Bengalis are renowned for being excellent cooks and enthusiastic eaters. Despite this passion for food, there are few restaurants serving proper Bengali or Bangladeshi food. Even in London, where Bangladeshis (mainly from Sylhet province) own and operate a large proportion of the city’s Indian restaurants, finding Bangladeshi food isn’t easy. So unless you have a willing Bengali/Bangladeshi comrade to cook for you, or you’re an intrepid traveller to the subcontinent, books are the best way to learn about the region’s cuisine.
Chitrita Banerji’s classic Life And Food In Bengal, published in 1991, is the best place to start, rich in detail about the central role that food plays in Bengali society. Banerji is also the author of two other noted works on Bengali food – Bengali Cooking: Seasons And Festivals, which includes recipes from West Bengal and Bangladesh; and Feeding The Gods: Memories Of Women, Food And Ritual In Bengal, which offers rich insight into the rituals and meaning of Bengali cooking.
Madhur Jaffrey’s timeless A Taste Of India, a roundup of India’s regional cuisines, has an excellent chapter on the cooking of Bengal, including a selection of recipes adapted to the Western kitchen.
London-based chef Udit Sarkhel and the BBC’s Simon Parkes are co-authors of the excellent The Calcutta Kitchen, which focuses on the cooking of multi-ethnic Calcutta, with chapters on the city’s street foods, home-cooking, and the British- influenced cooking of the Raj, with plenty of recipes and great photography.
All books available at Amazon.com.