Durga pujas food habits and culture...!!!

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Published: 07th September 2009
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Bengalees are very well known for their love for foods. You can recognize Bengalees not only in India but in all corners of the world by their food habits and food culture. Bengalees do not need special occasions to have a delicious lunch or dinner; they are always ready for it. To them, having food with friends and family members itself is a big occasion. And when special occasions really come, Bengalees' appetite knows no bound. Held in autumn, Durga Puja is the biggest festival for Bengalees not only in Kolkata and other parts of India but also in Bangladesh and is the time when they break all routines, ignore health problems and disobey doctor's advices to satisfy their taste buds and fill up their stomach, what they call as pet puja (worshipping the pet (stomach)).

Indeed, the stomachs of Bengalese get a four-day long puja along with Goddess Durga, especially in Bengal and Kolkata. Kitchen in all Bengalee houses remain crowded with women, who put their best effort to prepare delicious dishes for their family members. Unlike normal days, they do it very happily as the festive fever firms its grip on their mood.Durga pujas food habits and culture is bit different. As bengalees are more fond of fish than meats, a wide variety of fish items are cooked in all houses among which the most popular are vapa ilish (steamed hilsa with mustard paste and spices), rui machher kalia ( rohu fish cooked with spices, onion, garlic and ginger), chingri maachher malaikari (lobster cokked with coconut milk and variety of spices) and chital machher muithha (balls made with boiled and smashed chital fish). As sacrificing goats is an age-old tradition of Durga Puja that some bengalee families still follow, varieties of mutton dishes are also prepared in those houses.

Durga Puja is the best time of the year for people who run restaurants in Kolkata. You will find long queues outside all the reputed restaurants in the city during the five days of the festival. For them Durga Puja is a food festival that makes a great impact on their balance sheet. No matter whether it is dawn or midnight, you will struggle to get a vacant table anywhere. No matter whether it is a Mughlai restaurant or Chinese, South Indian or multi-cuisine, you will find waiters struggling to satisfy the increasing needs of the Bengalee customers. Some restaurants have even minimized the need of Bengalee housewives to deal with utensils in the kitchens by offering special bengalee lunch and dinner. Several reputed restaurants in Kolkata serve special dishes from traditional bengalee cuisine to their customers during special occasions like Durga Puja and Poila Boisakh (Bengali new year). All kind of items, starting from bitter items to sweet dishes with curries, fries, fishes and mutton in between are served on small bowls along with plain rice, known as bhat in Bengali. Other than big restaurants, the roadside eateries that prepare rolls, chowmeins and other snacks, the fuchkawalas, jhalmuriwalas, ice cream parlours and cold drink stalls too witness huge crowds in front of them from dawn to dusk throughout the day.

The description of Bengalees' love for food remains incomplete without the mention of sweets. Endless varieties of sweets are displayed in the showcases of sweet shops to cater to the needs of people. Especially on Bijaya Dashami, the last day of the festival, the demand for sweets reaches the maximum level as distributing sweets among friends, relatives and neighbors is an age-old tradition of Durga puja. As Dashami is considered as the day of bijay (victory) of Goddess Durga over the evil, bengalees celebrate the occasion with sweets. Wide varieties of sweet dishes are also prepared by people in their houses on this day, among which the most common are narkel naru (balls made with the mixture of grinded coconut and molasses) elojhelo, malpoa and rashboda. Among the salty items that are served along with the sweets, nimki is the most popular.

If you are a food lover and want to discover the magic of traditional Bengalee cuisine, make a trip to Kolkata during the Durga Puja. You and your tastebuds will remember the trip forever.


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