Matt Preston took social media by storm last weekend as he embarked on a culinary journey through our very own legendary Old Dhaka. Arriving in Dhaka last week to promote Rivoli, a local, recently launched premium cookie brand, the Masterchef judge was all smiles as he walked through Le Meridian’s lobby at 8:30am. Followed by his manager Henrie Stride, he was quickly introduced to his entourage for the day – comedian Naveed Mahbub who was to be his host through the day, a video shooting team, representatives from Adcomm, and a team of journalists from Tribune.
Tilat Khayer, the leading lady behind his slicked back hair and make-up, followed suit, stating that Matt was incredibly easy to please, with only one thing he’s picky about – his hair. “I just don’t like it if it falls in front of my face like a veil,” he laughed.
Standing tall at six feet four inches, the Masterchef judge was a sight to behold – not so much for his powerful gait and larger than life aura, but rather, his beaming smile and giant teddy bear like persona. Dressed not in his quintessential suit, Preston walked out in white dress shorts, an untucked casual navy shirt and rubber Chelsea boots. And of course, it was all brought to a stylish finish with the classic Matt-esque cravat – bright and lively.
Matt’s Friday excursions ranged from spontaneous indulgences in everything from Mr Twist to Old Dhaka’s bakarkhani while walking through some of Dhaka’s heritage sites. Starting off with a long ride to Shadarghat, the entourage then made their way to Ahsan Manzil, followed by Lalbagh Fort, a brief trip to BAFA (Bangladesh Academy of Fine Arts) and finally wound their way to Dhaka Club for a break and lunch and then TSC for tea.
The first taste of street food Matt Preston had, came from a small roadside stall at Simson Road, Shadarghat. Cafe Al-Amin had the early morning regulars – deem-porota and morning “nashta.” Strolling out of Shadarghat shipping area Matt stopped to peer at the balls of greasy dough being slapped onto a giant tawa, Matt’s gaze was affixed. Instantly recognising the “tawa,” one deem roll was ordered. As the egg was quickly beaten with onions and chillis in a cup, it was slashed on the centre, fried and folded to finally be stacked on top of the freshly fried porota. “Genius!” he exclaimed. Inquiring about whether it’s an Asian thing to add chillies to the egg, Matt quickly tore off the newspaper it was wrapped in, going for one large bite. His face broke into an instant smile, hands making the okay sign, mouth full with satisfaction.
As we waited outside Ahsan Manzil, the entourage stood next to a small roadside shop that had several chips vertically lined. Naveed mentioned Mr Twist and how it has been a childhood favourite in our country. “Spanish tomato flavour? Is that a big flavour here?”Matt inquired, before being handed a pack. “I like how you shake the pack and you can just hear the sound,” he said. Ripping the pack open he took a quick bite, smiling in approval before sharing the pack with Henrie. Mr Twist, too, won his approval. “I actually love it!”
As we stood outside Lalbagh Fort, Matt looked towards Shawarma House, snapping a photo to share with Gary. Once inside the fort, he noticed DT’s reporter carrying takeaway from the place. When offered to try, he readily agreed, full of childlike excitement.
“It would be far less of a dish if it didn't have the creaminess of the mayo, and the coolness of the cucumber. It wouldn't be as refreshing and it reminds you why it's so important to try not to do too much, but to focus on one thing.”
Probably one of Matt’s favourites from his food exursions, he instantly fell in love with freshly made bakarkhani. Warm out of the oven, Matt spent quite a bit of time marvelling at it, and even snapping his own pictures to share later. He found the bakarkhani delicious and made a pledge to later share the photos with his friends.
Kaachki maach/chingri bhorta/bhindi
While Matt’s love affair with the bakarkhani was legendary, a few other dishes he really enjoyed were the bhortas at lunch. Stopping at Dhaka Club for a typical Bengali lunch, Matt was served everything from smoked hilsha, beef sheek kebab, naan, and rice to an assortment of bhortas. He especially loved the chingri bhorta and the kick of the mustard oil. “Bhindi – like Ladyfinger? I love that,” before helping himself to another round of bhindi bhaaji and more bhorta. What really got his attention, though, wasn’t the daal or the bhorta, but rather the kaachki maachh. The size of the fish had him gushing over the dish, finding it so cute that he couldn’t put a pause on his meal and snap a photo on his iPhone. “It’s almost like one of them’s saying, set me free, I’m going back to the river,” he exclaimed, leaving the entire table erupting in laughter. Finally, once the meal came to a close, he talked about how it’s a “sensible idea” to fall asleep after lunch. “George and myself can fall asleep anytime. A quick lunch and a 45 minute sleep – perfect! George and I do that all the time!”