Unpacking 'Bhog-er Khichuri' on Durga Puja

Bhog and Durga surround the puja. Food palette menus bring home the ‘bhog-er khichuri’ signature when pandal hops are not able to hop on to festival specials. But, is this dish really claiming that they are?

Photo: iStockPhoto

Petujo is a Bengali word for tu. With strict social distance restrictions, festivals go back to basics. Food, inevitably, reigns supreme; One may be able to resist the desire to buy the Notun Jama (Bengali for new clothes), but it is difficult to crave for the Bhog-er Khichuri (Durga Puja Community Festival, Khichdi).

Home chefs, restaurants and delivery kitchens have risen to the occasion. Their menus include items synonymous with Durga Puja; - Must have - Bengali Fish Fry, Kosha Mangsho, Payesh and Bhog-er Khichuri. However, a conversation can be started about why the last item is included in the food delivery menu, which is not officially associated with the Durga Puja Committee.

Bhog, used in Hindu festivals, loosely translates as an offering to God. When the dish is thus named, it indicates a link to this practice. “To worship the Goddess Durga, in general, a large vegetarian spread is prepared and is one of the khichuri dishes. There are strict rules: the cook should bathe and he or she should fast, the food should be made entirely in swatch containers, not flavored and no onions and garlic, ”says critic and culinary consultant Prutiya Sen. Cooked food is thus served as a deity and some of it is designated as prasadam. Worshipers come in large numbers and it is impossible to feed everyone. Therefore, the community kitchen cooks the food separately and mixes a small amount of prasadam with it. It is distributed among worshipers attending a community dinner, also known as bhog. The menu is cooked with khichuri with carrots and peas, tomato chutney, aloo dum and batter fried eggplant or bengan bhajan. The committee organizes every Durga Puja celebration and they usually have members living from neighboring areas. Bhog is given to visitors to the place of worship during and after Bhog. The attitude of service permeates the food of this community; No one can refuse food. Sen says part of the community is vegan. This year, without allowing public gatherings, Bhog is being delivered to members' homes through Swiggy and Omato, and worship organizers are involved in education, health and social causes related to elderly or charitable initiatives that distribute food and money. Influenced by Lockdown. Bhog-er Khichuri is part of these food distribution drives

Sen pointed out that restaurants or home chefs get disconnected when Durga Puja Bhog menus are opened or items such as bhog-er khichuri. Gormi Travel, based in Hong Kong, works closely with home chefs in Kolkata. When she approached him to plan a Durga Puja-themed menu, she was left with Bhog-er Khichuri instead of Bhuni Khichuri. Their recipes are no different, but why have different names? Sen says, "You see, in my mind, bhog-er khichuri is the thing that got the sanctity of the goddess. It's not a recipe, it's a concept."

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