Eating has become a major pastime in Dhaka; what a varied flavour the dining out scenario now presents! The situation becomes even more extravagant during the month of Ramadan.
We say, at the beginning of the month of abstinence, that one should not indulge, though, by the time 10 or 15 days are gone, the arrangements at the dinner table become more and more elaborate with each passing day.
Khashir leg roast is the rage in my area (Elephant Road). Sumptuous looking legs smothered in dark-coloured gravy are most coveted. There is something deliciously primordial about this item. Imagine tearing meat from a leg at sunset! The other day, a scuffle ensued near a biriyani-selling spot when their stock of leg roasts ran out.
The law had to intervene! The angered customer had to be pacified with the line: “OK, tomorrow, you will be the first to get the much desired item.” Overheard someone talking energetically on the walkie-talkie: “Charlie 7, leg roast niya jhamela” (fracas over leg roast).
This year, I find that the fascination with the much publicised Old Town dish Boro Baaper Polae Khae has dwindled significantly, especially among those who had actually tasted it before. Well, I am not surprised.
This dish is perhaps the most disgusting item conceivable.
An assortment of items (shredded chicken, chickpeas, lentils, eggs, and a wide range of other things) are mixed together to make something which is called Boro Baaper Polae Khae (The son of an affluent father eats this).
Honestly, in the list of surreal food names, this has to be among the top five.
One thing is for certain: In my many excursions to the Old Town, never ever saw a woman buying Boro Baaper Pola.
A football playing pal said philosophically: “Right, how about Boro Baaper Maiya Khae?” (daughter of an affluent father eats this).
Not a bad idea! Just put the thought into some Old Dhaka entrepreneur and we may have a new dish.
Above all, gender parity will be restored!
We say, at the beginning of the month of abstinence, that one should not indulge, though, by the time 10 or 15 days are gone, the arrangements at the dinner table become more and more elaborate with each passing day
The fascination for Boro Baaper Pola, emanating mostly from the rather absurd name, will evaporate once you taste this.
Am I being a bit too harsh here? Perhaps this demands an acquired taste. Interestingly, the hullabaloo over Boro Baap never dies out completely, each time attracting a new bunch of people; I won’t be surprised if, next year, the item makes its way into the developed parts of Dhaka.
How about calling a restaurant Boro Baaper Pola? With the additional line: Khaiben, niben bhorti koira jhola!
Sorry to say, many of the iftar items of the Old Town, publicised for so long for their flamboyant character, are only left in name, hardly in food value.
The famous Shutli kebab of Old Town, a large chunk of beef which is tied with a thread and then put inside a furnace for cooking, is now a large lump consisting mostly of grounded lentils with a hint of beef. Hence, the beef Shutli kebab can have its name changed to Daal kebab, beef flavour.
Khashir Nolli is a recent item! If you are a newcomer to traditional restaurants, don’t be surprised if you hear, “oi, nolli lo, nolli!” shouted at the top of someone’s voice.
This is a thick broth made with lamb hoof (lamb hoof stew)! No worries, I brought blood pressure pills with me, my pal Chankharpul er Roissha tells me.
Another friend, who is better known as Biriyani Mamun (he owns the Mamun biriyani chain) is doing brisk business.
When, after having polao for iftar, nolli for dinner, and polao again for sehri, someone told me, “boss, I feel no pangs of hunger during fasting,” I tried hard to look impressed.
Please correct me if I am wrong -- Dhaka residents have found another gastronomic obsession of late: Kaala bhoona and Mesbani gosht.
The Chittagong Bull in Gulshan serves top class Mezbani.
To end, here is a real life experience from two days ago, at Star: One guy in my group, Alom, stays at the Dhaka Medical Staff Quarter, and has some influence in the area as an organiser, social worker, and local guardian. While we were jostling to get some iftar, noticed a young woman and a teenage girl trying to find some space to place the orders for the fast-dwindling mutton kidney kebab.
Alom, the valiant he is, came to the rescue: Cleared the way, and got them the desired item.
Not only that, he ran upstairs and arranged a table amidst the pandemonium of shoppers gathered to break their fast.
The women were truly grateful: Please have iftar with us, they invited, but our Alom declined with a gracious smile, adding, “apa, no worries, one day will come to your house for iftar and bring all the kidney kebab you can eat. If I may have the phone number.”
What could I say? Alom is no “boro baaper pola” but he is certainly a “buddhiman pola.”