Revisiting Bengali Cuisine

One of the classic dishes of my youth is Chingri Macher Malai Curry (shrimp in a Bengali coconut curry sauce). The photo to the left shows the dish, just at the point where the shrimp is about to bathed in delicious coconut milk. But before that, you have to sauté the shrimp, then the puréed onions & ginger & spices, then place the shrimp back, then you can add the coconut milk. At least, this is the vague outline of my father’s secret family recipe.

The smell of simmering coconut curry is one of the most comforting and instantly peaceful things I can imagine. But, food is changing. I recently decided to read Modernist Cuisine from cover to cover. I’ve poked around within the 2,438 glorious pages, including a quick stop at the discussion on Indian curries. I see a lot of compatibility between Bengali food and Modernist Cuisine.

I wonder how I can I incorporate “high tech” cooking into a traditional one: Bengali. The smells and methods of crafting Bengali dishes are interwoven with many memories. When I think about cooking the shrimp sous vide, will I miss the sounds of the shrimp sizzling, the wafts of changing smells as it sears? Or will the way I form or call upon memories associated with my food change in new and exciting ways, just like my Kindle did for reading, even though I love the feel of paper?

For any culture, any person, you can always find a connection through what they love to eat. Food also connects me to myself: It reminds me of people I love, places I learned from, and sometimes, things I forgot to do.

Is it possible to innovate on the foods of my youth without losing my passion for connectivity? I believe so. Modernist Cuisine focuses on improving the dialogue between chefs, (both professional and home), and eaters through food. I’m excited to see how it helps me transform my traditions. Now, just to get myself a better sous vide than my beer cooler hack and get cracking on a more upscale DIY version.

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