Tomorrow’s Food section officially launches my column, The Immigrant’s Table, a monthly trip to the strip malls and suburban sprawls to document the best international dishes being prepared right under our noses. First up in the series: Bangladeshi cuisine.
We like a challenge here in the Food section.
As part of the debut column, I visited some markets, whether the Bangla Bazar in Arlington (703-241-7040) or the Bangla Bazaar in Beltsville (301-931-8377), and learned about some of the staple items and how they’re typically eaten.
Sweet puffed-rice balls:
Think of them as Bangladeshi Rice Krispies treats. These balls of puffed rice (called “muri” in Bengali) are often sweetened with molasses and sugar cane and typically served during tea in Bangladesh. They’re also offered to visitors. “If you go to somebody’s house, they will give you those balls,” says Francis Gomes, owner of Namaskar restaurant in Olney.
Sometimes spelled “shemai,” it’s a super-fine wheat-flour vermicelli that’s a central ingredient in a dish called dudh semai, one of the desserts served during the Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. “We have to have the semai” during the Eids, says Mohammed Harun Rashid, owner of Aladdin Indian Kitchen in Rockville.
This is a popular snack in Bangladesh, often served with tea or alcohol, sort of a spicy version of Chex mix. Chanachor can also be mixed together with puffed rice, green chilis, raw onion and mustard oil. “It’s spicy, but people like it,” Rashid says.
In the coastal areas of Bangladesh, people catch shrimp and dry them, says Gomes. They then pulverize the dried fish into a powder, which they’ll prepare into a kind of chunky edible “dough” called shrimp bharta. You can pulverize this crispy shrimp in a blender and make your own shrimp bharta at home, Gomes says.