Mark Wiens and The Art of Eating Bengali Food

Recently, I discovered a travel and food blogger by the name of Mark Wiens and his videos that make me drool. I don’t know what impresses me most, his uniformly cheerful, enthusiastic persona or his penchant for eating an extraordinary amount of chillies with every bite. The latter talent certainly helps him make a home for himself in Thailand.

I like to watch a video of him eating a five course meal at some exotic location  while I am eating one of my comparatively boring breakfasts, with the hope that I can fool my brain into thinking that I am eating the delicious food that Mark Wiens is eating.

And you know what? He always does seem to find delicious food even when he spontaneously walks into a hole in the wall place in an unknown town. At least that’s what it looks like. For all we know, his taste buds are probably trying to escape out of the back of his tongue, while he does his classic lean to the right to let the camera know that the food is really out of this world. Or maybe he has a nose for good food. Or good editing skills. Or both.

Anyway, the video that triggered this post is one in which he documents his trip to one of the landmark restaurants of Kolkata Bhojohori Manna. I have never been there, a fact which bothers me, so I jumped on this video as soon as I saw it pop up on my “recommended for you” list on YouTube.

As I drooled over the dishes on his table, I almost shouted out in dismay as he piled all of them at the same time  on his plate!

Mark, don’t do that! I wanted to say.

Bengalis are religious about eating by the course. Between courses, you cleanse your palate with a sip of water. So you don’t put fish kalia next to the chicken curry next to the prawn malai curry next to the mochar ghonto. And then callously eat one morsel of this followed by a morsel of that. Nooooooo…….(scream fades out in the dark as I am dragged away by the security personnel).

But anyway, I am more decided than ever that I need to visit this restaurant the next time I go to Kolkata, even if it means getting stuck in one of Kolkata’s notorious traffic jams for most of the day. No pain, no gain!

Near the end of the video, when he has finished demolishing all that food, Mark Wiens gets a plate of sugar-coated fennel seeds. But of course he does not know it. When asked, the waiter explains most helpfully that it is “something to clean the mouth”. Then even more helpfully, the 100% Bengali guy tells our man that it is “Sonp”. For the non-Bengalis out there, this is the Bengali way of pronouncing “saunf”, the word for fennel seeds in northern India.

So (secretly horrified) Mark Wiens flashes a bright smile at the camera and says in an equally bright voice,

“Oh, this is SOAP! If I eat this it will clean my mouth.” And proceeds to do just that.

Kudos to the man for not being deterred by anything! You have my respect.




10 thoughts on “Mark Wiens and The Art of Eating Bengali Food

  1. pamela

    It is interesting that just about everybody in the whole world hates the “sliminess” of okra. Or any slimy foods for that matter. Here in Japan they use a completely different word to talk about “slimy”: the word is “neba neba”. “Sliminess” is just so terrible in English – such a nasty connotation, but “neba neba” has no bad connotation in Japanese at all and just describes that slimy state but in a positive manner. Actually, here in Japan, many people will go out of their way to include a number of neba neba foods (of which there are 5 or 6 in Japan) together on a plate to make a neba neba rice bowl!

    In fact, it’s sliminess doesn’t bother me at all and when I make a curry using okra, I don’t deep fry it that much because I actually like it in it’s more natural state.

  2. pamela

    I also follow Mark and all his travels and eating. He is so much fun. We all need to learn how to eat Indian food and meals properly! There is nothing out there to teach us except a good Indian mom, I suppose.

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