I have been to Dhaka once before- only once- in 2018. The idea was to learn about the food culture of Bangladesh. I won’t say, I haven’t learned anything. But in the process, realised, that I haven’t tasted the proper Dhaka street food. In fact, being culturally similar to Bengal, or rather Kolkata, Dhaka street food is hugely different. And this blogpost is on that. I won’t say that I have tasted everything, but this is just a glimpse. Probably, this post will be updated in the future.
Tea and phuchka Around Dhaka University
Dhaka university is one of the most prominent landmarks of Dhaka. And being the hub of student activities, the street food variety can rarely be matched. Dhaka university is one of the oldest universities in the undivided Bengal and was established in early twentieth century. It’s spread across a huge campus and consists of different educational wings. Do check the details here.
But our aim was more towards the Dhaka street food around the university. And the first spot that we were taken to, was near the TSC (teacher- student centre), Dhaka university. There are numerous stalls with their phuchka and bhelpuri spreads. But we were taken to the famous tea shop of Farouque Bhai.
Here, I must thank Khai Dai.com for taking us around the place and guiding us. Do check their Youtube channel here.
Farouque bhai has been selling tea here from quite a few here. And going by the popularity that he has in the student segment, I must say, I was quite impressed. Now, apart from the regular variety, he serves quite a few interesting variants, few of which I can remember now.
- tentul morich cha (liquor tea with green chilly and tamarind)
- condensed milk tea
- malta tea (with malta or sweet orange)
- Moltova cha
- Ginger tea
- there were few others, but sadly, I forgot them now
We tasted the tentul Morich cha. Let me confess, the tea liquor is made with CTC tea and ample amount of tamarind pulp and green chilly are added to it for a shocking taste. I am using the shocking word because, the first sip gave us exactly the same feeling. If you taste it as a hot soup, it’s very good- but for a classic tea lover, it’s a surprise. Malta cha is flavoured with Malta orange and the sweet citrus fruit gave it the necessary twist. They are priced at an average of 10/- to 20/- per glass and I felt, is quite justified.
The net place that we were taken to, took Dhaka street food to the different level altogether.
Phuchka and Bhelpuri
Phuchka at Dhaka is interesting. We are used to a separate variety of puchka here in Kolkata. But even there are multiple varieties available in India. While here in Kolkata or rather Bengal/ Bangladesh and Assam, it’s mostly served with a tangy spicy potato stuffing and the whole thing is dipped in gandharaj lebu-flavored-tamarind water, it’s not that simple elsewhere. In Gujrat, the stuffing is done with aloo, salted boondi and dry boiled moong dal and the whole thing is dipped in sweet water. In Karnataka, onion is used along with Aloo as stuffing. I the Rajastan and UP region, Phuchka is known as Pani Ke Batase and is served with not one, but an assortment of water. In Orissa, Jharkhand and some parts of Andhra Pradesh/ Telegana, usage of potato as stuffing is very less and is named as Gup chup.
Do check my detailed post below on Phuchka story
Not to demean anything, but what we get as phuchka for Dhaka street food is quite different. 2 varieties of phuchka are there. The standard fluffy ones and small varieties made with sooji. They are stuffed with a standard potato mix and arranged neatly in a deep soup plate. Tamarind water and some sweetish water is poured over it and sprinkled with sliced onion, tomato and cucumber. It was more like a phuchka soup, which tasted rather nice. One can always have them dry, but I’d suggest to have it dipped in liquid.
We had a similar variety by a guy named Metal Mama. Location: Dhanmondi 5/A, in front of Medinova Hospital, right opposite ULAB university. Now, I understand, this name is interesting. Metal mama sells a similar varieties, but with different dose of chilly. And my friend Zakia took us there. The varieties are named like metal, heavy metal and megadeath and hence the name for the seller. Taste is mostly similar.
Pitha at Dhanmondi
While we were crossing the main road near Dhanmondi flyover, we stopped to pick up some cigarettes. And this gentleman was sitting there, selling pitha- and that too in two varieties. The pita is very similar to our Chitoi Pitha in Bengal. Rice batter was poured into one oval shaped small kadhai and cooked on flame. somehow, this reminded me of the famous Thai dessert Khanom Crok. In fact, you can check the video here…
But on a serious note, the gentleman was good, damn good. And he made an egg version as well. Egg omelette was made around the pitha and as accompaniment, chitoi shutki and some coriander chutney was given. Dhaka street food interesting, indeed.
Bharta at Dhaka University
After these small diversions, let us again come back to Dhaka University campus. this gentleman sells an interesting strawberry Bharta. Now, this is the beauty of the cuisine from Indian sub-continent. We can make anything out of any damn thing. Bharta is primarily a poor man’s food. The idea is to have a lot of rice with a small amount of accompaniments. And hence, bhartas are always over-spicy. I do not know how and why somebody thought of a bharta made out of a premium fruit like strawberry… and in fact, why the name, Bharta. Because, this gentleman sliced the fruit and mixed it with kasundi (Bengali strong variant of mustard sauce), rock salt and balanced it with a small amount of sugar. the sour aftertaste of strawberry was beautifully balanced, and this strawberry bharta at Dhaka University will be remembered for a long long time.
The next bharta that we were introduced to, was a mixed variety. And unlike the sliced counterpart, this was a properly mashed lump. Raw banana, koet-bel (elephant apple), kul (Indian jujube) etc and beaten mercilessly to a pulp and flavoured with kasundi (Bengali strong variant of mustard sauce), rock salt and balanced it with a small amount of sugar. Somebody who likes a typical sloppy bharta would love this. Okay, probably some coriander leaves were added for taste.
Dhaka food interesting and I know, I have just scratched the surface a bit. There are many many more dishes and items to be covered and this blogpost will be updated in future. Meanwhile, if you want to suggest something, please feel free.
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