As a Bengali, these vegetarian dishes come highly recommended!
For most Bengalis, the go-to comfort food is bhaat-aloo bhaate-kacha lonka (rice, Bengali style mashed potatoes and green chilli). Bengal has an elaborate and complex cuisine, but its vegetarian fare is happiness for the soul. The emphasis is on how you cut the vegetables, the variety of masalas and the use of ginger as a staple ingredient. Talking about the local Bengali cuisine would be incomplete with these vegetarian meals.
Best Bengali vegetarian recipes that you should try
A typical Bengali meal starts with the bitters. And what better way to make your bitters gorgeous than a bowl of shukto? This bittersweet broth of vegetables includes bitter gourd, potato, drumsticks, brinjal, hyacinth beans, called ‘sheem’ in Bengali, green banana, and other vegetables. Adding some crunch to it are boris or fried lentil dumplings. This mixed vegetable, along with a delicious gravy, is as complex and tasty.
Dhoka is a lentil cake made from a mix of chana dal and a little paste of dried white peas. The dals are first ground and made into a paste and then steamed. The cake is then cut into little diamond-shaped pieces and fried so it’s crunchy on the outside and sweet and moist on the inside. Next, the gravy. It has many variations but ideally is made with onions and tomato paste. Dhokar dalna makes for a great side dish with its simple gravy and rich lentil cake.
Bengali rice recipes require a special mention just because of their simplicity. Laden in a serene yellow colour, this is rich in ghee and sweetness, and that is the main characteristic of this Bengali vegetarian recipe. Made with a special kind of rice, basanti pulao is loaded with cashews and raisins to provide a crunch and some extra sweetness to the rice.
One of the most uncomplicated Bengali vegetarian recipes, aloo posto is made with a handful of ingredients but can compete with the most complex meat dishes. The aloo and the posto, or poppy seeds, are the two stars. Given the sky-high prices of poppy seeds, this has almost become a luxury, but trust Bengalis to go out of their way when it comes to food.
Another aloo dish on the list of Bengali vegetarian recipes, this one is probably the easiest to make. Aloo chocchori is a simple potato gravy with no spices except a red chilli and some onion seeds. If you want to make it a little fancy, add chopped tomatoes to it, which also lend a brilliant scarlet hue to this otherwise white gravy. This normally goes with luchis or poori, and is for the weekend breakfasts in a Bengali household.
This dish is a complete makeover to potol or pointed gourd. If you are not a fan of this vegetable, you will find yourself asking for more. Potoler dolma is stuffed pointed gourd, and this one’s a hit all across Bengal. Usually stuffed with minced meat, the vegetarian alternative to this classic Bengali recipe can have either mashed potato or grated paneer and dry fruits as the stuffing. These gourds are then cooked in a rich gravy and what you have on your plate is magic!
If North India has chole, we have ghoogni. Made from the yellow matar, we don’t need any bread or rice dishes to savour a bowl of the classic ghoogni. In fact, this one finds a place in a Bengali household, as well in the streets of Bengal, in the form of chaat. Regardless of where you have it, top it off with some tamarind chutney, chaat masala and chopped onions and taste magic on your taste buds!
A lot of Bengali cuisine is about zero-waste cooking. This particular Bengali vegetarian recipe is made from mocha or the banana flower. Peeling the banana flower is quite a task, but the result is so worth it! Fasting days in Bengali households are all about these vegetarian dishes, and it never gets boring!
A mixed veg, Bengali style. Labra usually goes with the bhog er khichuri during pujas, but the lip-smacking taste makes it hard to wait for a puja to have this! A lot of unique vegetables go into this dish, like sweet potato, unripened banana, banana stem, and taro corn, among regular vegetables. With unique vegetables comes a unique taste, and for that, labra are the star attraction of a Bengali vegetarian meal.
The only time you will find Bengalis savour paneer is if it comes as chhanar dalna. Chhana or chhena is paneer in its truest form, and that is what this dish celebrates. It is a simple onion and tomato-based gravy that lets the chhana shine like a true rockstar. Everything about this Bengali vegetarian recipe is so simple yet elegant.
Aam er chutney
A Bengali meal cannot be complete without something sweet, can it? Move ahead from the mishti doi. Aam er chutney is a summer favourite. It is a light chutney of unripened mangoes that brings together the sweetness of the chutney and the sourness of the mangoes. No Bengali can finish a summer meal without a bowl of this delicious mango chutney.