piyaju

A food I’ll never understand: Piyaju

Bengali food and food culture have baffled me for most of my life. I have never understood the longing to eat bright red (and astonishingly spicy) shutki bhorta and jug down a gallon of water later on. I still don’t get why people stare and ask me, “Tumi haddi khao na?” when I leave my chicken bones whole. 

These are nothing, compared to what a food named Piyaju makes me feel. 

All this time, the whole concept of piyaju went over my head. Why would anyone even bother to consider a spicy ball of onion, which are more often than not, burnt.

As disdainful I am towards piyaju, as a Bangladeshi, there is no escape from it.  Piyaju is to Ramadan in Bangladesh as what turkey is to Thanksgiving! If you have been to Patenga in Chittagong, you’ll know having piyaju by the sea is considered Farz and you’ll be tremendously judged the moment you refuse to eat it. 

This Ramadan, however I fell in love with one kind of piyaju. The piyajus that Fazila makes. The sight of those orange fritter at the Iftar table makes my heart sing! I love nothing more than to break my fast with piping shada bhaat and crisp piyajus

I’d be happy to finally learn to love a food I haven’t liked in forever; had I not stumbled in the kitchen this evening. 

Maa bolse piyaju bhajte,” I said. 

Daal bair korsi Apu,” Fazila replied. 

I nodded and was about to go back when I went WHAAAT?! Daal? 

I demanded why she’s using daal to make piyajus. Of course, Fazila laughed her wits at my ignorance. Then she showed my how the batter of the fritter is lentils. (Apparently, this will help me greatly at my shoshurbari.) 

My question is, WHY DO PEOPLE CALL IT PIYAJU IF THE MAIN INGREDIENT IS DAAL?

The English of piyaju is lentil-onion fritter. See? Makes perfect sense. Whatever happened to Bengali naming creativity? 

WHY NOT NAME IT DAALJU instead? 

WHY? 

Nini and Aurgha have both given up on me. I have given up on understanding this food named piyaju. Actually, I refuse to call it piyaju anymore. Daalju. From today onward, I shall refer piyaju as daalju

All the obsessing has made me hungry. I’ll just go grab some daalju.

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The first iftar (breaking of fast) in Ramadan is always a big deal in my house. The whole family comes together and we make our favorite Ramadan foods, like piyaju and beguni (onion and eggplant fritters- see previous post for picture and recipe), kichuri (lentil and rice…porridge?), and kala chana (spicy black chickpeas). And of course, no iftar is complete without a platter of fruit.