I remember the first and last time I bought ground beef in Bangladesh. Diplomatic housing was isolated in two neighborhoods outside of Dhaka city center, most likely for safety reasons. Access to butchers, fishmongers, supermarkets and fresh vegetables was limited and unsatisfactory.
Comfortable with shopping in West African open markets, I decided to hop in the car with a friend and my driver (right hand drive) and explore Dhaka’s downtown market area. The driver dropped us off at one of the gates to the central farmers’ market and left to park the car. No exaggeration, we were in the market for about 3 minutes when the gate was slammed and we were in the middle of a full scale, bullet flying riot. The full story is best told with numerous glasses of wine but it involved a daring rescue and 5 hours of body guarding by my surprisingly belligerent driver in a market tea shop. Gasuddin; I’ll never forget him. Last time I went to town.
But I was talking about ground beef. So, the Dip neighborhood business sections included rows of tiny shops that sold everything from cloth to automotive parts. I found a “butcher” and squeezed into the shop. Having reviewed my market Bangla (Bangladesh language), I was able to order a kilo of ground beef. The smiling and friendly butcher chose a likely looking piece of beef and handed it to a little man standing at the side of the counter. The little man retrieved a well-used, not too clean cutting board and knife, took everything outside to the sidewalk, squatted and began to mince the meat with the knife, occasionally swatting off a plague of flies. Oh-My-God! And it took a really long time, with the outside temperature akin to a wet and dripping hell. This is why most foreigners do not go shopping but send the cooks and insist that all food is cooked until it is unrecognizable. So what did I do? For three years, 1) I never went shopping. 2) I never went in the kitchen while food was being prepared, preferring to give orders from the door and “step away”. 3) We ate out a lot and I averted my eyes when passing by the restaurant kitchen. Sort of miserable for an enthusiastic cook but nothing lasts forever and we were never sick, although many Americans were :(
Now that I think of it, I have some really good Bangladeshi stories like “Gasuddin and the Rickshaw Driver”. Next time. I’ve got to finish this post and practice my accordion :D
I bought some mah-velous, grind while you watch, ground veal from the pristine hands of the butcher at Leclerc while I was in France. So that’s why.
Veal and Vegetable Ragout
4-5 cloves of fresh garlic, sliced
3 small or 1 big onion, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground veal
1 aubergine, cut into chunks
2 courgettes, cut into chunks
1/2 lb mushrooms, halved
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
Saute the garlic, onion and bell pepper in the olive oil until the onions are just soft. Add the veal and continue to saute until the meat is no longer pink. Add the aubergine and saute for 3 minutes. Add the courgettes and saute for another 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes. Add the basil, oregano, salt, pepper and tomatoes, blending well, then simmer for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but still firm.