The word Mezbaan comes from Persian, in which it means ‘host’. However, in Chittagong today, the word denotes to a community feasting that is quite unique to the place. The word sometimes becomes mejjan or mezbaani. All I could find about it is that it is an age-old tradition that started in the Muslim community. Reading a bit about Chittagong history makes me wonder if mezbaan was influenced by the strong Sufi history of the place. (Chittagong is known as ‘Land of twelve saints’ due to the presence of a number of Sufi shrines in the district!) I have to find out more about this.
Mezbaan feasts are held by the affluent on many different personal and religious occasions, and are also a mark of prestige.
Interestingly, no one needs to be personally invited for a mezbaan. It is usually announced publically or through word of mouth. And one can self-invite themselves, eat and leave. The food consists of white rice, ‘nolar’ soup (tangy beef broth), a daal with beef and the star beef curry, known as the mezbaan gosht. A special masala known as ‘radhuni’ is used for the curry, which gives it the characteristic red colour and fiery taste.
I tried the curry with mutton, cheated a bit and added potatoes to the mezbaan curry. To add to the feel and flavor, I cooked the curry in an earthen pot over low flame for over an hour. The taste, everybody univocally agreed is unlike any other mutton we have had before. The radhuni is a masala worth storing a jar full of in the kitchen.
Shoulder of mutton: 1 kg (cut into medium pieces, washed and dried); Sliced onions: 1 cup; Onion paste: ½ cup; Ginger paste: 1 tbsp; Garlic paste: 1 tbsp; Mustard paste: 1 heaped tbsp.; Poppy seed paste: 1 tsp; Red chilli paste: 1 ½ tbsp; Turmeric powder: 1 tsp; Coriander powder: 1 ½ tsp; Cumin powder: 1 tsp; Bay leaves: 5; Radhuni masala: 2 heaped tbsp.; Salt to taste; Green chillies: 7-8; Mustard oil: ½ cup
1. Leave aside one heaped tbsp. of radhuni masala, sliced onions, mustard oil and green chillies, and marinate the meat with rest of the ingredients. Keep aside for at least an hour;
2. Heat the oil in a pan; fry the sliced onions till golden brown and tip in the meat with the marinade. Fry till the meat becomes seared brown and the marinade almost dries;
3. Add 3 cups of hot water, cover and cook over low flame till meat is tender;
4. Add the remaining masala and the green chillies. Cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes;
5. Serve with white rice.
Radhuni: 15 cloves, 10 green cardamoms, 4-5 cinnamon 2” stick, 2 whole nutmeg, 25gms mace, 2 black cardamoms, 5-6 kabab chini, 25gms black pepper, 50 gms fenugreek seeds, 50 gms poppy seeds, 50 gms white sesame seeds, 25 gms fennel seeds, 25 gms shahjeera, 25 gms nigella seeds, 25 gms radhuni seeds, 5-6 dried red chillies
1. Dry roast all the spices separately and lightly;
2. Grind to a fine powder and store in airtight container.