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Alive with heat, spice, and mesmerizing flavor, Bangladeshi food is one of Asia’s most underrated yet wondrous cuisines.
Defined by its tropical geography and diverse array of influences, from Persian to Indian, this beautiful country’s cuisine roars with richness, spices, and aromatic qualities.
Foodie travelers yearning for new and exciting flavor combinations get excited as we delve deep into Bangladeshi foods. Here are 16 of the country’s most popular dishes, as described by a local.
Most Popular & Traditional Bangladeshi Food
1 – Shorshe Ilish (Hilsa Fish with Mustard Curry)
Bangladesh is a riverine country where a majority of the population eats fish regularly. Hilsa is the national fish of Bangladesh, and the country is responsible for almost 70% of the Hilsa fish production across the world.
The fish is a vital part of the Bangladeshi culture, and needless to say, it is a must-try food for those traveling to Bangladesh.
Hilsa can be cooked in many ways. Among those, Shorshe Ilish is the most popular way to sample this delicious fish in Bengali cuisine.
Shorshe Ilish is a dish consisting of hilsa fish cooked in savory mustard gravy, commonly served with white rice for a hearty, must-try meal.
The mustard is cooked with various spices, giving it plenty of heat and kick. Once the mustard reaches a gravy-like consistency, the hilsa fish is added and cooked until tender. This is a dish that bursts with flavor, and it is beloved across the country.
2 – Kacchi Biriyani (Mutton Biriyani)
Biriyani is a vital part of South Asian cuisine. If you are acquainted with this dish, you may have already heard about a few variants prepared in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.
‘Kacchi‘ means ‘raw’ in English. Unlike most other types of Biriyani, the meat used in this dish is first marinated with spices and placed at the bottom of the cooking pot uncooked.
The rice, which is first washed and then mixed with spices, is added on top, before the meat and rice are cooked together. Sometimes potato is added to the mix to add body to the dish.
Kacchi Biriyani is eaten all year round, and people rarely need a special occasion to eat it. If you are visiting Bangladesh, make sure you grab yourself a plate.
3 – Beef Kala Bhuna (Beef Curry)
Among all the types of beef curries that dominate Bengali cuisine, the Kala Bhuna is perhaps the most popular. It originated in Chattogram, and it rapidly became popular all over the country.
So, what makes Kala Bhuna so special? And what makes it different from the regular beef curry?
Kala Bhuna gets its name from its appearance, as ‘kala’ means ‘black‘. The meat – which can be beef or mutton – is cooked with a long list of traditional spices and yogurt. It is cooked for much longer than in other curries, which gives the meat a blackish hue. It also tastes different than regular beef curry.
This traditional curry can be eaten with plain rice, pulao (or pilaf), khichuri, roti, or paratha. No matter what you pair it with, it always tastes absolutely heavenly!
4 – Bhuna Khichuri with Dim Bhaji (Yellow Rice with Omelette)
A common rainy-day staple, Bhuna Khichuri is a wholesome rice dish and popular comfort food in Bengali cuisine.
Khichuri, also known as Khichdi in India, is made with rice and lentils and is yellow in color. The rice and lentils are washed thoroughly and cooked with a few spices, turmeric, and ghee.
It is a highly versatile dish and can be eaten with omelettes, prepared with onions and green chili, fried eggplant, and pickles. It is also eaten with chicken or beef curries.
If you visit Bangladesh during the monsoon, chances are high that you will be served this amazing dish. A slightly lighter version, Khichuri, is also common, and it is eaten with vegetables or eggs.
5 – Sheek Kebab with Naan (Kebab with Flatbread)
Bangladesh is well-known for its love of kebabs. Beef and mutton kebabs are extremely popular among people of all ages, and there are many different flavors and styles to try.
Sheek kebab is perhaps the most well-known kebab item on the menu, and it pairs perfectly with a soft, warm naan.
Sheek kebab is a dish of ground beef or mutton, mixed with spice, that is skewered and then roasted over hot coals. In Bangladesh, the meat is best served tender, with a slight outer charring.
Once the kebab is ready, it is served immediately, steaming hot, with Naan and a side of salad and sauce.
You can find the best Sheek Kebabs in the streets of Old Dhaka. This dish is an important part of their culture, and street vendors or chefs never compromise the taste when preparing the kebab.
6 – Dal (Lentil Soup)
Dal is another staple of Bangladeshi cuisine. Lentils are high in protein, and can easily be paired with rice or rotis.
Masoor dal and Moong dal are two of many types of lentils that are used in Bangladeshi cuisine, all cooked in a similar fashion.
There are two ways to cook dal. One is slightly soupier, and the other has a thicker consistency, similar to porridge. The latter is known as Chocchori Dal.
The addition of coriander brings a freshness to this dish. Local cuisines also enhance the recipe by adding dried fruits, such as jujubes and raw mangoes to the soup to give it tanginess.
7 – Bhorta (Mashed Vegetables with Spices)
Households across Bangladesh eat Bhortas as a starter. Bhortas are mashed vegetables (or sometimes fish), mixed with a number of spices.
The most common Bhortas are made from potatoes, eggplants, beans, pumpkins, and green bananas. Dry fish Bhorta, or Shutki Bhorta, is popular in Chattogram, Sylhet, Khulna, and other parts of the country.
If you cannot stand the strong smell of dry fish, you can always try other Bhortas made from Taki fish (Spotted Snakehead fish) or shrimp.
Egg Bhortas are also popular among intrigued foodies. Eggs from chicken, duck, and fish all make amazing Bhortas when paired with harmonious spices and herbs.
8 – Fuchka
I’m willing to bet that if you asked a hundred Bengalis to name their favorite street-food, the majority would say ‘fuchka.’
A dish dating back generations, fuchka, also known as pani-puri in India, are small, round shells with a sticky filling. You can eat a singular fuchka in one bite.
he outer shell is made with a mixture of semolina and flour. The filling contains boiled and mashed chickpeas, potatoes, and a mix of spices and coriander. Grated carrots or boiled eggs are sometimes used as a garnish, and fuchka are commonly tropped with a sweet-and-spicy tamarind sauce.
Fuchka is an integral part of Bengali street-food culture. No hangout is ever complete without an appetizing plate of this delicious Bangladeshi food.
9 – Kolijar Shingara (Beef/Mutton Liver Shingara)
Shingara is a common finger-food in Bangladesh. This popular snack looks like a deep-fried pouch, and it is made of flour with a spicy potato filling. You can also find a somewhat gourmet version made with spicy mutton or beef liver, with a richer, juicier flavor.
The mutton or beef liver is cut into small pieces and stir-fried with various spices. In some versions of the shingara, the liver is mixed with semi-mashed spicy potatoes. In others, only the cooked liver is stuffed in the thin flour sheets to make the shingara.
Once prepared, the sealed pouch of flour is deep-fried and eaten with a selection of sauces or chutneys. Commonly enjoyed with hot tea, shingara is undoubtedly one of the most delicious afternoon snacks Bengali cuisine has to offer.
10 – Haleem (Mixed Lentil Soup and Meat)
Even though the sales of haleem skyrocket during Ramadan, this is a dish that is enjoyed all year round. Traditional haleem is made with a mixture of wheat and lentils, such as masoor, moong, and chickpeas.
A generous amount of shredded meat is added to the mixture, and some recipes even call for the inclusion of livers and hearts to enhance the taste. The finished dish is garnished with a slice of lemon, caramelized onion, and coriander. The dish is best served hot.
Due to the use of the wide selection of ingredients and spices, haleem is recognized as a dish that gives you energy quickly, making it an ideal dish for Ramadan fast-breaking.
11 – Roshogolla (Traditional Syrupy Sweet)
When it comes to dessert, Bangladeshi cuisine has so many unique and sweet flavors to offer. One of those dishes comes in the form of roshogolla.
Roshogolla is a simple, wholesome dish. It is made from cottage cheese, which is strained from fresh milk and kneaded until soft. The cheese is pressed and rolled into balls, then boiled in sugar syrup until fluffy and spongy. Roshogolla can be eaten hot, fresh off the stove, or stored in the refrigerator and eaten as a chilled dessert.
Sweets are an important part of Bengali tradition, and roshogolla is the first choice of sweet for many people across the country. Delicate roshogollas, dripping in hot, sweet syrup, is just what you need to cheer you up on a gloomy day.
12 – Chomchom (Traditional Sweet / Chum Chum)
The preparation of this delicious Bangladeshi dessert is similar to roshogolla. However, chomchom is cooked for a longer period of time. This gives it a darker outer layer, and a richer taste.
Chomchom is usually served with sugar syrup and garnished with mawa flakes (made with evaporated milk).
Chomchom is found in all sweet shops of the country. It is also included in gift packages sent during invitations or weddings. Try to find this glorious sweet dish at traditional sweet shops for the best taste.
13 – Jilapi (Batter Boiled in Syrup)
Jilapi is another popular dessert, that is also a popular and beloved street food. Just like haleem, it is a popular food during Ramadan, but it is sold all year round too.
It is a simple dish, made from a thick batter of gram flour, water, and a sprinkle of rose water. Once mixed, the batter is poured into a piping bag, or a bottle with a nozzle.
The batter is then squeezed into boiling sugar syrup in a circular motion. Traditionally, two and a half circles make one jilapi, and the dish can made into small, medium-sized, and larger spirals.
The thinner jilapi is, the crunchier it is. You can eat it cold, but the sumptuous crunch and hot, drizzling syrup you get from a freshly made jilapi is a taste like no other. It is a must-try food in Bangladesh.
14 – Bhapa Pitha (Rice Cake)
Rice is the staple food of Bangladesh, so it should come as no surprise natives have found ways to incorporate it in every type of meal.
Bhapa Pitha is a type of sweet rice cake, made with ground rice flour, with a sweet center of jaggery and coconut shavings as a garnish. It is usually eaten warm, and it is widely available during the winter.
Making bhapa pitha is a process that requires plenty of patience and skill. It is made by first pressing jaggery and rice flour – usually between two saucers – into a flat, round circle.
A piece of cloth is tied to the mouth of a pot with boiling water. The cake is placed on the cloth and covered with a lid or a saucer, and the steam cooks the cake. The whole process takes about fifteen minutes, but if you wish to make a batch, it can take several hours to prepare.
Bhapa Pitha is loved by people of all ages. Despite being a winter delicacy, today you can find it all year round throughout Bangladesh.
15 – Mishti Doi (Sweet Yogurt)
Yogurt is found in every district of Bangladesh, but mishti doi, originating from Bogra, is undoubtedly one of the most flavorsome types. People traveling through Bogra always stop to take a few servings home for their loved ones.
Mishti doi is prepared as you would most fermented yogurts. It is made by adding sugar and molasses to boiling milk, then leaving it to ferment overnight.
Once fermented, mishti doi has a thick consistency, with a sweet, unique taste. It has been enjoyed throughout Bangladesh for nearly two centuries, and it is very much a must-try food when visiting.
16 – Borhani (Spicy Yogurt Drink)
If you attend a wedding in Bangladesh, there is a high chance you will be served borhani with your meal. It is a traditional drink, made popular by locals in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Borhani is made with yogurt, spices, a little sugar, coriander, and mint leaves. These ingredients come together to create a uniquely sweet, spicy, and tangy tasting beverage, unique to Bangladeshi cuisine.
Due to the inclusion of multiple herbs and spices, borhani helps to digest food faster. Hence, it is a common choice of drink following a heavy meal of pulao or biriyani. Borhani is readily available in all restaurants that serve traditional Bangladeshi food, so don’t forget to give it a try!
Bangladeshi Food Summary
With unique flavor combinations and dishes for all occasions, Bangladesh is a country that can take you on of Asia’s most exciting and memorable culinary adventures.
There’s intense heat and spice for those who love curries and richer dishes. There’s hearty carbohydrates and street food dishes for those looking for comforting, authentic Bangladeshi cooking. And there’s a sweet, fruity side to this wonderous cuisine for those who love to try desserts and drinks.
Whether it be in Bangladesh or in your home kitchen, there is a world of joy and flavor to delve into. So be sure to keep this list of traditional foods handy, ready for when your next foodie travel adventure takes you to the colors, spices, and combinations of Bangladeshi cuisine.
- Shorshe Ilish (Hilsa Fish with Mustard Curry)
- Kacchi Biriyani (Mutton Biriyani)
- Beef Kala Bhuna (Beef Curry)
- Bhuna Khichuri with Dim Bhaji (Yellow Rice with Omelette)
- Sheek Kebab with Naan (Kebab with Flatbread)
- Dal (Lentil Soup)
- Bhorta (Mashed Vegetables with Spices)
- Kolijar Shingara (Beef/Mutton Liver Shingara)
- Haleem (Mixed Lentil Soup and Meat)
- Roshogolla (Traditional Syrupy Sweet)
- Chomchom (Traditional Sweet Chum Chum)
- Jilapi (Batter Boiled in Syrup)
- Bhapa Pitha (Rice Cake)
- Mishti Doi (Sweet Yogurt)
- Borhani (Spicy Yogurt Drink)
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Author: Mehnaz Tabassum is a creative writer from Dhaka. Her work spans a broad range of styles, including fiction, lifestyle, and native cuisine. She is deeply passionate about telling the world more about Bangladeshi cuisine, tourism, and culture.