Bengali cuisine with Shahnaz
A certified feeder and avid thrower of dinner parties, Shahnaz has been cooking with love since she first learnt how to work a stove. She launched Tiger Kitchen in April 2016 and has hosted classes and supper clubs in the UK, USA, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
A professional food writer, Shahnaz's articles have appeared in Observer Food Monthly, Waitrose Magazine, Hyphen Online and The Daily Telegraph. She previously worked as an in-house recipe creator for an online food delivery company.
Shahnaz is also an author. You can follow her other writing projects here.
At the heart of Bengali cooking is rice - bhath - which is not only the staple food of the region, but is its very heart. The landscape is centred around rice - paddyfields dominate the scenery of Bengal: green in spring, flooded during the monsoons, and golden at the approach of harvest. The word for rice - bhath - is even used as a synonym for 'meal', which conveys its centrality. If rice is the centre stage, its supporting acts are dal (lentils) and shobji (vegetables). Maach (fish) also plays a key role, thanks to the many freshwater rivers that criss-cross Bengal, as well as the famous Bay itself.
Food is synonymous with affection and hospitality in Bengali culture. It is rare to visit any Bengali house and be permitted to leave without having sampled at least one form of hot, fried snack with tea, or chopped up fruit chatni (chutney) or bhath.
Photo (clockwise from top: doi begun (aubergine in yogurt sauce); dal (red lentils with tomato); chana bhaja (spiced chickpea curry); shadha bhath (basmati rice); maach bora (tuna cakes with chilli and lime).