Saturday, May 23, 2009

Happy Silver Jubilee, YPSA!

Cutting of the cake to celebrate the start of YPSA's 25th year. From the left: Rubayat Farzana Yusuf Tania (Human Resources); Some joker from Canada; Mahabubur Rahman (Director of Field Operations); Arifur Rahman (Chief Executive Officer); Khaleda Begum (Project 912 Lead).


Anonymous said...

Was the cake good? It looks like a birthday cake we would have for such an occasion, and that makes me curious. Just how westernized are your surroundings? Relating to China, I note that it depends on the region.

Chinese bread is terrible [unlike pan or nan in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc]; one never knows how much flour is used. It is the least nutritious thing to eat, sliced thin, wrapped in cello, kept in the refrigerator. Meally and tasteless, best eaten toasted with lots of jam on it. It's a filler, not a food item.

But in large cities like Shanghai and Beijing, there are french bakeries with the most luscious looking things in the windows. Asians do not eat much dessert, like cake or candy. This is indeed a western invasion.

There are sugar cane confections, fruit sugar things and gelatenous rice things, but cake made from flour with icing is definitely not normative.

Fruit, not cake and coffee, is the sign dinner is over. When you sit through a many-dish meal, there are only two things that come in any order: soup comes towards the latter half as a digestif so you can eat more and the sliced fruit platter with toothpicks to skewer the fruit comes at the end.

A bonbon with coffee at 3 PM is not usual. Tea is drunk all day, so it is not special. Tea and biscuits are too foreign, even if there are tasteless "biscuits" you can have with tea.

Teas in China are strong. You are warned not to drink tea on an empty stomach. So some kind of food is present -- often fruit, like hard apples. But this is not dessert.

Icecream is a novelty. More common than in the past but still a novelty. On a hot day, it is more usual to buy fresh fruit from a street vendor than icecream. Of course, there's a refrigeration issue too.

You get milk, even something called active milk. That is a kind of yogurt loose enough to drink in a glass but with bacteria for that sour edge. Since I don't drink milk, I cannot tell you what it tastes like. It tends to be yellow in colour, and sometimes found in a shade of pink [strawberry?]. A treat for the Chinese, not necessarily dessert.

Candies are nuts/seeds pounded to powder and then lumped up using cane sugar and other natural ingredients. It's a bit like Halvah, a sesame seed paste found in middle eastern stores. Dry to the taste, a bit like dessicated peanut butter that sticks to the back of your throat.

Distinctions are cultural: sweet or salty? For China, salty is in. Having a Mars bar is not usual. Eating a roasted sweet potato piping hot from a street vendor on an autumn evening is a true treat.

A sweet bun stuffed with red bean paste is almost heaven, as is a round ball of dough stuffed with plum, deep fried in oil and covered in sesame seeds. My sweet tooth likes that for breakfast.

I was at a dinner where a plate of little white balls was brought out. They were called dove's eggs, but they were not eggs: they were pure white balls of sticky rice stuffed with spearmint juice and swimming in a clear sugar/water bath. I ate one and thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was a kid in a Chinese candy shop.

So I am curious: what are the typical Bengali desserts? Let's compare food.


PS Glen, you look great. You seem to be having fun.

Glenn said...

Hi, Victor,

Thanks for your comments, as always! If you have a sweet tooth, you must come to Bangladesh! People here are crazy for their desserts, and it’s a rare meal that doesn’t have a great follow up. There’s a great variety of mishtis (or sweets) for anyone who is in need of a sugar fix. I may have the names wrong, but some of the favourites are:

Roshogolla – balls formed from boiling milk with citric acid and scooping the top layer. Served in syrup. The balls are very soft and tend to ooze syrup with every bite.

Gulab Jamun – more balls, this time formed from syrup, cardamom and flour and deep fried. Served in syrup. (Notice a trend?)

Kulfi – mixture of condensed milk and corn flour, sometimes with additions such as raisins and nuts, that is frozen to a solid.

Doi – yogurt. This can be either sweet curd or sour curd. Love the sweet curd. The sour curd is an acquired taste that I haven’t acquired yet.


And healthier stuff like fresh fruit, which can be rescued by dipping into syrup.

Those are the ones I’ve come across so far. And of course, the Western-style ice cream, cakes and cookies are also very popular here. It’s a sugar fiend’s dream!



Anonymous said...

Two reactions: comatose diabetic sugar rush [syrup everywhere] and lactose intolerant "other rush" [balls of milk and milk products].

Of course, I'd be stupid enough to try everything, no matter how sick I would get. As Oscar Wilde once said, "I can resist anything except temptation."

How do people who indulge in such rich foods [butter, milk, deep-fried, etc] stay so thin? Maybe the wrong word is "indulge"... how overstuffed of me!


PS Can't wait to hear about alcohol in an officially dry culture! Welcome back to Prohibition.