Afra Anzum Rumpa, a lecturer at Prime University, was quite excited about the traditional foods of Rangpur before her marriage as her fiancé came from Rangpur, but that excitement faded when she tasted ‘sholka’ and ‘shidol’, two traditional foods of the region, prepared by her mother-in-law.
Neither of the food items even could satisfy her Dhakaite taste buds; however, her husband Ashfaqur Arefin Anik, a lecturer from Dhaka University of Science and Technology, enjoyed both the items arguing that only people from the northern part of the country know the real taste of these traditional foods.
That Mrs Rumpa could not satisfy her taste buds with the two traditional foods of the region’s was not unexpected because people from other areas, specially Dhaka -- who are not so familiar with these two foods – do not much enjoy them.
Even though traditional foods are usually available in the particular regions, ‘sholka’ and ‘shidol’ are not available even in Rangpur region, home to the traditional foods in question. Many blame it on the delicate and complex process of making these two foods.
As regards the process of cooking ‘shidol’, Ms Ferdousy Ara, a housewife from Rangpur’s Badarganj, said, "At first, small fishes are washed carefully and dried for five to six days. Those dry fishes are then grinded and mixed with mashed arum and other ingredients like salt, pepper, ginger, etc. Once the mixture is done, the mounds are coated with turmeric layer with mustard oil and dried in the sun for five to six days."
Preservation of ‘shidol’ is even more exotic compared to its making, as it is preserved in ash and it becomes edible after cooking with different fishes, while, ‘sholka’, she said, is prepared with different types of spinaches with jut leaves and taro stem being two of the core ingredients.
Aklima Parveen, a teacher of Rangpur Kenairhat College, said, "Different types of spinaches are wrapped together and chopped in pieces. Baking soda is one of the main ingredients of ‘sholka’ along with other ingredients like salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, etc. Sometimes people add jackfruit seeds to increase the taste."
While it might seem easy to prepare ‘sholka’, Ms Aklima said otherwise: Chopping the spinach is the toughest part of the whole process as there’s a unique style of chopping spinach for making ‘sholka’.
Clearly, ‘shidol’ and ‘sholka’ need good and experienced hands to be made properly. Nevertheless, the main reason behind these two items being not so available all over the country is their complex making process, according to her.
Even many locals nowadays have begun to prefer other urban foods with an easy cooking process to ‘sholka’ and ‘shidol’. The way Chattogram's Mejbani Mangsho or Jessore's Chui Jhal is known to all, the two particular local foods of Rangpur are not that much familiar.
Though sholka’ and ‘shidol’ are the traditional foods of Rangpur, many people even from there have never tasted them as the making process of these two foods is complex and those are not available in any restaurant in Rangpur region.
According to people who run hotels and restaurants in the region say these foods are not available with them because their cooking process is complex.
Take the case of Rehnuma Taskin, a mechanical engineering student of Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology, she grew up in Rangpur but has never tasted any of the traditional foods there being talked about here.
“I have only heard these names from my grandmother, I do not know how they taste. I have not seen my mom or anyone from my family ever making ‘shidol’ or ‘sholka’."
Mubin Hassan, an animal husbandry student from Bangladesh Agriculture University (BAU), expressed his frustration over the growing tendency of preferring easy-to-make foods over traditional ones. As a result, foods like ‘sholka’ and ‘shidol’ are losing their demand.
"As the process of making these two foods is lengthy and the ingredients are not much available, we do not find them at the table as before."
Mayesha Afiya Jarin is currently studying law at Bangladesh University of Professionals. She can be reached at [email protected]