Bengali Vegetarian Recipes: Story of Cooks
As a Bengali (born and raised in the east Indian state of West Bengal) living in USA, it is next to impossible to find an Indian restaurant serving the kind of food I grew up on. Most Indian restaurants serve North and variations of South Indian food which the American palette is extremely familiar with. However, food from the eastern states nowhere to be found on those menus. Thankfully, my friend Dolphia Nandi-Arnstein, an extremely popular food blogger on Instagram, has kindly agreed to share some simple Bengali Vegetarian recipes with me that were originaly featured on her blog “Story of Cooks“. Although Dolphia no longer runs that blog, I highly encourage you to explore the recipe index which is a treasure trove of Bengali cooking and is filled with many Bengali veg recipes.
Dolphia is a master in food photography and despite her busy schedule as an UX designer, she manages to churn out absolutely droolworthy photos of her culinary and baking journey. She is never afraid to push boundaries, explore and experiment with food, be it Bengali dishes or a super complex baking project that requires nothing short of superhuman skills.
Food aside, the one thing that really endears me to her is the fact that she started her blog as a means to journal her mother’s recipes who is also the biggest cheerleader of her culinary and photography pursuits. The guest blog post today consists of a fun Q&A with the blogger (I suggest you read it if you are remotely intersted in food photography and blogging) and one of the four Bengali vegetarian recipes that is super tasty and very easy to make.
Important: All responses in the Q&A in this guest blog post are Dolphia’s own and have been edited only for brevity and clarity. Photos have been used in the guest blog post with the blogger’s due permission and should not be reproduced in any shape or form without prior consent.
Q&A with Food Blogger Dolphia Nandi-Arnstein from Story of Cooks
1) Please tell us about yourself
I used to be a senior software developer for a 24-7 news organization that services the Northeastern region of the US. Currently, I am a Harvard student and looking for a UX designer job. When I am not studying, I like to cook, take photos and blog at leisure.
2) What is the “story” behind Story of Cooks? Can you tell us how it all began and what motivated you to start blogging?
‘Story of cooks’ is my journal and mirror where I write recipes, travel diaries (informal ones), stories and whatever is happening in my life right now. You will get to know about me if you read my posts thoroughly. I started Story of Cooks in April, 2014 but due to our renovation work and moving, I could not start until August of that year. I started this space to log the recipes that I learn from mom.
3) The world of food blogging is crowded, competitive and involves a ton of handwork and creativity. What have been some of your most rewarding and stressful moments while being at it?
A food blogger’s most delightful moment is when someone else tries her/his recipe. When I publish a recipe and see that others have tried and loved the recipe, it makes me happy.
Food Blogging is quite stressful! From grocery shopping to cleaning the set, it takes an enormous amount of time.
4) Food photography belongs to a different world in itself. How did you master this art? Any tips for amateurs/beginners?
I picked up as I started blogging. I’ve always had an interest in photography but never thought I would be pursuing it so seriously. While I continuously study books, materials, posts etc, I believe photography is something you need to do more than reading.
Just keep practicing and if you want it badly, you will master it one day. I heard somewhere that only the first 10,000 photos turn out badly, after that you will produce only the good stuff.
5) This has always intrigued me and so I ask: how do you develop a recipe? Can you give us a brief workflow as to how you go about doing so and still coming across as original?
It all starts with ideas. I generally look for ideas everywhere – magazines, food groups, other bloggers, and word of mouth. Once I get the idea, I generally write it down somewhere. At the beginning of every week I attempt to do two posts and go over them.
After that I discuss them with mom and we come up with a recipe. She tries the recipe until it’s perfect. After that I try it on a small batch and finally I remake it for bigger batch and shoot it. Meanwhile, I start drafting the story. After shooting I edit the photographs, finish the post and publish the recipe. Sometimes I send those posts over to my editor at UK. If I use a recipe from internet, I never forget to give due credit.
The rapid fire round:
A) One food blog you are simply awed by?
B) If today were to be your last day on earth, what would be the last meal that you would request?
C) A few favorite restaurants in Cambridge and Boston?
A lot actually! Life Alive (for vegan food), Grafton Street (for burger), Felipe (Mexican), Istanbul’lu (Turkish), Kebab Factory (Indian, takeout only), Atlantic Fish (for Fish), Alden and Harlow (Brunch).
D) Favorite Bengali dish that you never get tired of?
E) Favorite celebrity chef/food personality?
Vikas Khanna and Gordon Ramsey
F) What is the one thing that you would want to improve upon as a blogger?
G) And finally, any secret craving?
Bengali Veg Recipe: Cauliflower leaves and stalk stir fry with mustard (vegan/gluten free)
This stir-fried Bengali dish (with veggies and spices) is a quick and easy to make and an excellent way to clean your pantry of leftover veggies. This Bengali vegetarian recipe can be made with a medley of vegetables and is also vegan and gluten-free. The Bengali name for this dish is “Chawchhori” and serves as a simple side dish, packed with flavor that goes well with rice and dal (our lentil soup). This is a classic example of simple, Bengali cooking where no part of the vegetable is wasted but incorporated into the dish to impart texture, flavor and nutrition.
Click on this link to get all four Bengali vegetarian recipes for stir fried vegetables aka “Chawchhori”
Stir fried Cauliflower and Eggplant with Mustard and Spices
- Spice grinder
- Non-stick skillet or wok
- sharp knife
- Cutting board
- 1 Cauliflower Cut into bite sized pieces (apprx ½ inch cubes). Do not discard the leaves and cut them into small pieces as well.
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tsp whole cumin
- 3 dried red chillies
- 1 green chile Seeded and halved length wise
- 4 garlic cloves Minced
- 4 baby potatoes Quarted lengthwise
- 1 small eggplant Diced into approximately 12 pieces
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 4 cups water
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp mustard oil Optional. Drizzling mustard oil is option but highly recommended as it brings out the best flavor of these recipes
- In a soup pot, add cauliflower florets & leaves, water and salt. Boil for 10-15 minutes, or until the pieces are tender but not mushy. They should be little firm to touch by a fork. After they are boiled, strain using a colander and keep them aside.
- Meanwhile, in a coffee or spice grinder, add yellow and black mustard, ¼ teaspoon whole cumin, 1 red chile, and a pinch of salt. Grind them until they are fine and smooth. Place this powder aside in a bowl.
- In a non-stick skillet or wok, over medium heat, heat vegetable oil. Add ¾ teaspoon whole cumin and 2 red chilles. Cook it for 1-2 minutes, or until the cumin seeds splatter in the oil. Add green chile and garlic pieces; cook them for 2- 3 minutes, or until the aroma of garlic wafts out.
- Add boiled cauliflower pieces (florets and leaves) and potatoes to the skillet. Give them a gentle stir to mix well. Add eggplant pieces, turmeric, salt and dry ground spices. Give the mix another stir and cover it. Cook covered for 8 -10 minutes or until eggplants are fork tender.
- Drizzle with mustard oil and serve warm with rice and dal or roti (Indian flatbread)
A HUGE THANK YOU to Dolphia, for agreeing to do this guest blog post and sharing her Bengali vegetarian recipes with gorgeous photos! For more on Bengali culture and diaspora, check out my blog post on where to celebrate Durga Puja in the Bay Area, an autumnal festival that is celebrated by Bengalis worldwide.
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