Food, Love And Good Memories Travelling in My Suitcase!
Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity. ∼ Robert Morgan
And maybe packets dripping with sugar syrup and home made sauces, fried fish and random biscuits – all stuffed in a suitcase while flying back to Dubai from Kolkata… rephrasing it… flying back to my adopted home from my childhood home. Expats have an amazing way of converting wherever they are living into various folds of manifestation of their roots – bringing back food memories via cans and jars and sealed packets and digging out pockets in the city they are living, which sell them. Sally Prosser, author of My Custard Pie caught me red handed with Potol/Parval and bottles of Kashundhi in my suitcase for her article for the Fall edition of FoodEMag dxb. And I am relieved to discover that I am not the only one and actually have many foodie partners in crime! Well, as much as our suitcases are packed with incredulity, the awards for ingenuity goes to our parents (both original and the law-ed ones!) – can you imagine bringing in fried fish (bhetki maach fillet complete with breaded crumbs) and notun gurer roshogolla (so what if the current debate is on whether roshogolla belongs to the Bengalis at all!) dripping in sugar syrup, wrapped in layers and layers of plastic – all in the name of love? On this love note, let me wish you all Shubho Bijoya and Happy Dussehra… may peace find a permanent place in this world and your hearts!
If you are a Bengali or an Indian living in Dubai, chances are that you will be getting a lot of fresh ingredients and produce – including different kinds of fish in the markets out here:
- Backet in Sharjah or Deira fish Market source traditional fish, even the exotic ones – like Koi, Pabda, Eilish, Parshe, Chitol and also the most common varieties – Rui/Carp, Pona, Chingri/Prawns. Aar etc. Any fish associated with traditional Bengali recipes, chances are that you will find it. Excepting Bhetki.
- City Mart in Rolla Street, Bur Dubai flies in fresh fish from Bombay everyday – Aar, Koi, Eilish and Tyangra, the latter when in season. They also stock Bhetki from Bangladesh and is different from the ones that we have grown up eating.
- Lulu keeps small sized Rui; also Mefroz in Karama and Fruit & Vegetable market.
Spices are available in most supermarkets in Dubai, with a few exceptions like Radhuni that go into Panch-Phoron or the 5 spices-mix. While the fish comes frozen, air packed and sealed from Thailand, I have also found an array of local fish that can substitute for the traditional ones (for example Salmon can be used for Shorshe Bata/Musatrd Salmon with great success). One of the things that cannot be substituted while cooking Bengali fish is the Mustard Oil. Without this, a Bengali fish is absolutely incomplete and only a few brands can do justice to the Bengali kitchen – Tez and PRO – again both easily available in regular supermarkets.
Bengali Sweets… every street in Kolkata has a sweet shop and Bengali sweets are so popular that Indian sweet shops would often have a corner dedicated to ‘Bengali Sweets’. In Dubai there are many Indian sweet shops, but only a few of them have such sacred sweet corners. A small list:
- Bikanervala (our favourite here is Chinese rasgullas, Indrani cups)
- Puranmal (Anandmadhuri, Rasmadhuri, Malai Sandwich, Raskadam etc)
- Shree Gangaur (Gurer Rasgulla, Triveni cup, Mishti Dahi etc)
What comes inside our suitcases? All the ones that have been pictured below and more!
My mum-in-law doesn’t spare bringing in anything that I love eating – starting from bringing in half fried bhetki fillets, fried balls of chitol maach that would later go into gravy to half-cooked mocha/banana blossom flower. Also stuff from specific shops or specific brands – Mithai’s Mishti Doi, Balaram’s Baked Rasgullas, Bancharam’s Baked Mihidana, Mukhorachak Chanachur, Gondhoraj Lebu (Bengal lime which has a sweet aroma much like the Thai Kaffir lime), Jharna Ghee (yes nothing but the brand ‘Jharna’), Kashundi (a pungent mustard sauce) and Five Star (a chocolate from Cadbury that tastes like Mars) – the list is pretty endless! What definitely doesn’t travel with us and I wish that it could – are Posto/poppy seeds as these are banned in this region although Middle Eastern cuisine does have a lot of usage of poppy seeds.
Eager to hear what comes back in your suitcases apart from love and good memories?
Unblogging it all… Ishita
PS: If you are tired of seeing the same table background in the above pictures, here’s a warning – we have got a new dining table after a decade and you might have to bear with that in the oncoming posts!
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Shubho Bijoyar antorik preeti o shubhechha nio . To you and your family too . The new dinner table is soon becoming a protagonist than a support actor . Guess all dinner tables are
Shubho Bijoya to Madhusree, you and teh little one. The new dinner table is thankfully not very photogenic.
My suitcase contents are very boring compared with yours!
And hopefully less messy!!! I can do with some cheese & wine!
As usual crisp and lucid!!! blog you may be the inheritor of J. K. Rowling, only difficult times made her write so they say.
Interesting to know of the content of suitcases I thought only airport scanner had preview to that.
I travel the world in an 18 inch suitcase whatever comes in it, hence very mundane and ordinarily boring stuff compared to the vibrancy you have.
By the way include patali or khejur gur sandesh that Gangaur makes on order all year round and come winter it is notun Gur Sandesh. Abhisekh Baid (056 449 88 29) did a good job in introducing the manufacturing here.
Afterall it took a marwari entrepreneur to satisfy the bengali taste buds
One less item to pack on your way back.
“Sarse tail” another good brand is RRO. Can you reason why indian brands sell at 18 to 19/- AED and the ones from Bangladesh at 11 to 12 AED?
The shop next to Union Coop , Aweer market, Dubai International will give you “Sona Mugh” dal on demand , Bangladesh “gota ” mushuri dal, and best of all, in season the best size and price potol, last season he gave away a 3 kg box for AED 20/-
Look forward to your next post now that winter is here back to fresh market shopping…..
Good to get that ‘crisp and lucid’ approval! I forgot to add patali gur – yes, that travels in the suitcase. Also interesting to know about the Sona Mugh and Gota Mushuri. I haven’t got “bori” here… ever! Also sometimes hard to get “gobindobhog” chaal. Thanks very much for these super helpful info.
Now i know what i can bring for you, when I travel there…! 😉😉😉