A Very Happy Bengali-Indian New Year

Celebrate the Indian New Year’s Day here in America.

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Be ready. Our New Year’s Day is coming up. We say, Shubho Naba Barsho.

The First Day or Pahela of a Bengali New Year happens in the middle of April. Indian calendars are lunar calendar, and the first month is called Vaisakh. The Bengali New Year therefore is called Pahela Vaisakh.

On the calendar, Vaisakh is the first month of a two-month summer. Scorching summer. In some places, it can reach up to forty degrees…maybe even forty five. Which is well above 100 F. Then appears the famous Bengali monsoon cloud with its famous, continuous rain, thunder and country floods. Frogs flourish. In remote villages, snakes flourish too. Monsoon also goes on for two months. Monsoon is followed by a beautiful, sunny autumn.

And so on.

Pahela Vaisakh, the New Year’s Day, is well known for its food and festivities. In other parts of India also, such as Punjab in the north or Assam in Far East, this day is celebrated with much fanfare. In southern state of Kerala too, this is an auspicious day.

In Punjab, it’s called Vaisakhi.

Bengalis love their food, and they love their festivities. The gods and goddesses have blessed Bengal – both the province of West Bengal where I came from, and also East Bengal that is now known as Bangladesh. My parents came from East Bengal, after the British partition.

In the Hindu Bengali community, Pahela Vaisakh is celebrated with a religious offering or Puja to Ganesha, the god of success. Traders and merchants in particular have their observance, before they ceremoniously begin their yearly accounts book. In Bengal, they call it Haal Khata, or the new ledger. Small traders and shopkeepers, whether it’s a sweet shop, grocery store, neighborhood book publishing business or a tiny hairstyling saloon, the owners make sure the decorate their shop with the ceremonious banana plants adorned with the sacred vermillion or sindur. The puja ritual is done inside by a Brahmin priest, and then the trader would have abundant food and particularly sweets to give away to local children or guests whoever show up that day.

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In a few places in India, people also fly kites on the New Year’s Day to celebrate the festivities. India is a very diverse country, where you can find different customs and cultures only a hundred miles apart. Some places fly kites. Some others places perhaps have a rowing competition.

Food, of course, is an integral part of any religious or social festivities in India. Bengali or Punjabi or Assamese New Year’s Day is no exception to the rule. But on the two sides of Bengal, food has assumed a very rich role in these festivities.

Many people in Bangladesh celebrate Pahela Vaisakh with an exotic combination of rice soaked overnight in water they call Pantaa Bhaat, and a special preparation of the famous Hilsa fish. There, they call it Ilish. The major rivers such as Ganges in West Bengal and Padma in Bangladesh are lush with this beautiful, shiny, silvery fish that is absolutely mouth-watering. No Bengali New Year’s Day celebration is complete with Pantaa-Ilish. It is a must. Add some hot green chili to the mix. That is, if you can take it.

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Ilish is cooked in many different styles in different parts of Bengal. Some bake it with special spices. Some put pieces of the fish coated with turmeric and salt in a soft banana leaf, and slowly cook it inside an earthen pot on a very low charcoal heat. The baked Hilsa is known as Bhapa Ilish. Some cook it with a generous amount of mustard seed paste, mixed with green chili. That curry is known as Sarisha Ilish. Then, some others would not wait much longer once the fish arrives either from the village river or from the city market. They would cut it delicately in large pieces, and deep fry in mustard oil.

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Absolutely heavenly – all of the above.

And of course, no lunch or dinner is complete in India and Bengal without its fabulous desserts. There are so many varieties of desserts and sweets there that one would simply keep counting them for the rest of their lives.

And mangoes. A very big part of the Bengali celebration. Unending varieties of mangoes, too.

That’s how life is like back there: full of food, full of fun, and full of family and friendship.

Be a part of this wonderful celebration.

Shubho Naba Barsho.

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Our Wonderful India Trip :-)

I just came from a trip to India. Brooklyn Food Coalition’s executive director Nancy Romer traveled with me. We had a great time.

I’m posting a few pictures here. I have a plan to bring interested friends on a culinary tour to various parts of India. Next year in the cool months, we could do it. Let me know if you are interested.

I’m posting some photos from our India trip here.

Our trip started in Calcutta in the eastern state of West Bengal where I grew up. Then, we went to Shanti Niketan (Abode of Peace), Nobel Laureate poet Tagore’s global university (Vishwa Bharati). Noted journalist P. Sainath came with us.

From Calcutta, we went to Tamil Nadu and Kerala, two southern states famous for their very different food and lifestyle habits, and numerous, fascinating temples and environmental resorts. It was just a remarkable experience.

A group of Indian food and environmental activists guided us throughout the trip, and made our travel very safe and fun-filled. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Our trip adjourned in Kochin for me, and Trivandrum for Nancy. She left for Sri Lanka, and I returned to Calcutta, to see my extended family and friends one last time, before I returned to New York.

Hope you join us on our next sojourn to fascinating India.

ImageBackwater Rafting in Kerala

ImageTruckload of aromatic curry leaves

ImageActivists’ meet leaving their shoes outside the room. This is an important culture across India.

ImageFood activists in South India meet. It was such a great experience to be in the midst of them!

ImageCoconut Trees Everywhere.

ImageKanyakumari, Southernmost Tip of India, where three oceans meet. So peaceful!

2014: New Class, New Kitchen, New Pots and Pans :-)


Very happy to announce that our first 2014 cooking class I gave last night was a success. It was full too.

So, in short, it was SUCCESS-FULL.


My students here in New York like my hands-on, interactive, Indian cooking classes. They tell me they have a great time. They also tell me they enjoy the fun, and the friendship, and the food.

I am very happy that they like the classes so much.


In 2010, when I started Mukti’s Kitchen, I didn’t realize how much fun this was going to be. I now have so much independence and my students, supporters and friends have helped me so much to make it a success. I’m announcing new classes on my website. I’ve also updated the payment options so that students can directly pay online while registering for classes.

I’ve also decided to increase the class time from two and a half hours to three hours, listening to student feedback.

Just before I left for an India trip, I had my Brooklyn kitchen remodeled. That made a big difference to find space for more students and easier movements. And from India, I brought new ideas, new récipes, and new pots and pans too.

I’m sharing a couple of photos here.

Join us. You’re going to love it.



Mukti’s Kitchen

Brooklyn, New York



Harsh Winter. Stay Healthy With Indian Food.

NYC, February 3, 2014

NYC, February 3, 2014

New York is experiencing one of the harshest winters in recent years.

Some friends asked me from time to time what would be some of the best Indian foods to eat to stay healthy and strong. I’m writing below some of the quick recipes. Try them, and let me know how you did.

An adverse weather especially with the big snowstorms and coldest temperatures needs the right kind of food and other health habits to fight back and stay strong. Our immune system gets down fighting through the bad weather, and a proper kind of of healthy and delicious diet can boost the system back up.

Let me know if you need more information. This is just a brief introduction. I hope you come to my cooking classes here in Brooklyn, New York, and learn how to cook in an easy and happy way. My classes are all hands-on.

Email me at muktiskitchen@gmail.com . I’m returning to New York next week.

Below are some recipes.

Looking forward to see you soon,


Mukti’s Kitchen



1. Dal (red lentils, a high-protein and zero-fat legume).


RECIPE. — Boil one cup of red lentils in a covered container. In a flat skillet on low flame, add one teaspoon of oil, one bay leaf, one small red onion chopped, a few grains of black cumin (nigella or kala jeera), half teaspoon of turmeric powder, and just a little salt to taste. Warm up the mixture in the oil and wait until the onion turns brown. You might add the onions first and the spices later. Now, when the mixture is ready and paste-like, turn up the flame for a few seconds, and pour the boiled lentils onto it. You can feel and hear the singe on the skillet. Now turn the flame back down, and let it cook for five more minutes.

Your dal is ready. Now you can also add a few pieces of cilantro leaves for garnishing, if you like.

Serve in cups or small bowls. You can eat it just like that, or together with plain rice or hand-made bread.

Absolutely delicious, nutritious, and a major antidote against cold and flu. You can also have it recovering from flu.

2. Indian Chicken Stew.


Photo courtesy: Flicker.com photo sharing.

RECIPE. — One big onion chopped. A small piece of ginger grated. One tomato cubed. One large carrot cubed. One green bell pepper cubed, one large garlic skinned but not broken, one large potato cubed, a small cauliflower cut in large pieces.

Chicken pieces washed.

In a deep skillet, add one tablespoon of oil, and on medium flame, brown-fry onion, potato, cauliflower and carrot pieces. Add one half teaspoon of grated ginger, and equal amount of garam masala mix (you can get it at any Indian grocery store). Throw a bay leaf in it too. If you want to make it just a little more spicy (depends upon your taste buds), add a couple of green chilly. Add one half teaspoon of turmeric powder, salt to taste, and the whole, skinned garlic. Let it all mix to get a pasty look of the spices. Make sure the vegetables do not burn. Now, at the end, just before adding the chicken, drop the bell pepper and tomato pieces in it. You can also add some green peas now.

Now add the chicken pieces, and singe together for the next ten minutes. Gravy will come out of the chicken, and then slowly get absorbed into the mix. When you see it absorbed, add two small cups of warm water, and cover it up. Let it cook on low-medium flame for the next fifteen minutes. Do not overcook it; otherwise the vegetable will be overboiled.

Serve in bowls. Eat just like that, or with bread or rice.

Again, absolutely delicious, nutritious, and a major antidote against cold and flu. You can also have it recovering from flu.

Each of these dishes should not take you more than fifteen minutes to cook.



Garam Masala. Photo from Wikipedia.

Simple Indian Dinner You Can Cook Even On Weekdays

Simple Indian Dinner You Can Cook Even On Weekdays

Dear Friends of Mukti’s Kitchen:

This is a photo of a simple, home-made Indian dinner to let you know that you can cook it easily in a relatively short period of time. I invite you to try it too.

Why am I saying this?

Because, my husband made this dinner two days ago, on Monday, after coming back from work. He invited a friend to join him for dinner. Both men are now living in New York in this harsh winter all by themselves, because their wives are now traveling India and having a great time.


If he can cook it on a weekday after returning from work, you can do it too.

He said he made plain rice (draining off the starch), dal (lentils), cauliflower stir fry, some eggplant fritters dipped in besan (chickpea flower), a little tomato and cucumber salad with lime juice, and his favorite North Indian chicken curry. He made them all mild — spicy but mild — keeping in mind that his American friend does not like it too spicy or hot.

He kept a small amount of hot pickle in a small saucer, which he did not share with his American friend 🙂

I am glad he didn’t.


Have a wonderful day. I am returning to New York very soon.

Eager to see you and resume our cooking classes too.


Mukti’s Kitchen (www.muktiskitchen.com)

Writing from Kerala, South India (literacy rate in this state is 95%)



From Kanyakumari, Southernmost Tip of India

From Kanyakumari, Southernmost Tip of India

I am in Kanyakumari now, with my friend and Brooklyn Food Coalition’s executive director Nancy Romer, as well as a few Indian food and environmental workers.

Kanyakumari is the place at the southernmost tip of India, where three seas — Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea — have merged together.

This photo shows two famous rocks on the sea. The one on the left is the rock where Swami Vivekananda, revolutionary Indian Hindu monk, visited as a part of his India pilgrimage. Now it has a beautiful memorial temple on the rock.

On the right is the giant statue of Tamil poet Thiruvallur. The status is 133 feet tall.

To be able to be at this sacred place is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.

I feel blessed.

Sharing with you,


Mukti’s Kitchen



P.S. — I also had a surprise birthday party here in Tamil Nadu. Nancy and our South Indian friends gave me a pleasant surprise. It was great to celebrate here 🙂

Birthday cake


Writing from India :-)


Dear Mukti’s Kitchen Friends and Supporters:

I’m traveling India right now, visiting various places to gather more knowledge about Indian cuisine with an emphasis on the health aspects of it.

Nancy Romer, a well-known food activist from New York and director of Brooklyn Food Coalition, is also traveling India with me. She is a wonderful friend and travel company. She is in India for the first time, and I’m helping her as much as I can to make her stay comfortable and enjoyable.

Do keep in touch. I’ll post more later. Right now, I’m posting a couple of pictures from Calcutta, where we are at present.

Tomorrow, we leave for a trip to South India.

Happy and excited.



P.S. — Write if you can. My email is muktiskitchen@gmail.com .



Head chef at Calcutta’s famous restaurant called Six Ballygunge Place.

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