Annaprashon, or Bengali rice eating ceremony, menu

A close friend of mine has become a dad recently. I am still trying to imagine him as a father and I must say visions of Steve Martin in The Father of the Bride often come to my mind.

However, it will be years before he has to throw out his daughter's boyfriends across the door. Right now he is planning for his daughter's annaprashon. This is a Bengali rice eating ceremony which celebrates a child's first bite of solid food. If memory serves me right then the honour of giving the first bite goes to the child's Mama (maternal uncle) if possible. There are other rituals too. For example the child is offered a lump of clay, a pen and a currency note. What he or she picks up is supposed to indicate the child's future profession (farmer, scholar, business). I must confess that my knowledge of rituals is a bit rusty though. Of course, there is a feast for guests.

My friend wanted my suggestions for the menu for the ceremony which he will hold in Calcutta. I am a strong believer in traditional Bengali meals for such occasions. Possibly because I don't live in Calcutta. In fact I had heard stories of, and saw pictures of, how my father had personally cooked Bengali food for 200 plus English guests for my Annaprashan in Canterbury, UK. I know that locals in Calcutta often prefer to go for non Bengali items nowadays in such occasions. But I am not a big fan of fish Manchurian and Veg Au Gratin in Bengali buffets.

Still here's a list of what I would have liked to see in the menu:

Starters

  • A fry/ fritter : Egg plant (beguni) for vegetarians, fish butter fry (a la Benfish) for non vegetarians
  • Kochuri (chik pea stuffed puris as luchis don't stay well in a buffet) and chholar daal
Main Course

Part 1: subtle tastes

  • Steamed rice
  • Shukto (a bitter gourd based dish which is supposed to build the appetite)
  • Fish curry: Rohu kaalia seems a good bet, a universal choice. However something like a paabda in mustard curry is slightly more exotic and would stand out.
  • Vegetarians can have a chhanar daalna (cottage cheese dumpling curry)

Part 2: rich tastes (and cholesterol dump)

  • Bengali 'pulao': slightly sweetish with resins
  • Golda chingri (tiger prawn) malai curry (I know it's expensive but she is your daughter after all)
  • Alternate to above: Kosha mangsho (mutton in a thick onion and garam masala based sauce)
  • Vegeatarians: dhokars daalna (curry with chik pea batter paste based deep fried dumplings)

Sweets

  • Pineapple/ raw mango chutney with papad
  • Mishti doi
  • Baked roshogollo (Banchharam in Gol Park has it, amazing)

Hmmm, I think I'll accept my friend's invite and fly down to Calcutta for this

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