Old Dhaka recipes | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 06, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 06, 2016

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Old Dhaka recipes

Kachchi Biryani

The term "kachchi" means raw referring to the biryani ingredients being combined raw in layers instead of first cooking the meat or rice separately. Traditionally, kachchi biryani is cooked in a clay oven and the cooking pot is usually sealed with flour dough to allow the biryani to cook in its own steam. The sealed pot is not opened until the biryani is ready to be served. Kachchi biryani is usually a featured dish for wedding and social gatherings and celebrations. Layers of meat, rice and potatoes are infused with warm and delectable blends of aromatic spices to prepare kachchi biryani and each spoonful is a mouth-watering surprise.


2 kg mutton (large pieces)

1 kg aromatic or basmati rice

1 1/2 cup ghee,1/2 kg potatoes, same size

2 cups chopped onion, 4 tbsp ginger paste

2 tbsp garlic paste, 1 tbsp cumin powder

1 tbsp chili powder, 11/2 cup plain yogurt

1 tsp nutmeg powder, 1/2 mace powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder, 1 tsp crushed cloves

1 tsp green cardamom powder, 10-12 whole black pepper

10 alubukhara, 10-12 almonds

1/4 cup raisins, 3-4 tbsp kewra essence

Salt as needed

Ground turmeric, just a little to add colour


Clean and rinse the mutton. Marinate with 1 tablespoon of salt for half an hour. Clean the mutton again and completely rinse out all the water. Set aside. Fry the onion until they are crisp. Crush the onions lightly into smaller pieces and set aside. Sprinkle a bit of turmeric on the potatoes and fry them in the same ghee. Keep these aside. Now marinate the mutton with salt, fried onions, ginger, garlic, cumin, chilli powder, cardamom-cinnamon powder, clove and kewra. Pour the marinated mutton along with the mix evenly into a large sauce pan. Set aside. In a separate pan, start boiling 6 cups of water with salt. Add rice into the water. As soon as the rice starts to get cooked, turn off the heat and let the water drain. Keep the rice water aside for later use. Add 1 cup of rice water and 1/2 cup of ghee into the sauce pan containing the mutton. Cover the pan and let it rest for half an hour. Now layer the fried potatoes, alubukhara, almonds and raisins on top of the mutton. Cover the mutton with rice, and add the remaining rice water and ghee. Make sure the water level just touches the top of the rice. Seal the cover shut by wrapping an aluminum foil all around. Make sure the cover is air tight and the vapour does not get to escape. Alternatively, the cover can also be sealed using wet flour dough. Finally turn on the stove and start cooking over medium heat. After 15 minutes, lower the heat and cook for about an hour. Keep on low heat until both the rice and meat appear soft and cooked. Remove the cover once the very distinct biryani aroma starts to come out. Mix rice and mutton gently before serving. Serve with an usual chutney or the traditional burhani.

Beef glassy

The term 'Glassy or Glaze' was a misrepresentation of the word Glace by the cooks in the olden days. Beef glassy is a traditional and popular recipe of old Dhaka. It is supposed to have thick oil layer which looks like glass. Although this is a very rich dish, you can make it yourself by following the recipe.


1 kg beef, 1 cup onion paste

1 tsp red chilli powder, 1/2 cup thick milk

2 tbsp curd, 2 tbsp ginger paste

2 tbsp garlic paste, 1 tbsp peanut paste, 1 tbsp pistachio paste, 6-7 whole green chilli, 2 cinnamon, 4 cardamon, 2 tbsp raisin, 1/4 cup grated mawa

1/2 tbsp nutmeg and mace powder

1 cup fried onion, 6  boiled eggs, 2 tsp ghee

½ cup oil, Salt to taste


Wash beef and mix with onion paste, ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, curd, milk, nut-paste, nutmeg, mace salt and oil. Let it marinate for 1/2 an hour. Heat oil in a pan. Add marinated beef and cook for 10 minutes while continuing to stir. Add 1/2 cup of water, cardamom, cinnamon, and mawa. Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on. Then add green chillis, raisins and alubukhara and half of the fried onion. Cook in a very low flame for 10 minutes. When the meat is tender and oil floats over, remove from heat. Garnish with the remaining fried onion and eggs. Serve hot. 


The classic nehari originated back in the 18th century during the Mughal Empire. It used to be a favourite early morning dish of the Nawabs. Today, nehari is famous amongst South Asian Muslims, particularly in Dhaka and Chittagong. It takes one whole night to cook and it is ready to eat in the early morning. 


1 kg beef or mutton legs, cut into pieces

1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 3 tbsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste, 4 tbsp oil or ghee

3 tbsp whole wheat flour, 1 cup deep fried onion

Salt to taste

For nehari  masala

2 small cardamom pods

2 tsp fennel seeds, 2 tsp coriander powder 

2 whole black cardamom pods, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp whole black peppercorns

10 dry red chill, 2 tbsp poppy seeds

4-5 tbsp roasted chickpeas powder

10 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, One blade mace, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp nutmeg

For garnishing

1 peeled and finely chopped onion

Fresh coriander

2 tsp fresh, peeled and sliced ginger

5-6 finely sliced green chilli


To make nehari masala, dry roast all the nehari masala ingredients separately. Remove from heat and allow it to cool down. Grind to a fine powder. Keep aside. Now heat ghee in a deep pan, add leg pieces, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder and sauté on high heat till well browned. Add nehari masala and continue to sauté for two minutes. Add half of the fried onions and mix. Add enough water and salt and bring it to a boil. Cover and cook in low flame for 7-8 hours. Mix whole wheat flour in half cup of water well so that there are no lumps. Add the remaining fried onions to the nehari. Add the wheat flour mixture and mix well. Cook till the gravy thickens and the meat begins to leave the bones. Garnish with the fried onion, ginger slices and green chilli slices. Serve hot.

Khashir chaap


1 kg mutton chops

2 tbsp raw papaya paste

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 tbsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste

2 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp shahi garam masala powder

2 tbsp poppy seeds paste

2 tbsp cashew paste

200 gm butter or ghee

1/2 cup oil 

1 tbsp sugar 

Salt to taste


In a wide dish, marinate meat with raw papaya paste and a spoonful of yogurt. Papaya paste acts as a natural meat tenderizer. Leave it for 3-4 hours. Now, wash the chops and pat them dry. In a mixing bowl, mix yogurt with all the wet and dry spices. Season the mixture with salt and sugar. Rub the spice mixture well on both sides of the chops. Allow it to rest for an hour. Heat oil and ghee in a wide frying pan. Now, reduce the heat and arrange the mutton chops in a single layer. Cook it covered on very low heat. Frequently remove the lid and mix the spices. Fry the chops till both sides turn tender and golden brown. If you want, sprinkle rose water over and keep it covered till you serve. Enjoy with biryani or paratha.

Sheer khorma

Eid in old Dhaka is not complete without sheer khorma. Sheer khorma is a traditional preparation made on the festival of Eid. Every household has its own recipe of this rich preparation. Here is an authentic version of this delicacy that is loaded with almonds, cashew nuts, pistachios, raisins and dates. This dish contains huge amounts of milk, many fruits and the main ingredient, vermicelli. This recipe is very popular in old Dhaka and in other Asian countries. 


2 litre milk

1 cup broken vermicelli

3 tbsp ghee

1 tin condensed milk

1/4 cup almonds blanched and slivered

1/4 cup cashew nuts blanched and slivered

1/4 cup pistachio blanched and slivered

1/4 cop deseeded chopped dates

1/4 tsp cardamom powder


Heat the ghee in a deep pan, add vermicelli and cook till turn golden brown, keep aside. In the same pan, heat ghee and add chopped dry fruits and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Heat milk till reduced to three fourths its volume. Add roasted vermicelli and sugar to the milk and simmer till vermicelli is cooked. Add fried dry fruits mixture and cardamom powder and condensed milk. Cook for 5 minutes on low flame. Switch off the fire and stir, garnish with the dry fruits and serve hot, warm or chilled.

Tip: If you are using dry dates then don't sauté them in ghee. Instead cook them in milk. You can also soak them overnight to soften them.

Shahi tukra


6 bread slices

8 cups milk

Ghee for frying bread

2 tbsp dry fruits for garnishing

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup condensed milk


Trim the crust and cut each bread slice into triangular shapes. Heat ghee in a pan and fry the bread pieces for about a minute, turn over and fry about a minute more or until light brown and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper. Meanwhile, bring milk to boil, reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes, stirring continuously or until the quantity is reduced to half. Add sugar and continue to simmer for five minutes. Now add condensed milk and mix well. Remove from heat and allow it to cool down. Place bread pieces on a serving dish, pour chilled reduced milk on top with dry fruits. Served chilled.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Food prepared by Selina Parvin

Food styling: RBR

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