Slowly, Bangladesh is making a mark in the international travel and food scenario. Though there are many restaurants in the UK, run by Bangladeshi owners or British Bangladeshis, the food they serve does not resemble with the taste of Bangladesh. So, it has taken some time to create an identity of Bangladeshi food there. Now many travelers, celebrity chefs are coming to Bangladesh and trying Bangladeshi foods. One thing in common in their observation, the star of Bangladeshi cuisine is the plenty of vegetables which are grown here and the freshwater fishes.
Starting with Trevor James, who is popularly known as “The Food Ranger”. Trevor is a Canadian and he travels the world in search of various sorts of food. He made Eating as his Living through his social media subscriptions. With literally millions of followers over Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, Trevor has become a celebrity on the global scale. Recently Trevor visited Bangladesh and his travel vlogs are out now in youtube. He was regularly updating about his activities in Instagram and Facebook. He visited some food stalls inside the University of Dhaka Campus, had a daylong food tour in the Old Town and took part in a family dinner with his local host. Trevor then moved to Chattogram to taste some authentic Mejbani dishes and other local stuffs.
Matt Preston is another celebrity Chef. He has been working as one of the judges of prestigious “MasterChef Australia”. He is also a food critique and writer, Preston also visited Bangladesh a year ago. He came to Bangladesh in a tie with the launching of a new Pasta brand in Dhaka and to be the guest judge in a local cooking reality show. In his busy schedule, Preston managed to visit some of the heritage food places in the older part of Dhaka and tasted the delicious Biryani and Bakorkhani.
Kiran Jethwa is famously known as the Fearless Chef. This Kenyan Born British adventurer chef acts a bit differently. He is like a blend of Bear Grylls and Gary Mehigan! He travels to extreme places and then cooks with locals with locally found ingredients. Kiran also came to Bangladesh and visited some remote places, far from the madding crowd of the capital. He took part in a very primitive fish catching technique where fishermen used oters to catch fish. Later He cooked food for the fellow fishermen with locally found ingredients.
Drew Binsky is also another very popular digital Nomad. Drew is an American, who came to South Korea as an English Teacher. Later he started visiting the world and he is funding his tours with some social media marketing and sponsorships. Drew also came to Bangladesh almost a year ago and he was also very fond of Dhaka foods. Few other food bloggers, travelers, renowned chefs visited Bangladesh in the past couple of years and they pointed out one thing very clearly; our tourism promotion is heading the wrong direction!
A few years back, there was a huge campaign and activation program to make the Sundarbans as one of the seven natural wonders of this planet. But we did not receive as much response from global travelers to visit the Sundarbans of the Bangladesh part. They rather opt out to visit the Sundarbans of the Indian region. The government is putting great effort to make Cox’s Bazar, the world’s longest sea beach as a tourist destination for foreigners. But the recent humanitarian crisis and outbreak of drug trafficking have heavily damaged the endless possibilities of this coastal paradise. Hence, even people from Bangladesh are choosing nearby and popular destinations like Bali, Phuket, and Pattaya. So, what Bangladesh can offer for foreign travelers? The answer is food and hospitality.
The food in Bangladesh is comparatively cheaper, tasty and has a huge variety which is slowly making an own place in the travel charts. Let’s start with the Food Ranger. He visited the famous Nirob Hotel, located in Chankharpool area of Old Dhaka. There he was served literally a table full of dishes. Meat, fish, and vegetable. To him, the dishes were not only diverse in cooking style, the variety of vegetables also made him astound. Trevor liked the Bhartas very much, which is nowadays a cherished delicacy in the urban food scene. Vegetables or dried fishes, pounded or grinded, then mashed with fresh green chills, onion slices, and mustard oil created a unique taste for his pallet. Trevor also tasted the traditional Bakarkhani, a flaky pastry which is best served with a hot cup of milk tea. Trevor visited the Haji Biryani, Nanna Morog Polao, Beauty Lassi and Faluda and tasted every single item with utmost joy. Trevor also visited the Dastgir Hotel in Chattogram for some piping hot nehari at very early in the morning. He also tasted the mejbani food at Mejjan Haile Ayun, some wide range of Bangladeshi food at Nizam hotel and he expressed his utter disbelief seeing so many things being cooked regularly in a relatively smaller restaurant. Trevor termed Bangladesh as Hidden Paradise for Foodies!
Going back to Matt Preston, the food Critique. He tasted the traditional Old Dhaka delicacies like Biryani, Faluda and various items. He was very curious about the kitchen markets rather than going into some posh restaurants, said, “There are so many vegetables in the local markets, enough to make a chef wonder. And amazingly, all are grown in Bangladesh! Just look at the potatoes; big, small, red, so many verities”. Mr Preston noticed one thing which may be slipped by our local entrepreneurs, “I do not find a good fine dining of local Bangladeshi food. The restaurants here, they mostly serve meat-based dishes. But globally, now chefs are picking vegetables as the star of their dishes. And You should take care of the local sweet water fishes. So many variants and such different tastes”. He was also critical about some traits of local restaurants, “Standard of restaurants show how good a city is. Somehow here in Dhaka, people think expensive restaurants are fine dine which is absolutely not. You have many things to pride for. I do not hear too many things about Bangladeshi food, but the reviews of foreign foods are readily available”.
Drew Binsky showed what 10 USD can get you in Dhaka. He traveled to a historic place, ate two tasty meals and bought books and even a new sunglass all with less than 10 Dollar! It shows how cheap it is to travel in and around Dhaka and have some tasty meals. Drew had his breakfast at Al Razzaq, a famous restaurant at Bangshal. He had flatbreads, roasted chicken and salads while for lunch he went to Star Hotel and had their famous Biryani. So, for the backpackers and budget travelers, Bangladesh could be a great destination where they can have so much food and fun with very less to spend.
Remember the Fearless Chef? Not everybody is adventurous like him, but some are certainly eager to follow his footsteps. He traveled on the roof of a train towards Dhaka, with fishermen carrying their catch. He took part in an age-old fishing process where pet otors are used. He traveled in country boats with the fishermen and shared the experience. He made them food in the middle of a river. These experiences do not come in travel brochures.
One thing is clear from their views. Foreign travelers do not come here to see the shore. There are few other places where they can enjoy the charm of the sea in much cheaper, safer and happier way. The treasure of Bangladesh is the people, who are hospitable, friendly and helpful. The key attraction is the variety of food. The fishes, the vegetables, the sweets; they all create unique chemistry. Maybe now is the time to showcase our very own Bangladeshi Food to the world.