On 20 August 2016, the MIA Workshop organized its sixth seminar. The topic was Bangladeshi food culture and gender issues. Ms. Sabina Sultana, a Bangladeshi nutritionist and medical interpreter, was the speaker.
Ms. Sultana told us that a typical Bangladeshi meal includes rice and fish. Although Bangladesh shares similar food culture with India and Pakistan, Bangladeshis in general cook with less spices and herbs. Unlike Northern India and Pakistan where people have naans, Bangladeshis prefer rice in their main meals. Besides, yogurt and tomatoes, which are commonly used in India and Pakistan, are not popular ingredients in Bangladeshi cuisines.
|Ms. Sultana explaining Bangladeshi food culture|
Ms. Sultana introduced to us that pitha, a cake-like snack, is common in Bangladesh as well as West Bengal in India. It is made from a batter of rice or wheat flour, and filled with sweet or savoury ingredients such as grated coconuts or gurh (condensed cane-sugar). It can be either steamed or fried. Ms. Sultana also told us that ilish is the national fish of Bangladesh, and it is popular in daily meals and festivals alike.
|Ilish (Photo source: Wikipedia)|
Although there is no Bangladeshi grocery store in Hong Kong, Ms. Sultana said Bangladeshis get almost everything they need from other South Asian supplies stores and supermarkets. Those items that could not be found in Hong Kong, such as specific rice and vegetables, are brought by relatives or friends from Bangladesh occasionally. She mentioned that the eating habits of her family has been influenced by the Chinese cuisines since moving to Hong Kong nine years ago. For instance, they love to cook with vinegar now, which was very rare in the past.
During the short break, Workshop participants got a chance to taste some Bangladeshi food including a vegetable salad, dal puri (a fried puff bread with mung bean), piazu (a deep-fried snack made with lentils), chicken curry, ruhi (fish) curry, rice, and masala tea, all prepared by a home chef.
|Piazu (red in colour) and dullpuri (yellow in colour)|
In the second part of the seminar, Ms. Sultana explained to us the gender situation in Bangladesh. She said Bangladeshi women still suffer as an underprivileged group in terms of health services, education, and employment. For instance, there is a big gender earning gap in Bangladesh. According to Ms. Sultana, women only earns USD 0.12 per day, compare to USD 1 earned by man. In terms of politics, the Bangladeshi government is trying to engage more women in the political system such as reserving 50 seats for women in the Parliament. However, Ms. Sultana commented that the process for improving gender inequality is slow because of the lack of rule of law and corruptions in the government.
Lastly, Ms. Sultana pointed out that Islam teachings consider men and women equal and they will receive fair judgements from Allah. Besides, some may question why Muslim men are allowed to marry a maximum of four wives. Ms. Sultana explained that according to the Quran this is only allowed when the men can treat the wives justly and equally. And often people misunderstood and/or abused this teaching. She reminded us that we should consult the Iman or visit the mosques to learn the truth of Islam.