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8. Bangladesh : Gastronomy


In Bangladesh, the best food is often found at home, which is a good thing given that travelers and guests receive so many dinner invitations, sometimes from total strangers.

Cultural considerations 
In Bangladesh, the best food is often found at home, which is a good thing given that travelers and guests receive so many dinner invitations, sometimes from total strangers. It is not expected that you take up every invitation, but you should try out a few and get a taste of the best cuisine the country has to offer. Often, homemade meals are cooked with a lot of love and care, which does require time, and thus having dinner at a friend's house can become a multi-hour affair for which you should leave a lot of time and accept the fact that you will never be able to finish all the food prepared for you. It is the part of the culture of this land to honour the guest through creating an amiable ambiance in the home and serving home made delicious food is one of the ways to show the fervor. In return, you may also express your attachment by bringing some flowers or food contribution along (sweets like rosh golla or misti doi are a good choice) or even sending some photographs later on.
There is an abundance of Chinese restaurants in Bangladesh, which have a more private atmosphere than the common eateries. These places have wildly varying menus, but the most popular items among locals are the fried rice and chop suey dishes. You will also find various combinations of chicken, beef, vegetables and chilli served in various wet sauces, sometimes spicy. Here you may find difference with the `authentic' Chinese food, but the dishes are clean, healthy, attractive and well-cooked food at reasonable prices, and ofcourse delicious. A meal here will usually cost between Tk100 and Tk250 per person based on the choice.
Adivasi food
Indigenous people, known as Adivasi people in Bangla, make some very different foods from their neighbours. In particular, the Chittagong Hill Tracts seem to have a very real love of fish-based flavouring that resembles Thai or Burmese cooking much more than south Asian cuisine.
A note about Ramadan 
Eating out is much harder during the period of Ramadan, a Muslim religious festival in which no food or even water is supposed to be taken during daylight hours. The fasting, called roja in Bangla, begins at dawn, after which many families have already awoken well before sunrise to have a quick meal. During the day, most restaurants - but not all of them - run a special lftar service during this period, in which they sell a range of Iftar snack items that are usually packed off and taken home for eating the moment after sunset. Halim and fried items dominate these menus. The restaurants then usually reopen for regular dinner service in the evening although business often stays quite slow during this time.
Ramadan is a deeply religious time in Bangladesh, in which the citizens fast in order to remember the plight of the less fortunate in their society. It is also a time of giving alms to the poor and practicing religious austerity with friends, family and colleagues. If travelling during this time, you might like to try a day of fasting to see how it feels, and certainly this voluntary starvation does bring on a kind of understanding as to why people seem quite droopy in the late afternoons.
In terms of the law, Bangladeshis are not allowed to carry alcohol in their private cars without an alcohol licence. Such licences are only attainable with a doctor's prescription and hence the possession of alcohol can be legalised for `medical reasons'. There are a few bars in the big cities that serve local and imported alcohol as well as imported beer. As a foreigner you are not required to possess such licences.
Amongst ethnic minorities, the story is naturally different. Because such people are either Buddhist or Christian, there is not only an acceptance of alcohol but there is often a culture surrounding it. Most of the people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts distil their own high-alcohol brews from rice, which are quite potent and belly warming and best not taken in too large a quantity. In the Garo areas of Mymensingh, there is another kind of milder rice wine that is quite excellent and goes well with meals. The best time of year to visit these places is during the holiday seasons, where people are more naturally in a festive mood. For the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the best time is during Bengali New Year (14 April), and for the Garo areas of northern Mymensingh, the best time is around Christmas.
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