Dish of the Day: Cooking in Bangladesh

Dan Doherty

Ashiful Haque Dish of the Day: Cooking in BangladeshI’m here in Dhaka to do my little bit for Learning for Life to erase child labour in a country riddled with it. I’m not going into a charity rant, I’ll leave that to them, but what I can do is try to cook something tasty for key Bangladesh politicians, whilst my uncle gives a presentation on British economy and the positive effect it can have on the economy. That’s the plan, anyway.

Yesterday I visited the kitchen where I will cook the aforementioned dinner for 60 odd people, and boy did I get a shock. I have what I think is a tandoor oven, a few flames and a Bangladeshi assistant. That’s it. After visiting the market, and realising to get the cut of lamb I want, I’ll need to kill one myself, combined with the smaller than imagined kitchen, I swiftly re-wrote my menu to something less dependent on any form of machinery, a meal I may stand a chance of pulling off without damaging what little reputation I have.

Turning up on the morning of the event, Bangladeshis being the kind gentle folk that they are, ordered lots of tea, and coffee, and more tea before I had to pretty much insist I need to start work. The tea escapade cost me 45 minutes, they simply don’t take no for an answer. After a little prep work, and learning that the ovens don’t work until 3pm if we’re lucky, due to gas pressure, meaning cold prep was all I could do. Many small obstacles tried to test me – the butcher taking the executive decision that rather than 30 whole chickens, 9 would suffice for my 60 odd guests, being my favorite, second only to in total, 9 power cuts. So that’s no gas OR electricity, no extract meaning the temperature in the kitchen was 48 degrees, but no matter, we got there, even after the hotel director insisted I eat lunch with them, despite my ever growing prep list (still no ovens either) but enough bitching and whining, I’m a chef, not a heart surgeon, and my sole purpose was to do my bit to abolish child labor, and the success of the dinner made me feel I did my part, however small it may have been.

Today I’m off to the projects to see the work of Learning for Life and present to some kids their graduation certificate – a huge deal to them and their families, and, now, to me. This whole trip has been so eye opening I’m struggling to put into words how it makes me feel. You realise life is pretty damn good at home and we should take nothing for granted. News at work is that one of our stoves is down and it won’t be fixed until tomorrow, which is bad news. An 18 hour wait for a repair? So unreasonable. Then again…

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