Just two slender sticks! All it took to conquer the food scenario of Dhaka. The capital of Bangladesh is a unique destination for food lovers. Here, you can have the finest quality of Mughal cuisine, continental dishes and mouthwatering Indian food; all under the same roof. Gradually, expatriates living in Bangladesh also set up their own culinary outlets. Therefore, Sri Lankan cuisine, authentic Chinese and Korean foods are also very much available. To make the choice harder, there are few famous international brands of fast-food operating in Dhaka, the numbers of local culinary chains are also in rise. In this heavily populated city, where eating out is the only form of entertainment now a day, restaurants are popping up in a geometrical ratio. Some offer lucrative interior, some offer privacy for the lovebirds, some serve good food too! Basically, it’s not about the tummy, it’s all about the experience. In this area, Japanese cuisine is the latest trend in the food scene. Eating with chopsticks, having foods like ramen, sushi and Teppanyaki, which are not our regular choice of food at home, are very much on demand.
Earlier, there were few specialty Japanese restaurants in the posh area of Dhaka which served mostly to diplomats and businessmen. But now, college-going youths can also afford a bowl of Japanese ramen and the restaurants are not confined in one certain area, rather splashed out to the different corners of the city.
For almost 3 decades, the elite restaurants in Dhaka were those who served Chinese dishes. Technically, the dishes, fried rice, chili chicken, beef in oyster sauce belongs to the Indo-Chinese community of Kolkata. They made a fusion of local tastes with their Hakka style cooking. Chiu Chan Chow; was the very first Chinese restaurant in Dhaka, started in the early 1960s. There was also another restaurant called Cafe China, which also commenced operation at the same time.
Chinese sounding names, decorations with dragons, Chinese paper lantern hanging from the ceiling and smart waiters wearing a butterfly bow tie. Dinner in the Chinese restaurant was once a supreme delicacy. To celebrate grand occasions, families used to check into the posh, dimly lighted and craftily decorated Chinese restaurants. This tradition was very much in action, even 10 years back!
The food scene in Dhaka took a few sharp turns with access to cable TV and the Internet. The growing middle class was not happy with some rice and chicken, though served in a different sauce! In the early nineties, came the pizza places. Fast food chains offering fried chickens or broasts. The growing urban population was hungry for some sheer protein and the chicken-based fast foods just caught the ride. After some small stints of various FCs (fried chicken stores), Swarma Houses; now is the time for Pan Asian food. Young people are trendy, but also health conscious. They want to pass the evening with friends or fiancée in a posh eatery, but don’t want to indulge in some fat burgers or a pile of fries! The choice of food should be healthy and tasty. That’s the area where Japanese food scored high marks.
Sushi, Shumai, Teppanyaki, teriyaki are some of the favorite dishes among the Japanese or Korean style restaurants in Dhaka. Trip Adviser, a famous travel related website referred Izumi, Umai, Tokyo Express, Samdado, Wasabi and Kobe as their top destinations for Japanese style food. Sushi Tey is an international chain restaurant which started its business in Bangladesh in recent times. Ichi, Nagasaki, Kiyoshi, Sticks and Sushi, Man Mo, Izakaya are few other choices to go. Besides these restaurants, some of the star category hotels also serve Japanese style food.
Rice and fish are the staple food in Bangladesh. In sushi, both the ingredients are present, but in a different form. In Bangladesh, we prefer neat white rice on the plate, but in the Japanese way, rice is served in a different way. Japanese or Koreans like their rice sticky and starchy. In most cases, black rice or brown rice is high on demand and they like rice a bit husky.
Izakaya means Japanese Pub where some snacks are also served with drinks. The owners of Izakaya, located in Dhanmondi right above the Mini So shop, took inspiration from Japanese pub and street food. They have a Japanese head Chef who is very experienced. They serve some fusion foods like Nori Beef Taco, Chicken Kushiyaki, Garlic rice, baked scallop on the shell and so many items. The most interesting part is the condiments. You will get seaweed sauces, fish egg sauce and few exclusive side dishes with the mains which will make the experience a memorable one.
Man Mo in Gulshan, a newly started restaurant is also gaining fame for their dim sum or dumplings. In Nepal, they call it Momo, In Hong Kong its dumplings, in Chinatowns it’s dim sum; all three items are almost similar. Steamed dough-balls, stuffed with choice of filling. You can put minced chicken inside, some may like vegetables or cheese, and someone might go for seafood stuffing inside. Served in a bamboo basket or hot steam pot, dim sums or dumplings are very refreshing and light after a busy day of work. These also come with a wide range of condiments like wasabi sauce, dark or light black bean sauce and traditional ginger garlic sauce.
Sushi Tei is another hottest destination in town for mouthwatering sushi, rainbow rolls, Maki rolls, salads and sashimis. Though a bit expensive, the wide range of imported seafoods and their extraordinary taste do the justice to their price tag. Teppanyaki is another style of Japanese food which is pan grilling. Now a day, it’s very popular in the U.S.A and The Middle East. Four Points by Sheraton, a posh international chain hotel in Dhaka organizes a live Teppanyaki buffet with a famous chef from Thailand. You can take the stool and sit on the counter and see what is being made for you by the chef. Fishes like Salmon, Dori, Lobsters, chicken, beef, and vegetables are available for pan grilled with exotic seasonings.
Japanese electronics, car bears the emblem of trust and longevity. Similarly, Japanese foods also promise health and taste. So “the chopstick revolution” took over the city with a storm. This time it’s not “Long Live Revolution”, it’s actually “live Long Revolution”. A movement against unhealthy junk foods, moving on to healthy foods with natural ingredients.