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Lai shak with mashed potato & fried egg plant.
Soft Khichuri, a traditional iftar dish
The famous Seven Color Tea

Sylheti cuisine represents the food culture of Sylhetis. Hatkora is a common fruit and used to cook different dishes with fish and meat. Enriched with Vitamin C and antioxidants, hatkora curry is best eaten with rice.[1] Though Sylhetis are mainly rice and fish eaters, their culinary system is distinctly different to non-Sylhetis.[2] Multicultural people of Barak Valley to Surma valley,[3] and the Sylheti diaspora have influenced the Sylheti food and flavours practiced for ages. Among them, the culinary system of Khasi, Kuki and other tribes are noteworthy.[4] The cuisine of Sylhet has grown up depending on the availability of plants and animals in the region. Mainly indigenous with some variety, food culture is performed among the Sylhetis that received some external influences as well. When the 360 disciples of Shah Jalal arrived in this region, they not only brought their distinct cultures but also brought distinct cooking styles of their own.[5] Which included many meat dishes along with chicken, beef and goat cooked Mughlai, Middle-Eastern, and Northern Indian style. Mughlai Porota, Pilau, Korma, Kalia, Roast, Biriyani and Kofta for curry dishes while Zardah, Firni and Kheer for desserts have been also included.[citation needed]

It is said that Syed Tufuzzul Ali, a Sylheti who opened the first Indian food shop on Victoria Dock Road in London.[6] Later, in the 1940s some entrepreneurial Sylhetis began setting up cafés and introduced curry and rice to the menu. But lack of confidence saw the Bangladeshis refer to their food as Indian.[7] In the United Kingdom, more than 8 out of 10 Indian restaurants are owned by Bangladeshis,[8] 95% of which come from Sylhet.[9] Sylhet is not known for its cuisine, though 80% to 90% British curry-house trace their roots directly to Sylhet.[10][11] Chefs from Sylhet region developed the British curry to a greater extent since the 1960s.[12] Chicken tikka masala, invented by the Sylhetis is regarded as Britain's National dish since 2001, by Britain's foreign secretary Robin Cook.[13][14] The birthday celebration of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair's daughter at a Bangladeshi restaurant proves the popularity of Sylheti cuisine.[15] Historian Lizzie Collingham, in her 2005 book Curry: A Biography, coined that the Sylheti curry cooks converted “unadventurous British palates” to a new flavour spectrum.[16]


Traditional Sylheti diet
Traditional Sylheti diet

Most of the Bangladeshi people are accustomed to eating Una Bhat (boiled rice),[17][18][19] except the Chittagonians and Sylhetis.[20][21] In Sylhet region, the notable rices are Aush, Aman, Boro, Eri, Biroin, Kalojira, Sonali Jira etc. Ala Bhat (Atop rice) is the staple food of the Sylhetis.[22] Atop rice is a little sticky and delicious.[23] They also prefer glutinous rice to make different delicacy. Research found that Sylheti rice has a lower arsenic concentration than similar types of rice from other regions of Bangladesh.[24][25] According to the journal Biomedical Spectroscopy and Imaging, the Sylheti rice contained higher amounts of the essential nutrients selenium and zinc.[26] Several varieties of Sylheti aromatic rice are also lower arsenic contaminated than the well-known Basmati aromatic rice from India and Pakistan.[27]


Main article: Akhni

Akhni is a mixed rice dish made of ghee, meat, vegetables etc. It is known as Akhni Birani and Akhni Fulaw as it is considered to be a particular variation of biryani or polao. It is a popular dish in the month of Ramadan, and any special occasion.

Biroin Bhat

Biroin Bhat is one type of glutinous rice popular in Sylhet region. There is a special type of red-and-white sticky aromatic Biroin Rice is found only in the Sylhet region.[28] This aromatic biroin chaul is cooked and eaten with fried fish, meat or kebab, khirshah rasmalai, date molasses etc.[22][29] Biroin Chal is an organic rice cultivated in the highland of Sylhet and Chottogram.[30] It is the main ingredients for Chunga Pitha, a traditional rice cake in the Sylhet region.[31]


Main article: Soft Khichuri

Soft khichuri or simply khichuri is one kind of rice-based meal which is similar in consistency to porridge. It is a traditional food in Sylheti cuisine. During the holy month of Ramadan, it is served at most dinner tables as a staple food for iftar. To cook khichuri, aromatic rice is mixed with various spices including ghee, cumin and fenugreek. It is also eaten as a comfort food for sickness, in which case ginger is often added as a soothing ingredient. There are two types of khichuri; white (jau or zau) and yellow (bhuna) khichuri.


Curries made with pastes of fresh and dried chillies, roots and spices are very favourite to Sylhetis.

Sylheti Beef Hatkora

Main article: Beef Hatkora

Sylheti Beef curry[32] cooked with Hatxora (a special Sylheti citrus) is a very famous traditional dish usually made at the time of festivals. The cooking style of Sylheti Hatxora is not same the cooking system of Bangladeshis at all. Both of its taste and aroma are different from all other Bangladeshi cuisine. This fruit is commonly used in Sylheti curries. Not only a popular Xatta or Tenga (sour soup) is made with the bones of cow feet and Hatkora but also different kinds of meat is used as well.

Chicken tikka masala

Main article: Chicken tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala is composed of chicken tikka, boneless chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt. A sauce is usually creamy and orange-coloured is used to cook this curry. The Multicultural Handbook of Food, Nutrition and Dietetics credits its creation to Sylheti migrant chefs in the 1960s. Chicken tikka masala is served in restaurants around the world.

Aash Bash

Main article: Duck Bamboo Curry

Aash Bash is one kind of curry made of duck and bamboo shoot. Though it is not as common in all areas as a curry, it is one of the traditional and delicious dishes in Sylheti cuisine. This dish is eaten with rice or Tandoor bread. Aash Bash curry is less spicy in taste.


Main article: Phall

Phall is a British Asian curry which was originated in the British Bangladeshi-owned curry-houses. It is hotter than vindaloo. This dish is a tomato-based thick curry which includes ginger and fennel seeds optionally.


mashed vegetables
mashed vegetables

Different types of fish curries is available in Sylheti cuisine. Fish is eaten both curry and fried. Dried and fermented fish called Hutki, and Hatkora, a bitter and fragrant citrus fruit are used for cooking curries. Even the extremely hot Naga Morich is used with broths.[33] The most savored local cuisines include Hidol or fermented fish chutney, Hutki Shira or dried fish curry, and various freshwater fish indigenous to this region.[34][35] It is thought by the locals that excessive spicy hotness of Hidol Chutney is a remedy for colds and headaches.[36]

Hutki Shira

Main article: Hutki Shira

Hutki Shira is a fermented fish curry made of vegetables, leafy greens and fish or prawns. It is curry without oil or fat. This dish varies on the availability of seasonal vegetables. Traditionally, hidol is used to cook the curry.

Thoikor Tenga

Main article: Thoikor Tenga

Thoikor Tenga is a curry dish and very popular in Sylhet. Thoikor is a citrus fruit, it is found almost all over the year in the Sylhet region like Hatkora. It is cooked with small fish.

Delicacy and savory



Main article: Bakarkhani

Sylhety Bakarkhani is completely different from the variants of Dhaka.[37] Dhakai Bakarkhani is a somewhat cookie type snack, where the Sylheti bakarkhani resembles porota a lot.[38] Bakarkhani is an Iftar item in Sylhet. It is also eaten with tea at night during the month of ramadan.[39] Sylheti Bakharkhani can be tasted as savoury or slightly sweet, leavened or unleavened, soft or crisp.[40]

According to a hearsay, Bakarkhani was invented in the middle of the 18th century. It is believed that Bakarkhani was first made by the people of Sylhet.[41][42] Sylhetis learnt making Bakarkhani from the Afghans who stayed in Sylhet after defeated by the Mughals in 1612. Later many Sylhetis came to Dhaka and started making Bakarkhani commercially.[43] At present most of Dhaka's bakarkhani sellers are from the Sylhet Division.[44][45]


From the second half of the 19th century, Europeans and Muslims introduced biscuits and loaves in the Sylhet region that attracted the Muslim community highly.[46] It gained popularity by the Hindus much more later.[47]


Main article: Handesh

Handesh is a sweet and puffy deep-fried snack made of molasses or sugar and flour. It is also known as teler pitha. It is often eaten with tea as a snack. It is very famous on special occasions such as naming ceremonies and wedding festivities and at the time of Eid festival of the Sylhetis.

Nunor Bora

Main article: Nunor Bora

Sylheti rice-cakes and dumplings
Sylheti rice-cakes and dumplings

Nunor Bora also known as Nungora is a savoury rice flour snack. It is made of onion, ginger and turmeric that gives the snack its golden appearance. It is eaten with tea as a snack and is very popular at the time of Eid festival to the Sylhetis. Nunor Bora can be stored in a fridge for a later usage without frying.

Sunga Pitha

Main article: Chunga Pitha

Sunga Fita is a traditional rice cake (pitha). This unique delicacy is prepared by stuffing the sticky rice inside young bamboo and smoke slowly. Once the delicacy is prepared, the rice cake is separated from the tube as a candle. It is also made with binni rice, milk, sugar, coconut, and rice powder.

Tusha Shinni

Main article: Tusha Shinni

Tusha Shinni is a type of flour halwa and a popular desert. This dish is lightly spicy, soft and sweet. It is very famous in different religious occasions. Frying flour and adding it to sugary syrup, Tusha Shinni is prepared. Garnish with raisins, almonds etc. it is served.

See also


Media related to Sylheti cuisine at Wikimedia Commons

  1. ^ "Mumbai Food: Bangladeshi Dishes Straight From Sylhet At Restaurant In BKC". Mid-Day. 14 April 2019. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  2. ^ "A fillet from sylhet". The Statesman (India). 14 September 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  3. ^ "In Assam's Barak Valley, insecurities about citizenship drive Bengali Hindus to the BJP". 15 April 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  4. ^ সিলেটের উপভাষা ও জীবনধারা : ড. শ্যামল কান্তি দত্ত (in Bengali). Bhorer Kagoj. 16 July 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  5. ^ ফিসফাস কিচেন- সিলেটী রান্না- বিলেতি রান্না (in Bengali). 30 September 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  6. ^ Bengali food: ব্রিটেনে বাঙালি খাবারের জয়জয়কার. Calcutta News (TV channel) (in Bengali). 2021-11-18. Retrieved 28 Jan 2022.
  7. ^ "History of Birmingham curry houses traced in major city exhibition". Birmingham Mail. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  8. ^ "BBC World Service". London: BBC World. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  9. ^ "From Bangladesh to Brick Lane". The Guardian. 21 June 2002. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  10. ^ "The great British curry crisis". Financial Times. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  11. ^ "What's The Difference Between A Curry House And An Indian Restaurant?". 5 December 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  12. ^ "British taste for curry has changed, but appetite remains strong". Al Jazeera. 7 October 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  13. ^ Mason, Laura (2004). Food Culture in Great Britain. Laura Mason. p. 164. ISBN 9780313327988. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  14. ^ "The British Curry". Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Bangladeshis: Moving with the times". The Daily Star. June 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  16. ^ "Who killed the great British curry house?". The Guardian. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  17. ^ আতপ চাল খাওয়ার অভ্যাস কত দিনে হবে?. Bangla Tribune (in Bengali). 5 October 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  18. ^ ওএমএসে আতপ চাল পেয়ে ক্ষুব্ধ ক্রেতারা. (in Bengali). 20 September 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  19. ^ আতপ চাল, তাই ক্রেতা শূন্য ওএমএসের চালের দোকান (in Bengali). NTV. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  20. ^ চট্টগ্রামসহ দুই বিভাগের জন্য আতপ চাল কিনছে সরকার. Prothom Alo (in Bengali). 13 February 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  21. ^ বঙ্গে নতুন উপদ্রপ- আতপ চালের 'নক্তা'. (in Bengali). 19 September 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  22. ^ a b চুঙ্গা পিঠা : বাঁশ দিয়ে প্রাতঃরাশ. Sylheter Dak (in Bengali). 26 April 2020. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  23. ^ আমরা যে কারণে পুষ্টিবঞ্চিত. Prothom Alo (in Bengali). 5 September 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  24. ^ "Low-Arsenic Rice Discovered in Bangladesh Could Have Major Health Benefits". IOS Press. 18 February 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  25. ^ "Low-arsenic rice". 20 February 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  26. ^ "Scientists find lower arsenic Bangladeshi rice strain". 14 February 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Low-arsenic rice discovered in Bangladesh could have major health benefits". ScienceDaily. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  28. ^ সিলেটী বিরইন চালের ইতিহাস. (in Bengali). 26 April 2020. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  29. ^ "Cooking could be interesting!". The Daily Star. 26 April 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2008.
  30. ^ "Biroin Chal (Binni)". 9 December 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  31. ^ বাংলার ঐতিহ্যবাহী পিঠা. Sylheter Dak (in Bengali). 2 January 2019. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  32. ^ Toombs, Dan (2013-05-01). "Sylheti Beef". THE CURRY GUY. Retrieved 2022-06-25.
  33. ^ "The 6 Seasons of Bangladeshi Cuisine". Great British Chefs. 8 March 2019. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  34. ^ "The Beckoning Beauty of Barak". BIT MESRAr. 21 December 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  35. ^ "The fiery flavours of East Bengal's dried and fermented fish are all the notes of life". The Indian Express. 23 December 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  36. ^ "Shidol Chutney". Atlas Obscura. 21 December 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  37. ^ "Sylhety Bakharkhani". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  38. ^ "Bakarkhani: delight in every bite". Daily Sun (Bangladesh). 24 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  39. ^ ইফতারে সিলেটিদের প্রিয় আখনি ও খিচুড়ি. Prothom Alo (in Bengali). 20 July 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  40. ^ "Rich and Flaky Dhakai Bakharkhani Flatbreads #BBB". 16 November 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  41. ^ "Mughal era bread Bakarkhani on verge of extinction in Dhaka". 8 February 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  42. ^ প্রেমের নিদর্শন বাকরখানির ইতিবৃত্ত. (in Bengali). 16 February 2020.
  43. ^ বাকরখানি: অমর প্রেমের কাহিনী. The Daily Janakatha (in Bengali). 21 January 2017.
  44. ^ Muhammad Abu Talib (28 February 2015). ঐতিহ্যের বাকরখানি যাচ্ছে বিদেশে. The Daily Ittefaq (in Bengali).
  45. ^ নবাবি খাবার বাকরখানি. The Daily Jugantor (in Bengali). 27 January 2017.
  46. ^ "Our Food Their Food: A Historical Overview of the Bengali Platter". Sahapedia. 5 September 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  47. ^ Ray, Utsa (5 January 2015). Culinary Culture in Colonial India. Cambridge University Press.