Bride and groom, posing at a wedding. Photography by Sanim Haque. Used with permission
Everyone loves a wedding, and if you're a food lover you don't want to miss a chance to attend a Bangladeshi wedding. Considering the love Bengalis have for their cuisine, it comes as no surprise that they go the extra mile for their wedding celebrations.
The wedding season in Bangladesh usually runs from December to January, when the temperature is cooler. A typical wedding menu consists of food items such as Pulau, Biryani, Chicken roast, Korma, Kebab, Rezala and Borhani among others. The sweet desserts include sweetened yogurts, Payesh, Jorda and different kinds of sweetmeats. When the groom arrives at the wedding, he is welcomed with sorbet and sweets.
Until a few decades ago, weddings used to be arranged inside the premises of the home or the neighborhood and was served by family and friends. Nowadays, the venue has shifted to community centers and other halls where professional catering services and chefs deal with the food. Novelist and journalist Iraj Ahmed reminisces about his childhood:
There was a huge gate wrapped in red, white and green clothes standing where the lane started (welcoming the guests). In the scorching sunlight, huge pots filled with Biryani would be sitting on the makeshift burners of bricks. The area would be filled with the smoke of the firewood of the burners. On the rooftop, light grey chair and tables would be assembled beneath the tarpaulin. You could see people running errands as busy bees. And some were seen coming out of that scene after filling their stomachs with curry marks on their festive clothes. They would inadvertently walk ahead to buy a Seven Up (drink) or a paan at the local store. The air would be filled with joy. This was the scene of a typical wedding in Dhaka many years ago.
In those days, people would say that it's bad manners to serve guests catered food; however, now people seem to be catching up with the reality of the times. Siddhratha Mukhopaddhay from West Bengal, India writes about the changes in Bengali weddings:
Now the hosts want to be sure about the hospitality by giving all the responsibility to the caterers. The tendency to serve the guests personally has changed. Earlier the guests would not come to the weddings if they were not invited in person by visiting their homes. Now, it's sometimes via phone calls and people are even accepting wedding invitations via Facebook or Whatsapp!
A glimpse inside the new Bangladeshi wedding menu
Along with the changes to wedding culture, there has been a shift in the wedding food items in Bangladeshi cuisine. Earlier, simple dishes like Pulau with chicken roast, spicy mutton rezala (curry), fried beef, Tikia (mutton mince patty), salad with tomato and cucumber and borhani, and desserts such as jorda or rice pudding used to be served. Now more complex and lavish dishes like Biryani, a Mughal cuisine, is being increasingly chosen for menus.
There is even a special arrangement for the groom. For wealthy families, the norm is to serve him and his entourage a whole lamb roast.
The groom is being welcomed with sweets. Image by Sanim Haque. Used with permission.
The groom has been served. Image by Sanim Haque. Used with permission.
This popular main dish used to be served at almost all Bengali weddings. Plain pulauis made of fragrant rice (Basmati, chinigura etc.) with onions, green chilies, peas, ghee and sometimes other additions. It is served with roast and curry (separate dishes).
: rgb(18, 135, 200); text-decoration-line: none;">Biryani, a South Asian mixed rice dish, is now becoming a norm. Spices, fragrance rice, meat (chicken, mutton, beef, or fish), Ghee (clarified butter) and other condiments are layered and cooked together to make Biryani. Unlike Pulau (which is taken with roast and curry dishes), Biryani is a complete dish with meat and spices (and vegetables) inside.
Mutton Rezala is a curry dish originating in Bengal that is prepared from mutton and vegetables. It is served typically with Pulau or rice.
Another common dish at a Bnagladeshi wedding is chicken roast. Image by Sanim Haque. Used with permission.