Kolkata has Kathi-rolls; Mumbai has Vada-Pao, New York offers special NY style Pizza, what Dhaka offers to the world of food. The answer is Tehari, the on the go food for the people of this hustling bustling city.
Let’s check the definition of fast food. According to the Cambridge dictionary, the definition of fast-food is; cheap, often hot food that is prepared and served quickly in a restaurant. In that note, tehari fall into the category very easily. Before the sudden rise of the price of beef due to some policy change in the neighboring countries, cow meat or beef was the cheapest source of protein. Though poultry chicken took the place of beef at present, still many people who are on the go and students prefer a plate of tehari for a quick lunch over the traditional rice, vegetables, curry and dal.
There is a long-lasting debate over tehari and biryani. Both the dishes are made of rice and meat, but have a distinct difference in characters. Therefore, their serving time, portion and specially cooking method and occasion also differ. Biryani, originated as a quick serving meal for the military of Mughal emperors is now the main delicacy of wedding ceremonies. A wedding without Kacchi Biryani could be termed as Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark! Often served with the pairings of date-plum chutney and a thick yogurt-based drink called Burhani, Biryani is the ultimate love for foodies. Made with aromatic long grain rice, lamb meat cut in bigger shanks and garnished with roasted potatoes; often slow cooked over charcoal flame with clarified butter and various aromatic spices. If Biryani is like First Class or Business Class of an airplane, tehari is the economy class. Tehari is served half-plates, comes with an onion slice, a green chili and a lemon wedge. That’s all! Tehari is for students, low income people who are on the move during lunch time. Some oily rice, mixed with small pieces of beef, served in a plate from a large cauldron, often wrapped with a piece red cloth. Tehari is not commonly found in restaurants who serve rice meals or breads with various sorts of curry and kebabs. The shops who sell tehari are often rendered as ‘tehari ghars’. There are numerous tehari ghars located in each and every nook and corner of this ever-stretching Dhaka city. Similarly, every single person has his own choice of tehari ghar, which he or she finds best.
Commonly, tehari ghars are small shops, which are often narrow in shape. Large cauldrons are placed in front, with very small seating arrangement on the back. Besides tehari, the shops mostly sell Khichuri or Morog Polao. The selling portion of tehari are mostly quarter, half and full. People mostly consume half plates; those who are a bit hungrier can always order an extra quarter!
Tehari is very popular among students for a quick pocket friendly lunch. That’s why near every college or university campus, there are a few vendors who are selling hot tehari for lunch from time immemorial! Nilkhet could be easily declared as the capital of tehari. The unique location of this area is the reason behind this title. Located in the very center of the knowledge triangle of Bangladesh, which consists University of Dhaka, Dhaka Medical College and the Engineering University, Nilkhet is the place where all the students come to buy their textbooks, print and bind their thesis papers or make photocopies of class-notes or lecture-sheets. There, some small narrow shanty shops sell an enormous volume of tehari! Royal Tehari Ghar is one of the must go spot for tehari lovers.
Old Dhaka is the hidden gem in food map. Shops like Aftab, Mamun, Maruf and so many other shops sell tasty delicious tehari. Students of Dhaka University, BUET, DMC or other nearby educational institutes are the prime customers of these tehari shops. At the same time, you can’t minus the eternal craving for Biryani among the locals of old Dhaka. Therefore, these places are never found empty. From early morning to late night, sales of tehari go on and on!
Sobhanbagh is another destination for tehari lovers. Situated in a small room behind a towering shopping mall, Tehari Ghar is the constant for many foodies. Made with mustard oil, tender beef and their specialty, a special breed of baby red potatoes are added in this dish. A strong mustard flavored smoke coming out from the cauldrons will instantly increase your appetite. Located beside the Sobhanbagh Mosque, Tehari Ghar is a must go place.
Shad Tehari Ghar in Lalmatia is another sweet spot in the culinary map of Dhaka. Run by female entrepreneurs, Shad will give you a homely feeling. The food is good; the environment is cozy and clean. No flashy decoration, no aggressive marketing campaign by the owners, yet the word of mouth brings along the customers to this small eatery.
There are also some locally famous tehari shops around the capital. Mukta Biryani in Khilgaon, Bhola Bhai from the same locality, Maruf Biryani in Lalbagh and Bismillah Chadni Biryani in Muslim Bazar Mirpur are some mentionable places where you can find a nice plate of tehari. But don’t just chase the wild goose for the sake of names. Even a small tehari shop around the corner of local market might serve great tehari as well. Last but not the least, Tehari on the wheels is another option. They are not a static shop; a food van often sets up a pop-up restaurant in selected localities. You can follow their social media outlets to get direction.
By the way, writing a big article about tehari made me hungrier. I just wanna grab my own plate of tehari now, “hey Mama, please give some extra meat and potatoes”! Yes, you can do that in your frequently visiting tehari shop.