cooking in Bangladesh
Percentage of income spent on food: 35 percent to 42 percent. [Source: Vox ]

Amount of calories consumed each day: 2,270, compared to 1,590 in Eritrea and 3,800 in the United States. Bangladesh ranks 137th out of 172 countries. [Source: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Wikipedia ]

The Bangladesh diet consists mainly of rice, fish, dal (lentils), bread and vegetables. These are eaten by everyone irregardless of their income level. A day — or even a meal — without rice is considered unthinkable. Fish is a staple food of Bangladesh and the main source of protein. There are hundreds of varieties, including carp, salmon, pomfret, shrimp, catfish, and many local varieties. Dried fish is bith a delicacy and a snack. During special occasions and ceremonies, people cook “polao” (pilaf, a rice dish typically with meat and other ingredients), “biryana” (Muslim-style rice cooked with onions, spices and muttons) and various preparations of meat as well as various pithas (cake) in winter.

More than 80 percent of the animal protein in the Bangladeshi diet comes from fish. Fried fish is common. In village, food is often cooked in a pot over a smokey, slow-burning fire made from paddies of straw mixed with cow dung. Fish are often caught in bamboo traps Jack fruit is made into various dishes. Snacks include fruits such as banana, mango, and jackfruit, as well as puffed rice and small fried food items.

According to “Countries and Their Cultures”: “At weddings and on important holidays, food plays an important role. At holiday or formal functions, guests are encouraged to eat to their capacity. At weddings, a common food is biryani, a rice dish with lamb or beef and a blend of spices, particularly saffron. On special occasions, the rice used is one of the finer, thinner-grained types. If biryani is not eaten, a complete multicourse meal is served: foods are brought out sequentially and added to one's rice bowl after the previous course is finished. A complete dinner may include chicken, fish, vegetable, goat, or beef curries and dal. The final bit of rice is finished with yogurt (doi ). On other important occasions, such as the Eid holidays, a goat or cow is slaughtered on the premises and curries are prepared from the fresh meat. Some of the meat is given to relatives and to the poor. Source: “Countries and Their Cultures”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

A markets and grocery stores you can get meat, fish, shrimp, eggs, fresh vegetables, and fruit. Several types of leaf lettuce, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, green pepper, celery, and tomatoes are only in the market during the coolest part of the year. During the hottest six months, vegetables are limited to potatoes, onions, eggplant, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, and a variety of local greens and squashes. Among the tropical fruits that are available are mangoes, pineapples, bananas, papayas, lychees, and guavas. Oranges, apples, and grapes are imported from India or Pakistan. [Source: Cities of the World , The Gale Group Inc. 2002]

Bangladeshi Cuisine

The food in Bangladesh is a mixture of regional cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine and Indian cuisine. Fish is the most common meat source. Meat dishes are also made with lamb, mutton, goat or chicken. Dishes made with beef, and especially pork, are rare. Muslims don't eat pork. Hindus don't eat beef (even though Hindus are a minority in Bangladesh now, the tradition remains from a time when many Muslims lived in the same villages with Hindus). There are no Islamic dietary practices distinctive to Bangladesh.

Fish, meats, poultry, and vegetables are cooked in spicy curry (torkari ) sauces that incorporate cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and other spices. Vegetarian meals are common because many people were poor and could only rarely afford meat. Chickpeas (called gram) and lentils provide much of the protein in vegetarian meals. The protein from these legumes are of good quality. When beef is served it sometimes comes from water buffalo. Near the sea you can get a wide variety of seafood. Freshwater fish is also widely eaten but may be un safe healthwise.

Bangladeshi cuisine varies a great deal from region to region. What people eat is often determined by their religion, caste, ethnic group and home region. Different groups have different prohibitions against certain spices, meats and vegetables. Particular castes have koskerlike rules and different methods of food preparation.

Common spices for Bangladeshi cooking include coriander and red and black pepper. Cardamom, tumeric, cumin seeds, garlic, ginger and tart-sweet tamarind are also commonly featured. Onions are common flavoring.

Curry is almost as common in Bangladesh as India. Bangladeshi curries tend to be less spicy that Indian ones. Curry is a mix of spices; sometimes more than 30 of them. Tumeric is often featured in curry. Some breads and dishes are served with chutneys, a kind of pickled jelly made with mangos, tamarind, coriander or other fruit and spices.

Bengali Cuisine

Bengali cuisine can be subdivided into four different types of dishes: 1) charbya (food that is chewed, such as rice or fish); 2) cho ya ( food that is sucked, such as ambal); 3) lehya (foods that is licked, like chutney); and 4) peya (drinks, mainly milk). Ambal is a sour dish, like chutney, that is served between the main course and dessert. It is typically made with fish. [Source: b17]

The Nawabs of Dhaka had brought Mughal cuisine and Muslim customs to Bengal. The main ingredients are lamb, mutton, beef, yoghurt, and mild spices define the taste of the style. Common dishes include kebabs, stuffed breads, kachi biriyani, roast lamb, and chicken.

Mezban feasts are popular in Chittagong. These have traditionally featured characteristic "heavy" dishes rich in animal fat and dairy products. Saltwater fish and seafood are quite common here. areas. Shutki — dried fish —is more available here than other places.

“Shondesh” is made from sweetened, finely ground fresh chhena (cottage cheese). “Roshogolla”, a Bengali traditional sweet, is one of the most widely consumed sweets in India. It is essentially a syrupy donut-like dumpling. Ras malai is made with white pr yellow coloured balls of channa dipped and soaked in sugar and malai or cottage cheese. Channa is made from dal, or lentils.

Eating Habits in Bangladesh

Three meals are consumed daily. A typical meal consists of a large bowl of rice to which is added small portions of fish and vegetable curries. Also important to the diet is dal, a thin soup based on ground lentils, chickpeas, or other legumes that is poured over rice. A sweet homemade yogurt commonly finishes a meal.

Most Bangladeshis have breakfast early, between 6:00am or 8:00pm, after morning prayer. A typical breakfast consists of ruti (grainy, flat, chewy, whole wheat bread made from unleavened dough rolled out and cooked on a griddle). Rich and poor alike eat ruti for breakfast. Ruti is often eaten in the morning with curries from the night before. Breakfast can vary quite a bit but is usually rice- or bread-based. A favorite breakfast dish is panthabhat, leftover cold rice in water or milk mixed with gur (date palm sugar). “Parantha” (chapati stuffed with cauliflower or other vegetables cooked with butter and oil) or a “puri” (deep fried bread eaten with a thick gravy of peas and potatoes) are also eaten for breakfast along with fruit, maybe some yoghurt, porridge or vegetables, and tea with milk and sugar or a “lassi” (yogurt shake or watered down buttermilk). Major hotels off Western offer Western-style breakfasts.

Lunch has traditionally been served between 1:30pm and 2:30pm, after noon prayer but is often eaten earlier than that. It usually consists of chapatis, naan or rice, “dahl” (a yellowish soup made from lentils poured on rice), grilled chicken, beef kebabs, cooked red cabbage, fried potatoes, cauliflower, meat, fish, egg or vegetable curry, biryana, (Muslim-style rice cooked with onions, spices and muttons), a salad with cucumber, carrots and onions, and water. Condiments served with main dishes include chutneys, rice, yoghurt, green chilies, and chopped coriander leaves. Some Bangladeshis have tea and snacks at tea time from 4:00am to 5:00pm.

Bangladesh tend to eat a late dinner between 8:30pm and 9:30pm. The dishes are similar to those served at lunch. Fruit is more likely to served as a desert than sweets. Water is usually served during the meal and tea is served afterwards. Many Bangladeshis follow their meal with “paan” , an aromatic stimulant made spices and condiments such as saffron, cardamon, cloves, anise and fenel and chewed with betel nut or betel leaves. Bangladeshis regarded it as a digestive. It turns the saliva red.

Bangladeshi Dishes

Bangladeshi Dishes include various kinds of kebabs, spicy stews, meat served in delicious cream sauces, curries and rice. The food is similar that found in India. There are a wide variety of curries. Curry dishes are eaten on an almost daily basis. Tasty pastries, cakes sandwiches and deep fried samosa-type snacks can be found in bakeries, which are plentiful in the cities.

Meals often revolve around rice. Each region has its own styles. Ghee (clarified butter) is an ingredient for many dishes and is served on lentils, curries and breads. Ghee is very high in saturated fat. It is also highly flammable, and is used to light funeral pyres.

Items served at a typical Bangladeshi restaurant include “dal bhat” (thick lentil soup), “biryana” (Muslim-style rice cooked with onions, spices and muttons), “plain paratha” (wheat bread stuffed with cauliflower or other vegetables cooked with butter and oil), “mughlai paratha”, “naan” (bread made from fermented flour and cummin seeds and roasted in a tandoor oven), “chapatis” (unleavened pancake-like bread), “puri” (deep fried bread eaten with a thick gravy of peas and potatoes). Ghee (clarified butter) is served on lentils, curries and bread.

Eastern Indian, Bengali and Bangladeshi dishes often revolve around rice. They include “machher jbol” (a curry with rice and vegetables), “malai” (curry with prawns and coconut), “loochi” (deep-fried dough made of flour water and ghee). Bengalis like “rosogollas” (sweet cheese balls), “sandesh” (milk and sugar squares), People in the cities eat bananas that have been boiled unpeeled and “idlis” (small fermented rice-bread that looks French merengue). Ildis can be bought on the streets for as little as a few cents a piece.

Village food consists of “shak” (a green leafy vegetable), “ruti”, “ dahl”, “piyaj” (onions), “jaggery” (unrefined can sugar) and goat meat. “Chattu” (chickpeas crushed into a yellow powder and mixed with mango pickles, chilies and water) is favorite street food. Other items you can buy on the streets are bread, kebabs, dahl, “jalebas” (pretzel-shaped treated boiled in oil), “samosas” (deep-fried turnovers filled with spiced potatoes and peas, or meat or vegetables), “bhajia” (vegetables dipped in chickpea flour and then fried), “papadum” (chick-pea-flour chips), cold temperature chaat” (a fruit or vegetable salad served with spices), hot “chaat” (fried potatoes and spices and deep-fried pastries). Idris are steamed dumpling made with rice and lentil batter that is allowed to ferment for one day. They are wrapped with banana leaves and served with coconut chutney.

Indian-Style Dishes in Bangladesh

Northern-Indian-style dishes north feature cream, yoghurt, nuts, raisins and saffron and are built around breads and often feature meat. Southern-Indian-style dishes are often served on a tray with gravy-like and stew-like dishes that are designed to be mopped up with the rice. Popular Indian-style dishes include “masala” chicken (cooked in a barbecue-style sauce), grilled kofta kebabs, “korma” (braised mutton cooked with cashew nuts in a spicy curry sauce), “goshtaba” (mutton balls cooked in yoghurt and cardamom), pot roasts, “Dum Pukht” (pressure cooked dishes), “mullagatanni” (a soup made with onion and spices to which milk or cream is added), “channe” (chick peas in tamarind sauce) and “saag panir” (spinach and cheese). . Also try mattar pannir” (homemade cheese with peas), paneer tikka” (roasted cottage cheese). subz kabab” (spicy sausage of ground lamb), pulao” (rice with meat spiced with saffron), biryani” (a multilayered concoction of lamb, nuts and saffron and rosewater flavored rice), Mughalai roasts, kathi kebabs” (eggrolls stuffed with barbecued meat), burra kebabs” (cubes of meat marinated in yogurt sauces and cooked over a charcoal fire), rogan josh” (aromatic lamb cooked with ghee, ginger, coriander and other spices, meats prepared with yoghurt sauces; pakora” (vegetables fired batter), poha” (rice mixture with peas, coriander, and tumeric), khira” (creamy pudding of rice, milk, and sugar),

Southern Indian dishes found in Bangladesh include “sambar” (lentil purée cooked with vegetables and spices), “pakoras” (spicy fried snacks). “appam” (rice and coconut pancake fermented with toddy and baked in a clay pot), “cochin” (a prawn curry with turmeric and coriander), “raita” (yogurt mixed with fruits, vegetables and seasonings) and “payasam” (a sweet made from milk and cereals); .

Iftar Foods in Bangladesh

During Ramadan, Muslims rise before dawn to eat a meal called suhur. Dates are often eaten because this was a food that Muhammad ate. Foods containing grains and seeds, along with bananas, are commonly eaten because they are considered slow to digest and help ease hunger during the fast. Iftar is the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. The fast has been traditionally broken with eating a date. After that, water, fruit juice, or lassi, and snacks such as samosas (meat or vegetable-filled pastries) are eaten, followed by dinner. Dinner may include biriyani. If a family can afford it, dinner is shared with those less fortunate. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World, The Gale Group, Inc., 2002]

Zurana Masud wrote in Zuranaz Recipe: “People like to have iftar at home with all family members and iftar parties are also arranged by mosques. Iftar is taken right after Maghrib time, which is after sunset. Muslims believe that feeding someone at iftar as a form of charity is very rewarding and that such was practised by the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). [Source: Zurana Masud, Zuranaz Recipe, March 23, 2017]

“In Bangladesh, a wide variety of foods items is prepared to take during Iftar. Some of the common iftar items from Bangladeshi cuisine include Shorbot (Lemonade, Milk Shake, Smoothie, Juice, Rooh Afza, Lachhi), Piyajoo, Beguni, Chhanar Jolapi, Jilapi, Bundia, Cabbage Pakora, Cauliflower Pakora, Egg chops, Potato Chop, Chicken Chops, Chicken roll, Chicken Nugget, Chicken wings, Chicken Fry, French Toast, Spring roll, Vegetable cutlet, Vegetable Pakora, Ghugni, Meat Kabab, Muri, Halim, dates, samosas, Dal Puri, Chola, fish kabab, mughlai paratha, pitha, Doi Bora, Doi chira, Tok Doi (Plain Yogurt), Misty Doi (Sweet Yogurt), Patishapta pitha, Falooda, Kalozam Sweets, Rosh malai, Sponge Rosogolla, traditional Bengali sweets and different types of fruits and Fruit Juices such as watermelon, papaya, mango, pineapple.

“In different cities of Bangladesh, it is a common scenario that traders are busy to prepare traditional iftar items in front of different markets, mosques, and intersections. They sell iftar items in front of their shops by putting a table. There are some famous places in Dhaka city having diversity of traditional Iftar. Chawkbazar is the biggest Iftar market of Dhaka. It has been offering iftar to the Dhaka dwellers for over 400 years. The tradition and reputation of Chawkbazar’s ifter items are well known to the city dwellers and has turned into an iftar focal point for the Dhaka residents. People from different parts of the city come here to buy special iftar menu. some of these iftar items are originated in the Mughal era such as mutton and chicken roast, Kacchi Biriyani, shuti kabab, Shami Kabab, Boti Kabab, Reshmi Kabab, Sheek Kabab, shahi doi bora, mutton and chicken cutlet, kima roll, kima parata, doi bora, borhani, mattha etc. ‘Boro Baper Polay Khay’, five-foot long shik kabab and giant shahi jilapi are some popular and special iftar item of Chawkbazar. Nandoos, KFC and Pizza Hut offer special menu and price on Iftar during Ramadan. Most of the renown restaurant of the town arrange special iftar to the customer. All buffet restaurant offer special dinner following Iftar.

“Most of the families of Bangladesh prepare the traditional iftar dishes by their own in kitchen according to their family member’s choice. This culture of iftar item preparation is varying from region to region of the country. But the common dishes are ghugni, piyaju, Potato chop, chola fry, jilapy, vegetable pakora, sweets and different type shorbot/ drinks or juice. Iftar items are shared as gift among the neighbor during the Ramadan by most of the families. This culture brings them closer and makes strong bonding between them.

Eating Customs in Bangladesh

Meals are often huge gathering with a dozen or more people, including uncles, aunts, cousins, friends. In many homes men eat together in one room and women and children eat together in a different room. Food is typically eaten with the right hand by mixing curry or stew into the rice and then gathering portions with the fingertips and placing them in the mouth. In city restaurants that cater to foreigners, people may use silverware. Before the meal, the right hand is washed with water above the eating bowl. With the clean knuckles of the right hand the interior of the bowl is rubbed, the water is discarded, and the bowl is filled with food. After the meal, one washes the right hand again, holding it over the emptied bowl.

Bangladeshis eat sitting at a table and sitting on the floor. Eating customs vary from place to place, income level to income level, religion to religion and caste to caste. People often sit on the floor when they eat. Peasants sometimes sit outside when they eat. In Westernized household people are more likely to eat at a table. People wash their hands before a meal in the washroom or from water-filled bowls. [Source: The Traveler's Guide to Asian Customs & Manners by Elizabeth Devine and Nancy L. Braganti]

A typical meal may include a dozen or more dishes. Different dishes, such as meat, lentils, rice, vegetables and bread, are placed in different bowls and served from a tray called a thalis. With guests, Bangladeshis typically offer them lots of food. It is not considered rude to leave food on your plate. At the end of a meal, guests may be served tea or fruit, which should not be refused. One should at least take a taste.

Dutch treat is not common. If someone invites you to dinner at a restaurant they generally pay. You are expected to return the gesture if someone invites to their home or out to a restaurant. force food on guests.

Sometime foreign guests are provided with utensils when other people are eating with their hands. When Bangladeshis eat with a knife and fork they tend to eat British-style. The spoon is used more than other utensils. Bangladeshis generally wash their hands carefully before meal. There are often no napkins served at the table. After the meal is over guests are given a towel and expected to wash up at a sink.

Eating at an Bangladeshi Home

When Bangladeshis invite guests to a meal, they usually invite them to their home rather than go out to a restaurant. It is considered an insult to the guests and the wife to go out. Bangladeshis like to eat late and entertain before a meal. At dinner parties the main is often not served until 11:00pm or midnight. Meals are often buffets and guests leave immediately after eating. The meal indicates the event is over. Socializing is done before. Guests often arrive at around 8:00pm or 9:00pm. If someone invites you too meal or to their house it is considered rude to turn them down.

Bangladeshis are very hospitable and often insist that their guests eat a lot. Refusal to eat is regarded as refusal of hospitality friendship. At least try something. You can indicate you are finished by putting your fork and spoon in the middle of your plate. If there are no utensils you can indicate you have finished by eating everything on your plate and sitting back in a relaxed position or getting up and washing your hands.

At some homes a guest is served while everyone else sits around and watches. Often the men eat first, with women and foreign guests being included among them, while the women serve them. At dinner parties, dishes are served by the host or hostess or servants. It is considered rude to help yourself. Muslims often eat communally from the same bowl or plate.

Westerners are often offered forks, spoons and knives. When Bangladeshis eat with Western utensils they usually eat British-style with their spoon in their right hand and fork in their left hand and push food with the fork onto the spoon and eat with their right hand using the spoon. People help themselves to food from serving dishes, with serving spoons, in the middle of the table.

Eating With Your Hands

Bangladeshis often eat with their hands, handling the food with right hand. Many Bangladeshis eat food with their hands. Some restaurants don't have any utensils at all to give their patrons. Instead each table comes with a water pitcher that is used to clean the hands after the meal. As a rule, Bangladeshis eat with their right hand. The left hand is kept clean and sometimes used for things like holding a glass and passing dishes to others. Some people also pass things with their right hand. When in doubt watch what other people do first and try to avoid a situation in which you need to pass something when you right hand is covered with food from eating.

Bangladeshis mix rice with dahl or curry on their plate and place it in their mouth. Some ball it up and throw in the mouth. Others mash it and slurp it from their hand. Bangladeshis have been observed not only licking their fingers but also licking their arms up to their elbows.

Some Bangladeshis eat with only first the two joints of their fingers, not their entire hands. Others make sure their sleeves are rolled up and eat with their entire hand. In some places meals come with chapatis (pancake-like bread) that is used to scoop up the food which is usually something that resembles stew. In the other places, meals come with rice and a number gravy-like and stewlike dishes in bowls. You mix a little bit of stewlike dish with the rice and make a ball which you then eat.

Bangladeshis believe that eating with your hands gives you the feel of the food and eating with a spoon or fork adds a metallic taste to the food. One cooking teacher said, "Using your fingers—not knives or forks—you can enjoy dining much more. Brushing beans and tearing off a piece of chapati with your fingers adds to the enjoyment of the meal. In doing so, you are not able to only smell and taste, but also to feel the food."

Muslims have traditionally used their left "dirty" hand to take care of wiping their dirty butt and other "unclean" bodily functions. As a result, they never eat or touch someone with their left hand. People always eat with their right hand even if they are left-handed.

Naga Jolokia, the World’s Hottest Pepper

The naga jolokia — grown in northeast India and Bangladesh was regarded as the world’s hottest pepper. Also called the Naga chili and locally known as Naga Morich, it is closely related to the Bhut jolokia. Like many varieties of the Chinense species, the Naga chili is a small to medium shrub with large leaves, small, five-petaled flowers, and hot fruit. It has a wrinkled texture as opposed to the smoother flesh of similar varieties. [Source: Wikipedia]

The plants are cultivated in Bangladesh, North East India, especially in Nagaland and Manipur, thus the origin of the name "Naga". Many specialists say that the Naga chili has a sweet and slightly tart flavor, followed by slight undertones of woody, smoky flavors. The chili is traditionally used green by the Bangladeshis, often eaten raw as a side dish, or in pickled form as a relish with rice and curry.

Many spicy foods get their spiciness from capsaicin, a powerful chemical capable of making the tongue burn and the eyes water and the run. It works by stimulating neural sensors in the tongue and skin that also detect rising temperatures. Enough of it will cause adrenalin to flow and the heart to beat faster. Capsaicin works by triggering a unique protein in the nerve cells that activates an ion channel that sends a quick pain message to the brain. The same receptor is believed to be used to respond to hot items or scalding water.

The Dorset Naga is a substrain of the original Naga, selected from the Bangladeshi varieties of the Naga morich. The Since 2005, the heat level of Dorset Naga ranged from 661,451 SHUs for green fruit up to 1,032,310 SHUs for ripe fruit. The BBC's Gardeners' World television programme recorded a much higher heat levels for Dorset Naga. One measured 1,598,227 SHUs, one of the hottest heat levels recorded at that time for a chili.

Scoville heat units (SHU) are used to rate a pepper's heat potential. Named after the American chemist Wilbur Scoville, the SHU rating system measures amounts of capsaicin, with a range 0 SHU for a sweet bell pepper to 1 million SHU for the bhut jolokia and naga jolokia. Jalepeños register at 5000 and habaneras register as high 300,000. Pure capsaicin is 15 million.

High Price of Onions Causes an Uproar in Bangladesh

In late 2019, the price of onions has climbed to eye-wateringly levels after neighbouring India banned exports. Onions had to imported by air freight. AFP reported: “Bangladesh is urgently importing onions by air as the price of the essential ingredient in local dishes soared to record highs, with even the prime minister chopping the bulb from her menu. The price of onions — a sensitive subject in South Asia where shortages can trigger widespread discontent with political ramifications — has climbed to high levels in Bangladesh after heavy monsoon rains reduced the crop in India. [Source: AFP, November 17, 2019]

“One kilogramme of the staple vegetable usually costs 30 taka (36 US cents) but has soared to up to 260 taka after the ban was imposed. "Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina) said she has stopped using onion in dishes" “Hasina's deputy press secretary Hasan Jahid Tusher told AFP.“None of the dishes at the PM's residence in Dhaka on Saturday contained onions, he added.

“Local media reported several onion consignments arrived at a major port in Chittagong city after Dhaka — facing a public outcry — imported the bulb from Myanmar, Turkey, China and Egypt. “The state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) is also selling onions at a discounted 45 taka per kilogramme in the capital Dhaka.

“At the city's busy Farmgate neighbourhood, hundreds of people queued for hours — some getting into scuffles — to buy the subsidised vegetable. “Even if I have to stand another two hours, I will do that. I can save some 250 taka by buying one kilogramme of TCB onion. I am standing here because I have to save money," said Ratan, an English teacher who goes by one name. “I am 41 years old. I have never seen onion prices ever crossing beyond 120 taka." Sharmin, a housewife who also goes by one name, said she had stopped using onions in her cooking in the past week. “My husband sells piazu (pakora), which needs huge quantity of onion. But after the recent price hike, he stopped selling piazu," she added.

“Restaurants have cut onions from their menus and there has been a fall in the sale of deep-fried snacks normally cooked with onions. Bangladesh's largest opposition party has called for nationwide protests on Monday over the record prices, which they blame on the government.

High Food Costs Push Bangladesh to Brink of Unrest

During the global food crisis in 2008, frustrations over inflation and high food prices drove Bangladesh to the edge of unrest. Reporting from Dhaka, Emily Wax wrote in the Washington Post: “As a seamstress, Abida Dulalmia makes $1.25 a day embroidering cartoon characters on Disney T-shirts and stitching pockets on jeans for Target. In this jumbled, hazy metropolis, her salary was once coveted. Now it hardly seems enough. With inflation starting to climb into the double digits in Bangladesh and food prices soaring around the world, Dulalmia spends as much as 80 percent of what she makes solely to put food on the dinner table. “We work really hard," the 25-year-old mother of two said on a recent day, wiping perspiration from her daughter's forehead in the muggy heat of their airless, one-room home. "Why can't we afford to eat?" [Source: Emily Wax, Washington Post, May 24, 2008]

“Frustrations over inflation have become increasingly common here, particularly among garment workers such as Dulalmia who, while never well off, had at least managed to feed themselves. Many now fear, however, that those frustrations could ultimately undermine the stability of the entire country, one of the world's poorest.” In April 2008 “about 20,000 garment workers defied a government ban on demonstrations to demand higher wages and protest skyrocketing food prices, especially on such staples as rice, which have doubled in price since last year. Some of the workers, mostly women, hurled rocks and bricks at police and vandalized factories in what the local media dubbed the start of the "Rice Revolution." Troops from the Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary force that normally patrols the country's borders, now operate and guard the crowded government-subsidized rice shops. Dressed in fatigues, they send the stern message that the government wants to ensure stability.

“In some parts of the north, where harvests have been low, Bangladeshis are suffering from what is called monga, a near faminelike condition whereby villagers often skip meals and eat only tiny amounts of food. The country's food and disaster management minister, A.M.M. Shawkat Ali, said rising global food prices have created a "hidden hunger" among poor Bangladeshis. “It has intensified," he said. "And the government will continue to offer food at reduced costs for as long as we need to. We simply have to."

Some, however, see use of the military to guard rice shops as an ominous sign. "How long can the government possibly keep things stable?" said Sajjad Zohir, head of the Dhaka Economic Research Group. "There's a real danger, particularly if political stability doesn't return and prices for food keep going up. Things will only get worse."

“Fearing growing unrest, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association recently started selling rice to workers at subsidized prices. The group represents 1,500 outlets, which contract with American companies. It has contacted the U.S. companies about raising prices for garments — "even a little bit," said Fazlul Haq, president of the organization. That money would give workers a temporary food allowance, Haq said. "The workers' demands are not unreasonable," he said. "We do feel for them. And we are in discussions with the buyers abroad. The worry is that costs of fabrics are also rising. It's a bad circle." For now, at least, selling rice at discounted prices has brought some goodwill. “Our main concern as human beings is that we need to stand beside our workers," said Haq, the knitwear association leader, as he looked out over the crowded city from his high-rise offices. "This is a very serious moment in history."

Drinks in Bangladesh

Bangladeshis are big tea drinkers and they often flavor tea with cow or buffalo milk and lots of sugar. Tea is consumed all times of the day and is fixture of business meetings. It sometimes seems like Bangladeshi men spend half their day drinking tea. In some places tea is served in disposable red clay cups. Vendors often invite customers in share a cup of tea. Coffee is not very common. When its available it us usually instant coffee.

Bangladesh sells its own brands of soft drinks and Coke, Pepsi, 7-up, Mirinda (orange), Sprite and Fanta are widely available as well as fruit juices of various types. In some places you can get freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice, fresh-squeezed orange drink, lassis (yogurt and fruit drinks), coconut water, “nimbu pani” (fresh lime juice, sugar and water), “rooh-e-afza” (syrup and rose water drink), and sweet tamarind drink. Mango juice is popular. The coastal areas serve toddy (palm sap) drinks

For many men, especially in urbanized regions and bazaars, sweet tea with milk is consumed at small tea stalls, sometimes accompanied by confections. Kashmiri tea is served at special occasions like Eid and weddings. Orange and lemon squash (syrups in which water is added) should be avoided because the water may be not be clean. Bangladeshi sometimes add salt and pepper to these drinks.

Soft drinks found in Bangladesh Lemu (soft drink, lemon-lime soda); Mojo (soft drink, cola drink); Clemon (clear lime soda); Speed (energy drink); Pran Maxx Cola (cola flavoured soft drink); Pran Lemon (lemon flavoured soft drink); Pran Up (lime soda); Power (clear lime carbonated beverage); Uro Cola (cola); Uro Lemon (lemon flavoured soft drink); Uro Orange (orange soda); Fizz up (clear lime soft drink); Lychena (lychee flavoured soft drink); Royal Tiger (energy drink); Black Horse (energy drink); Nectar Lemon (lemon flavoured soft drink); Nectar Orange (orange flavoured soft drink); Sunfire (energy drink); Al-Amin Beverages); Double Cola); Thunder (energy drink); Frutika (fruit juice flavoured soft drinks); Iconia (energy drink, vitamin water/energy drink);

Drinking Customs in Bangladesh

Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol. A fair number of Muslims drink but they are either very secretive about it and just do it occasionally. In Muslim countries that have alcohol prohibitions alcoholic drinks are generally available at hotels with Western customers. Sometimes alcohol is offered to Western guests by Westernized Bangladeshis.

Tea is often served to guests and enjoyed during breaks. A lot of socializing revolves around drinking tea. Many people drink milk tea served in small cups. Muslim law and tradition even describe how a person should drink tea: three slow sips, not blowing on the tea, but waiting for it to cool naturally. Sometimes tea is spilled into a saucer to symbolize generosity of a host.

When drinking with a group in a party style atmosphere it is customary to pour drinks for other people not yourself. When drinking from a communal container or glass don't touch your lips to the container or glass. As a rule women are discouraged from drinking with males and smoking.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Bangladesh Tourism Board, Bangladesh National Portal (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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