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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where is Siddika Kabir's Restaurant?

One of the must carry essentials during my student years outside Bangladesh was a book. A book not related to any fiction, fantasy or facts of real world, a book not related to any academic requirement whatsoever. No time for Masud Rana, Sunil or Shirshendu..Humayun Ahmed or Humayun Azad. But that was a book directly related to my existence, my day to day living and well being. A cook book by famous Bangladeshi chef Siddika Kabir that I didn't forget to buy at the 11th hour prior to catching a flight. Amazon describes one of her books as 'The best book for cooking written in Bengali for decades. In very easy and informative way the author has unveiled the secrets of traditional, contemporary, modern and fast-food preparing as well. Since late 70's a copy of this book is available in each household in Bangladesh as well as a part of standard packing for those who left for abroad.'

Among many other things in life, what I don't understand much are paintings, poetry, printers, photocopiers and cooking. The last in the list appears to me as easy at times, but when I get to do it myself, it appears to be as complicated as flying a fighter jet perhaps. Hence this reliance on the Bengali food Bible composed by the respected Siddika Kabir. While I am still flipping through the recipe pages of her book trying to successfully cook and eat (and let eat) some edible items, I was wondering why doesn't Siddika Kabir have any restaurants anywhere in Bangladesh? Its common knowledge that she is a familiar and popular face in cooking shows in many private television channels in the country, but wouldn't it be nice if she did have a flagship restaurant by her own name, owned by her, run by her somewhere in the city? It would be so nice to visit her signature restaurant from time to time to be served with delicious food items prepared by her very own unique recipes. Would be even nicer if she decides to show up occasionally to ask the food-lovers how the food was. She could even arrange some sort of impromptu cooking lessons in the same premises as the diners would be enjoying their food, cooked or directed by the chef herself. In a country where we love to eat, have eateries like mushrooms, its still too crowded with 'me too' restaurants or the frankly fake ones. This sector still has room for authentic food icons such as her.

In my opinion, what Siddika Kabir had been doing since 1965 deserves her to be branded, her knowledge in terms of the recipes are certainly exportable abroad where there is a large Bangladeshi diaspora presence. Same principle applies for Fakruddin's Biriyani too, if we crave over the Biriyani, wonder why this item and the brand have not been exported massively outside Bangladesh so far? Are we waiting for the Fakruddin family to initiate partnerships abroad? Or they are just not interested? Or is it just us who don't want to take the initiative to forge a partnership with them to spread this great Bangladeshi brand beyond Bangladesh, Singapore, Australia and to the US, Europe, Middle East etc.? Try Googling 'Bangladeshi celebrity chef'....we are certainly proud of Tommy Miah but somewhere down the line, I feel we would have been prouder to see the likes of the Siddika Kabir in that search too. Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Sanjeev Kapoor etc. might be self-taught, gifted cooking geniuses, but they did not brand themselves beyong their territories by themselves. It is argued that the media, the diaspora had an instrumental role to play in transforming these culinary brands into global level which proudly carry their national entities with them wherever they go. Why can't we do something better with our culinary trailblazers such as Siddika Kabir, Fakruddin's Biriyani, Mamar Halim or Kader (or Mostakim) er Chaap? Lets not wait for foreign consultants to come and show us what great items and achievers we have which should have been rightly promoted/branded long time ago.

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