What distinguishes Bengali food from the food of the rest of India? One big, spicy difference is that Bengali food uses crushed mustard with abandon, says luckyfatima. "You see whole mustard seeds in the rest of India, typical tempering seasoning, but in Bengal (and Bangladesh), you will find preparations of veg/fish actually cooked in fried ground mustard paste," says luckyfatima. White poppy seeds, used also in Pakistani and Muslim cuisines, are another component: "In Bengal you find that a whole curry paste base may be 1/2 ground mustard and 1/2 ground white poppy seed, rather than the single teaspoon in the other Muslim cooking," says luckyfatima.
This is not to say it's in every dish. "The use of mustard seed and poppy seed paste is indeed as you say—much larger proportions than in other regional cuisines of India," says suvro. "But the vast majority of dishes do not use that. More likely in fish and meat preparations the sauce base is made of onion and ginger paste."
But crushed mustard dishes are not likely to be found in ordinary Bangladeshi restaurants. "The Mughlai type food in those London restos and other Mughlai restos run by Bangladeshis in my opinion does not resemble the cuisine in Bangladesh," says luckyfatima. "It is a restaurant genre of food not found in anyone's home and that style of food is the same whether the resto owner is Punjabi or Bangladeshi, all those tandoori dishes and chicken tikka masala and butter chicken ... I would bet a lot of money that unless a Bangladeshi resto has a special Bangladeshi menu (many do) there are none of these mustard seed or posto pastes in their faux-Mughlai tikkas and creamy curries," says luckyfatima. "It is not Bengali food that they serve. Look out for some Bengali dishes common on this type of resto menu, though: rizala, a rich wet 'curry,' and fried pabda maach, or pomfret."
Discuss: Bengali Food [split from LA]