When it comes to skin foods, Bengali cuisine can offer up a platter of delicious options. On the outside, a Bong’s eating habits can seem indulgent (a big no-no for clear skin) – rich meats and fishes being a staple in their daily diet. But on a closer look, the foods consumed for breakfast and during certain seasons work wonderfully; the ingredients and preparations can improve skin health and overall wellness. Foods that improve your gut health, cool your body down, or are brimming with skin-friendly nutrients, a Bengali kitchen is a treasure trove of beauty secrets.
Here are 5 Bengali dishes that can quickly become a part of your beauty-boosting diet.
1. Paanta Bhaat
Full disclosure: you will find versions of the Paanta Bhaat in Odiya, Assamese, Malyali, and Tamilian cuisines as well. This fermented rice preparation is known to supply lots of good bacteria to your gut—a cooling food to consume during hot and humid weather. Usually consumed as a breakfast food in the summer, this humble rice dish is nutritious (vitamin B12 and probiotics) and yummy. It gained global clout when Melbourne-born chef of Bangladeshi origin, Kishwar Chowdhury, wowed the judges with their version of the dish and the internet went gaga over it. Bengalis have been eating it for decades, and if you are looking for an excellent alternative to heavy, greasy breakfast foods – this might come handy!
1. Soak leftover cooked rice in water overnight (8-12 hours) at room temperature to allow it to ferment.
2. In the morning, squeeze out the water from the rice and place it in another bowl.
3. Add buttermilk/curd, chopped onion, chopped chillies, salt to taste and a dash of mustard oil and lemon to it; serve cold.
Prepared with potatoes, sweet potatoes, bitter gourd, green bananas, raw papaya, aubergine, drumsticks, and flat beans, Shukto is a mixed veg dish usually served during wedding feasts. It may sound like it’s a complete and hearty meal, but primarily, the appeal of this dish is that it is incredibly light. The secret perhaps is in its base seasoning – poppy seeds. Used in abundance in various Shukto recipes, poppy seeds are known for being rich in antioxidants that help nourish your skin from the inside out. They are also highly beneficial for reducing inflammation (the root cause of most skin issues) in your body and keeping your scalp infection-free. The low-calorie but incredibly filling recipe has various preparations, so you can pick and choose the one that best suits your taste palate.
3. Muri Ghonto
We cannot have a list of Bengali foods without including a fish preparation. For this list, though, we are picking the most potent of them all – Muri Ghonto – made with mashed up fish heads. This one is a powerhouse of ingredients that are so good for your skin. Otherwise thrown as scrap meat, fish heads are pretty popular in Bengali cuisine. Bones, brains, cartilage from fishes are rich in vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and calcium. When prepared as a curry, the dish is highly palatable to even the most discerning seafood consumer.
4. Biuli’r Dal
Bongs are not afraid of eating slimy foods; they are pretty celebrated in their households. Prepared with black gram lentils, the dal is first dry roasted and then boiled to achieve the almost porridge-like consistency. The critical components of this dish are fennel seeds and ginger – both of which boast many benefits for the skin. Fennel seeds are rich in various vitamins and improve overall skin texture, keeping your skin bump-free. It is protein-rich without being too overwhelming and filling. The dal can also be prepared with your favourite meats, while still keeping it light and delectable for any meal of the day.
5. Aamer Tok
Aamer Tok or Aamer Ombol is prepared with unripe green mangoes freshly picked from the backyards of Bong households. Bengalis believe that any tart food is good for your skin and there is a science behind that. Sour foods are rich in vitamins C and E, both of which are known for nourishing your skin and providing anti-ageing benefits. The preparation is often eaten as a palate cleanser in-between courses, and at the end of meals to aid in digestion. It is also extremely cooling to the body during hot summer months.