Bengali Bites: Shukto


Morgan Kong

Wingspan’s Ananda Ghoshal delves deeper into the world of Bengali food and shares her thoughts.

Ananda Ghoshal, Staff Reporter

Something I eat every weekend when my mom is home to cook food: Shukto. It is something that that always makes our meals feel incomplete. Shukto is a vegetable curry that’s normally served on the side with a little bit of rice. It can be more spicy, or more savory and mild; my mom makes it both ways. It’s a bunch of vegetables mixed with spices and carries a milky flavor. You normally put drumsticks, bananas, papayas, potatoes, bitter gourd, and more vegetables.

Now, for a little history lesson. Shukto actually comes from Bengali widows who created the cuisine. In other words, Bengali Brahmin widows -who are not allowed to eat non-vegetarian foods, or even enter the kitchen where married women cooked- had to follow a set of very restrictive rules. Things such as garlic and onions were restricted and even certain types of lentils too. It’s really interesting as to how in such a difficult situation, widows, who were ostracized from an entire community of Bengalis, innovated their gastronomic lives with vegetables. And they succeeded. Vegetables such as drumsticks and fruits such as raw bananas are not normally used in typical Bengali dishes, but these women turned them from being dull and neglected -much like they were from the community of other Bengali women- into a dish that has become a staple in most homes.