Chef Roger Mooking recently traveled to Bangladesh and Bangkok and returned with lots of photos and stories about the incredible food culture. We'll be publishing a new post every Thursday for the next two months, so stay tuned! Without further ado, enjoy Roger's second post below!
One of the questions I get most often is “What kind of knife should I buy for everyday use?” In truth, the variety is shocking for day-to-day tasks but usually will involve some type of sharp pointy straight stick-shaped thingy. Well, this is not the case in the Syhlet region of Bangladesh where I saw an entirely different knife.
The Boti is designed for use while stooping, as the kitchens in this region tend to be outside, on the ground over a fire. It is propped up on legs so that it is just high enough to reach comfortably while low to the ground. It is made of steel and comes to a very sharp precise edge with a dangerously pointy tip. Instead of pushing the knife through the food like we do with conventional knifes that we know in the west, the food is pressed against the concave part of the blade until it cuts it to its desired shape. Then it falls into the bowl below the blade.
I saw versions of the Boti with a wooden base on a hinge as well but this one above was most prevalent in the rural region of Bangladesh I visited. The cooks are very fast and efficient with their Boti and I found it very comfortable when between your legs while sitting on your heels.
And when its time to actually start the cooking, its all about the fire. The fuel is not wood or coal but rather a hard packed accelerant that is formed into a long hollow dowel that is made of dung and rice compacted. The dowel is then cut down into the donut shaped things you see behind the knife in the picture above. Several of these then go below a clay pot stand and the fire is started to start the cooking that happens mostly in cast iron pots.
There you have it! Boti and fire, Bangladesh style.
by Roger Mooking