In general, if you want to thrill food lovers, invite them into your kitchen and cook for them. Tell them stories of your mother Aruna in Bangladesh, preparing meals for her ten children. Entice them with aroma of onions meeting garlic and ginger and cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric. Pass around bowls of your secret spice mixtures. Make food you love and then feed it to them. This will make food lovers smile and feel that joy that only sharing a meal can bring. You will have given them a gift.
Bill and I had such a food lovers’ day today, hosted by Sarajit Chanda and Sarah Nic Lochlainn in their Fuchsia House restaurant in Ardee. Sarajit and Sarah invited food bloggers to a master class of Street Food dishes that will be showcased in the upcoming Bangladeshi Street Food meets Irish Craft Beer evening on 12 July. Tom Doorley will be speaking at this event, and is working with Sarajit and Sarah to pair the dishes with Irish Beers and Ciders. After sampling the menu today, I can tell you the €50 ticket will be money well eaten. And there will be craft beer.
The Bangladeshi Street Food dishes Sarajit cooked today are familiar Indian restaurant offerings: Lamb Roganjosh, Chicken Curry, Onion Bhaji, Auburgine Bhaji, Dhal, and Spinach with Prawns. Street Food from any cuisine is food that people actually eat–everyday people in their everyday lives. Sarajit’s versions of these dishes represent the best of those everydays–days with local meats and veg, the very best spices, everything that is needed and nothing else.
A few things we learned today:
- Pakora and Bhaji are two words that mean ‘fried’ and bhuna means to stir until thickened.
- A paste of equal parts pureed garlic and ginger can keep for a few weeks in the fridge, or can be frozen. And it tastes great in just about anything.
- Cream and ghee are not widely used in Bangladeshi cooking, or at least not in Aruna’s recipes.
- Lentils are a common breakfast food in Bangladesh, and are frequently eaten at every meal. (I’m seriously considering adding lentils to my breakfast rotation.)
- If you don’t have time to make your own garam masala, you can get pretty far with cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves
- Making a paste with dry spices and water will prevent the spices from burning. Make it up to an hour beforehand to intensify the flavor of the spices.
- Turmeric is the go to spice in Bangladeshi cuisine. After a visit to Bangladesh, your toothbrush will be yellow.
Sarah and Sarajit also told us a lot about their Aruna sauces venture, and the patience and creativity required to bring their sauces to market. Each pouch represents loads of time, trials, and attention, and the benefits of an adhesive expert–not that easy to stick things to refrigerated plastic it turns out. Recent winners on Dragon’s Den, Aruna sauces are available in many retail outlets in Ireland. Look in the refrigerated section!
After meeting Sarah and Sarajit today, hearing their stories and seeing them in their kitchen and restaurant, I thought, wow, these guys are doing exactly what they should be doing. It was a real pleasure to spend time with them today, and to be taught and fed so graciously. And dining with fellow food bloggers is always great craic!