A fresh, seasonal diet is crucial for Bangladeshi cuisine, as the country does not have four, but six seasons.
Each two-month season brings its own distinct flavors and festivals.
How to cook like a Bangladeshi at home
The mango and jackfruit season in summer, also known as Aam Katli, sets the stage for an abundance of these fruits, as well as watermelon, pineapple, lychee, and Jaam (fruit to dark purple core that stains hands when you eat them).
In the Sylhet region, mango, jackfruit and sweets are offered to married women by their brothers, fathers and uncles to welcome the New Year and this ends with lavish feasts, or “Iftars”.
Boishakh, the first month of the summer season, is marked by festivals and festivities, in particular the Boishakhi Melas (summer fairs).
Milk-based sweets include shondesh, a popular delicacy, and payesh, the Bengali rice pudding.
This season ensures a healthy allotment of fried or bhaja dishes such as started bhaja (eggplant fritters) and daler bora (lentil fritters).
Pair these crispy fried snacks with steaming cups of masala tea for the Bangladeshi equivalent of hygge.
This dry time of year marks the start of the wedding season and, of course, the wedding food.
Feasts are incomplete without roast chicken, a pan-seared chicken dish in a rich onion sauce, and various biriyanis and beef dishes.
Firni, a ground rice pudding flavored with rose water and cardamom, is always present at the wedding table with mishti (Bangladeshi sweets).
End of fall
The winter harvest begins, as do festivals such as Nabanno, or “new food,” bringing with it the delicacies of the pitha.
This Bengali art form celebrates the winter harvest through the baking of various rice flour cakes, which range from simple flat breads to complex sweets.
A favorite is bhapa pitha, a steamed rice flour cake with molasses.
One of my favorites is the pitha chaler; flatbreads with rice flour, accompanied by a light meat curry.
Date juice is collected in clay pots overnight from palm dates and simmered for hours to be made into various types of molasses, or gur.
Gur is essential to Bangladeshi confectionery and an ingredient in hand shake (fried molasses and flour cakes).
Bhaajis, or sautéed vegetables, include winter greens and small squash, such as pointed squash and bitter gourd.
Shatkora, a citrus fruit native to the Sylhet region is readily available during this time and traditionally cooked with beef.
This is the season when the fruits begin to ripen and the mustard fields explode in splashes of yellow gold.
Mustard is a key ingredient in Bangladeshi cuisine and a component of panch phoron or the Bengali five spices.
Mustard oil is used in bhortas and mustard greens are used in broths with Shutki (dried fish).
Finely grated amaranth leaves (laal saak) are cooked with garlic and chili peppers, a popular dish this season with a serving of steamed rice.
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