January 19, 2024
DHAKA – The city of Dhaka has a rich history of delectable food that often dates back centuries. An array of succulent food that the Mughals introduced during their rule and recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation (some of which have been tightly held on to as family secrets) are widely available to the masses.
Among the numerous buzzing food hubs in the city, the ones in old town still have a distinct aura about them — and it is this preservation of heritage that makes the whole atmosphere unique to this day. Despite the frantic crowd and chaos that persists, people from all corners do not miss out on paying a visit to try the food of Old Dhaka.
Albeit the enthusiasm that is contained within Dhakaiya food, and being a Dhakaiya myself, dare I ask, is Dhakaiya food worth the hype? Now before misinterpreting the rest of the article, let me assure you that it is an analysis of the food scenario, where the intention is not to ridicule our food heritage.
Some areas of Old Dhaka have earned their name and fame in their own right due to the popularity and demand for food, take Chawk Bazar’s iftar bazar for example. Over the years, this has become the hotspot for people to buy iftar, so much so that in recent years, the roads are closed to vehicle entry during peak hours.
Add to that the insane traffic that persists throughout the month of Ramadan and yet so many people choose to make that trip. But is it worth it? The experience of rummaging the bazaar is exciting where you can explore new items, but even two of the most coveted dishes, Boro Baper Polay Khay and the gigantic Shahi jilapi make the hassle questionable given their taste.
Hailing from a Dhakaiya household, I can assure you that even we do not understand this hype.
Another way to catch a glimpse of our royal food heritage is by attending a Dhakaiya wedding. I am genuinely surprised by the number of people who want to attend my wedding just for the food spread! With the chicken biriyani, Nargis kofta, jali kabab, malai kofta, chicken roast, shahi jorda, borhani, and mishit paan on the menu — this is one experience to look forward to.
But do not blame the Dhakaiyas for that overwhelming feeling afterwards or for wondering about the fate of that whole mutton roast. You have to appreciate the Dhakaiyas for their hospitality and exuberance, especially when it comes to splurging on food!
Another area in Old Dhaka famous for food — Nazira Bazar — especially so for late-night food shenanigans is abuzz with various delicacies from polao to lassi. As delightful as it may sound, the area is inaccessible via vehicles at night, and while you may enjoy some of the delicacies, you better take an expert’s opinion on the right eateries to avoid a stomach upset.
Nazira Bazar is a haven for foodies and explorers, only if you eliminate the nonchalance of the restaurateurs towards customers and the push of the crowd deciding for you where to eat. From famous biriyani houses to drinks and coolers, you can wrap up an entire meal.
Albeit the diversity in opinion for the question at hand, and the imperfections that exist in the Dhakaiya food scenario, these are also gems that make the wealth of food in traditional Dhaka and act as a reminder of our rich history.
Iconic items like the ones mentioned above may seem far-fetched in today’s modern food scenario, but these are the founding bricks of our love towards food. In terms of experience, is Dhakaiya food worth the hype? Most would disagree, but to get the true taste of our food culture — definitely!