Cookbook Review: The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles

March 12, 2013 in cookbook, Food Porn, review

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When I was given an opportunity to review this delightful cookbook “The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles” by Rinku Bhattacharya I happily accepted.

I simply adore all types of Indian food. It is all a wonderland of new and old favorite flavors.

My introduction to Indian food was through Bengali home cooking – my boyfriend in graduate school was from Bangladesh, via Hyderabad.

My ethnic food background is Colombian food (which doesnt go heavy on spice although it is nicely infused by cumin and cilantro) and American Midwestern Farm home cooking.

When I sat down to the first curry I had ever eaten, made by my then new boyfriend, it had boiled eggs in it! And it was served with rice and shiny red chili pods. I loved it, I can actually remember as I type this just how it tasted.

I then promptly lost the ability to taste anything when I chomped on one of the “garnish chilis” and the boyfriend laughed and laughed at my silly American ways. I was less amused and learned not to consider them edible.

This cookbook echos the techniques I saw him use and expands them hugely into a Big Bang of edible deliciousness.

Bengali cuisine is not vegetarian and does feature fish – makes sense considering that Bangladesh is composed in large part of the Ganges Delta at the confluence of two major rivers – The Bramaputra and The Ganges as they empty into the Bay of Bengal.

The book begins by introducing the core Bengali five spice blend also called Panch Phoron (all whole seeds):

  • Fennel seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Nigella seeds
  • Black Mustard seeds
  • Fenugreek seeds

The author shares a large pantry of spices at the beginning of the book. I suggest not going out and simply using it like a shopping list but rather get spices/items as needed for each recipe you try anew. Please take the time to store these items properly so that they do not lose their flavor in between your Bengali experiments.

She goes on to discuss spice pastes and blends. One can usually find these in local Indian stores. Be sure not to get old imported jars of it – get freshly prepared pastes/blends made by the Indian store proprietors or someone near by. You can also make your own!

The remainder of the book is filled with delicious recipes that will work you through the major broad fundamental categories of Bengali cuisine.

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In the center of the book is a grouping of color photographs for some of the recipes in the book. They will entice you to jump right in and start learning about Bengali cuisine.

Chapters cover topics such as:

  • Rice and Breads
  • Dal (lentils)
  • Bhaja (fried items)
  • Vegetarian 1st courses
  • Vegetarian Entrees
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Meat dishes
  • Chutneys, Relishes, Bhortas
  • Drinks
  • Snacks
  • Desserts

I highly recommend this cookbook and suggest that – if you are interested in expanding your cooking repertoire – you should dive into this well written, personal, and very usable book!

Book Information:

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hippocrene Books
  • Title: The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles”
  • Author: Rinku Bhattacharya
  • Publication Date: Nov 15 2012
  • ISBN-10: 0781813050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0781813051