When it’s time to celebrate a special event in Bangladesh, a feast is served that features Murgh Mussalam. This is a dish that has been served for centuries, initially in the royal courts of Mughals, explains Nibble Chef Afruza Akther, who hails from Narayanganj in Bangladesh. Largely Muslim Bangladesh does eat meat, as long as it is halal.
“We make Murgh Mussalam for weddings in Bangladesh,” Afruza explains. “We serve it different ways; sometimes it is stuffed with eggs or served with kebabs, and always lots of fancy decoration. It’s a huge plate and is quite a process to make. People don’t have that much time to make this regularly! It’s a special dish for a special occasion.”
At Afruza’s sister’s wedding, her family hired a team of chefs to make the Murgh Mussalam, a common custom. “The dish is presented to the groom by the bride’s family,” says Afruza. “Everyone will get a plate, but the groom gets an enormous plate; then people take lots of photos with the groom and his platter of food.”
“Weddings in Bangladesh go on for days,” Afruza continues, who recalls her wedding, which a whopping 700 people attended. “Everyone comes up dressed up, with matching outfits and jewelry. Before the wedding, there is a day of preparation, when the bride has henna painted on her hands and turmeric applied to her face to create healthy glowing skin for the actual wedding day.”
The version of Murgh Mussalam Afruza will be cooking this holiday season at Nibble Kitchen features a whole halal chicken, seasoned with a dazzling array of ingredients including yogurt, nuts, rose water, kewra water (distilled from pandanus flowers) and a spice mix that includes ginger, chile, nutmeg and saffron among many others. This regal dish will be served with pulao, a special Bengali rice dish, which is made with kalijira rice, a small-grained very aromatic rice.
This sumptuous Bengali meal will also come with a starter called shingara, turnovers spiced with black cumin, stuffed with potatoes, peas, peppers and corn and served with a tamarind sauce seasoned with fennel. To round out the meal with something sweet, Afruza is making payesh, a rice pudding featuring nuts and golden raisons and seasoned with cardamom. Are you hungry yet?
“I know Bengali and Indian people will like this meal,” says Afruza. “I want to see who else is going to like it. Do I have a broader market for it or not? Whoever my clients are, it’s an excuse to eat together, enjoy something special that will make you happy because it tastes so good.”
If you want to enjoy the meal Bengali style in terms of aesthetics, Afruza suggests a nice tablecloth and lots of flowers, with rose petals directly on the table. “In Bangladesh, we always loads of flowers on the table for special occasions—they smell so good!”