want to visit Sylhet and also go down to Mawa Ghat to try ilish fried in mustard oil. We fell in love with Bangladesh and can’t wait to revisit!
Follow The Food Ranger’s journey at www.thefoodranger.com.