Curry: any "wet dish" cooked in oil, can contain any
combination of spices
Naan: thin round-shaped bread served with many meals
Pulse/legumes: any bean, chickpea, or lentil dish, each
of which act as a staple in various parts of India; dal and masoor
are both forms of pulses
Rice: served as a base in many dishes and is prepared in numerous
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Biryani: a spicy rice dish often made with vegetables
and sometimes meat
Kebab: spiced meats usually made from lamb or chicken and served
on naan with vegetables
Khichuri: rice cooked with lentils
Pitha: flour, molasses, and milk ball-shaped sweets
Southern Bangladesh: fish and coconut are much more common than
elsewhere in Bangladesh
When eating in Bangladesh, remember that you are in a
Muslim country and with that comes a couple etiquette rules you must know and follow.
First, dress on the conservatively side (see our
Bangladesh Culture Page for more details). Second, in conservative homes
and even some restaurants, it is not acceptable to eat with a person of the opposite
sex unless it is your child, sibling, or spouse. While this is very uncommon today,
to some conservative Muslims this is important so observe the local's situation
and follow their lead.
If you get by those first two rules, try to arrive on time for a meal and if eating
in a local's home remove your shoes at the door if others have done so. Greet
the elders first, but men should not touch the hand of a woman unless she initiates
this contact, although you should greet and acknowledge everyone. Prior to sitting
down you may be led to a faucet to wash your hands; follow the lead of others to
know when and where to wash your hands, but you must do so prior to eating. Let
your host seat you and when sitting be sure to keep your feet flat on the floor
or pointed behind you as pointing the soles of your feet at another can be offensive;
you may be asked to sit on the floor or on low chairs and the table may also be
low or simply consist of a sheet on the floor.
Once the food begins to arrive, your host may direct you to certain dishes you should
eat; accept all of your host's suggestions as turning down food can be rude
(but not taking food that your host doesn't recommend is not offensive). Although
you must take all of their suggestions, try to limit the amount you take so you
can later accept additional food, which is a great compliment. You, as a guest will
likely be served first, but don't begin eating until after the oldest person
present begins eating.
Eat as the locals eat; in nearly all settings this means eating directly with your
right hand (and your right hand only), but in rare settings you may be offered dining
utensils (cutlery), in which case eat in the continental style (knife or spoon in
the right hand, fork in the left). If a knife is not present, most locals will hold
the spoon in their right hand and eat primarily from the spoon. No matter which
utensil you hold in which hand, be sure to only bring food to your mouth with the
utensil in your right hand. As you finish your food, and your second helping of
food, leave a bit on your plate to show there was more than enough. After everyone
gets up from the table, you should again follow the lead of others and wash your
hands once more, which may come from a water basin passed around the table or you
may be asked to use a faucet.
Dining in a restaurant in Bangladesh is limited as there
are few restaurants and most of those that do exist are catered to foreigners. More
likely, if meeting a local out, you'll do so for tea at a teahouse. If at a
restaurant, a service charge is usually include, which will replace the tip, however
at many local teahouses and some restaurants no service charge is included; tip
about 5% to the server.
Celebrations & Events
In Bangladesh, Eid al Fitr is sometimes known
as Choti Eid, which is a celebration that occurs immediately after Ramadan,
a religious holiday that requires fasting for 30 days. Choti Eid is celebrated
with the heavy use of both meat and oil, two items which symbolize wealth and are
rich and filling enough to satisfy anyone who has fasted for a full month. However,
these foods are followed with desserts so one must leave room for more food. The
desserts are again traditional Bengali foods, including rice pudding among others.
The second major religious food celebration in Bangladesh
is Eid al Adha, which is only celebrated after a pilgrim returns from haj,
the mandatory journey for every able Muslim to go to Mecca. Again, this festival
contains a large number of traditional local dishes such as biryani, meat
dishes, and desserts; the foods served are not unlike those served during Eid al
If you want the cultural experience while in Bangladesh
seek out borhani, which is yogurt with various spices that dates back to
Muslim rule over the region. Due to the local availability and the British, tea
is also very popular as is coffee. Juices, soft drinks, and nearly any other popular
international beverage can easily be found in the country as well.
As a primarily Muslim country, Bangladesh has very little
alcohol available, although it can be purchased and consumed in most areas. Most
hotels catered to foreigners have alcohol available for purchase in their restaurants
The tap water in Bangladesh should not be consumed. Be
sure to also avoid anything with ice as it may have been made from the tap water.
Salads and fruits could have also been washed in the tap water so be careful with
those foods as well.