Whether you’re a Bengali or not, here is one food blog that should not be missed for the world. It would be an understatement to say it is a food lover’s paradise, well; it is a paradise for Bengali food lovers. So if you’re a fan of Ilish Maach, Dhokla, Kochuri, Bhaaja and Chechki – then sign in right now to take a look what Cook Like a Bong is all about.
There’s a lot that can happen over the love for food, you meet, start a blog, enjoy the very process of cooking, fall in love with one another and get married! We caught up with the founders of Cook Like a Bong and newly weds – Sudeshna and Kalyan Banerjee – the fun loving and the food loving people – who are the brain and passion behind an encyclopedia of Bengali cuisine!
After acquiring her Masters in Biotechnology, Sudeshna (27) has worked as an analyst in a Bangalore based MNC until she got married last month. Right now, she is in the thinking mode to decide not what to do next. Currently, she is the chef for CLB. Kalyan (28), is an IIT Roorkee alumnus who is a consultant to Bangalore based intellectual property right litigation firm, he is also the webmaster for CLB.
How did it all begin?
It began when Sudeshna went for her PG courses and started staying in hostel. Within a few days, the restaurant food started having its toll on both the stomach and the purse and so came the idea of cooking. Now to keep a note of all the ingredients she started writing a blog in WordPress, titled Here I Cook. One year later Kalyan joined to jazz up the blog using tech and new branding. The new blog was titled Cook Like a Bong. Since then, Sudeshna started looking after the ‘what’ part (stuff that you see on the website – cooking, photographs and the recipes), while Kalyan takes care of the ‘how’ part (blog backend, templates, ads, post structure) and sometimes, the cooking portion too.
“I was always in love with food. I love trying out different types of food since forever, though the love for cooking started much later. It was during my high school when I started occasionally helping my mom in the kitchen. But, a full time job in the kitchen was when I shifted outside Kolkata for my PG studies,” says Sudeshna.
Kalyan mentions, “We are a two person team – Sudeshna (the Chef) and Kalyan (the Webmaster). Sudeshna started writing this blog to help people like her and also to share a common platform with all those who love spending time in the kitchen. My sources of information and inspiration are Ma, cook books, blogsearch and popular culture. I am the Webmaster who takes care of the blog backend, templates, ads, post structure and direction.”
There are several kinds of people who want to Cook Like a Bong – the immigrant and single bong, the bong girl who marries a non bong and wants to let her spouse see the tastier side of her (no pun intended), the intellectual who likes anything Bong and then of course, the lets-try-something-Bengali junta.
What makes them unique?
Both Sudeshna and Kalyan feel, “It’s in the authenticity and simplicity of the recipes that we try put in. We cater to Bengalis, who have no access to mom’s food, newbies in the kitchen who likes trying out Bengali food. Though some of the recipes cater to pros in the kitchen who often look out for variations in their own recipes.”
“My first inspiration is my mom. She is one of the best cooks I have ever seen, and the thing that intrigues me most is her sense of measurement. I have never seen her using a spoon or spatula to put in spices; she always uses her hand to do that job. Then there are plenty of books that I read on Bengali and other styles of cooking”, quips Sudeshna.
Sourcing the recipes
Sudeshna adds, “When we first started the blog I was a complete novice and cooking used to come mainly from my mother and other relatives in the family. Gradually as I gained confidence in cooking, I started experimenting and came up with my own recipes. But, as my roots are Bong the influence in mainly using spices comes from the Bengali kitchen.”
Sudeshna and Kalyan mention, “As our blog evolved, so did the challenges. In early days, the main challenges were what to write, how to take photographs, how to set up the blog etc.”
While Sudeshna overcame the cooking portion by making incessant calls to her mother for tips, reading cooking books of different genres and eat outs in restaurants, Kalyan sniffed through plenty of online resources to take care of the tech stuff.
They also add, “Of late, though, our principle challenges are managing time and resources for Cook Like a Bong. We recently got married and have been on road ever since. Though travelling augurs well for a travel blog, for an authentic cooking blog, it may spell immense trouble. Sometimes there is Internet outage, at other times you are a guest at someone’s place and can’t really cook. When all is set, your DSLR battery is out of charge. We are in the process of settling our household, and have made blueprints of where do we want to see Cook Like a Bong growing in coming months. Once we are all set up, we will act on these blueprints.”
The Journey so far…
Sudeshna feels,“ In one word, the journey had been fun. It had its ups and downs, but still having your footprint in the blogging world had been a nice way of spending time. It started as a hobby and the mere need to storing my mom’s recipes; it had now become much bigger than what we had actually thought about. The fan mails and recognition from strangers at several social gatherings really give me the high. This is something I absolutely didn’t target when I was starting out.”
As for Kalyan, “From a webmaster’s angle, the journey had been phenomenal. 5000+ Facebook likes, over 45,000 page views a month and increasingly showing up on Google searches is something to be proud of.”
i. Some very authentic Bengali dishes like Kumro fuler vada, Fulkopir datar tarkari, sabji diye macher jhol had always been my favourite because of the simplicity of the procedure yet the great taste these recipes have.
ii. Though not that Bong, but I have tried some non-Bong recipes and turning them to suit the Bengali taste buds like the Mexican Brown rice, Hyderabadi Biriyani.
iii. There are hundreds of recipes in our blog, which you can find in the all recipes page, each having its own special memory attached to it.
Bengali Kitchen Must Haves
i. Atleast the basic spices like turmeric, chilli, cumin, mustard, nigella, ginger and garlic. If you have these you can come up with at least 20 different Bengali recipes.
ii. Lentils like masoor, mung, mator and Bengal gram – these are the ones that are used mostly in Bengali kitchen, other lentils like urad, etc though used are not that popular.
iii. How to chop you vegetables for each type of preparation. Stay tuned at CLB we are planning to come up with videos for the same.
Bengali Kitchen Mistakes
i. Bengali food is not only about fish. Many people ask me you run a Bengali blog, so do you have any vegetarian recipes in the blog. Bengalis love fish, that’s an age old saying, but its not that we neglect vegetables. Cook Like a Bong has over 100 vegetarian Bengali recipes.
ii. Bengali food does not mean only panch phoron (a concoction of five spices – fennel, nigella, mustard seeds, cumin and fenugreek). The combination might be unique to Bengali dishes, but there are many more spices and hundreds of other combinations that we use in our recipes.
iii. While cooking fish for a gravy based curry, never deep fry the pieces, it makes the fish look stale in the curry. Similarly, while frying fish try heating the oil to smoky hot, else there is a chance of the skin coming out of the fish.
Before signing off, Sudeshna and Kalyan talk about their future plans for Cook Like a Bong, “Well, we haven’t really set the timeline, but here’s what we would like to achieve in the longer term: Anyone (Bong or not) wants to learn how to cook a particular Bengali dish in an authentic way (or even modified one), Cook Like a Bong should be first place (s)he should think about and visit. This essentially translates into a lot of work for us – hundreds of more recipes that constitute Bengali cooking, thousands of good quality pictures, photo ops, traffic generation, management and monetization, website control and several videos.”
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