Dina Begum and her Brick Lane cookbook
For some reason, at least in England, Bangladeshi curry houses took everyone by storm in the '70s. And Dina Begum proves once more that it was largely because of the unique culinary prowess of the Bengali immigrants, attempting to escape the torment of the Liberation War.
In her latest cookbook, Brick Lane – Food from Everywhere, Begum speaks of the culinary tales of immigrants from all over the world, including Bangladesh, making it a very interesting read for people of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Brick Lane, a name common to so many Bangladeshis, especially from the Sylheti community, signifies a little bit of 'desh' in a foreign land. There is a common saying that when one enters the neighbourhood, no longer do they feel alienated, because they breathe in the same aroma, experience the same chaos, and gaze upon the same scenario, which they would expect back in their hometown.
The magic not only lies in the familiarity, but in the fact that immigrants from several nations, including Korea, Syria, India, and Pakistan live together as one, in Brick Lane.
Begum, in her book, is very descriptive of how they share their culture, cuisine and values with the rest of the world, while living peacefully with each other. Dina Begum also reveals the stories of her childhood and memories related to Brick Lane, and talks about the famous restaurants by the different communities and shares selected recipes from each, along with her age-old personal recipes that she has inherited from her grandmother.
Drawing on influences from across Asia and beyond, the cuisines offer endless preparations of the local bounty — chaat masala, gram flour, cacao powder, ghee, jaggery, dried rose petals, only to name a few. These ingredients are used sparingly to reach the depths of flavours, creating irresistible combinations.
If you are planning a party, this book has just about everything; from evening snacks to dinner recipes. It is for you to choose what you want. The best thing is that there is a special mention of healthy recipes, including gluten free, wheat free, vegan, and dairy free.
For the regular Bangali, a dim bhaji (spicy omelette) and aloo bhaji (spiced potato slivers fried) may just be regular day-to-day meals, cooked without any pre-meditated thought process, and certainly not worth following a recipe book meticulously, but the book is just not singularly meant for the South Asian readers, but for everyone around the world, who perhaps would not even know what the mentioned items were.
So, what's in store for the typical Bangladeshi, who wants to escape from the lacklustre of regular ritual meals and cook up up something different for a special occasion?
There's plenty actually!
Beef bourguignon burger, moussaka, mushroom shwarma, flambé cognac truffles, chocolate chai, and so much more. If anyone is interested, the recipes are sincere to the traditions, detailed and easy to make.
There are minor trivial objections, as with any cookbook. For this one, it seemed that proper Sylheti cuisine by the Brick Lane Bengali majority was not explored to its potential, as some of the recipes are extremely appetising and could have been easily shared with the world through this book.
But then again, these are just small distractions from an overall awesome cookbook that's definitely worth looking up at the bookstore.
Photo courtesy: Dina Begum