Cooking is an art. Just as the artist carefully paints a picture with the touch of his brush, so the taste of
food stays in one’s mouth for a long time if it is
cooked with care. Cooking and cooking are two things. Cooking is for eating pur- poses only. The culinary style is from the taste of cooking to the serving. There was a time when cooking was just home- centered. But in the modern world, the culinary sector is now in a very strong. How many days, how many years, how many eras have flowed in time. Although Bengalis are familiar with all kinds of food in mod- ern times, Kachchi Biryani of Turkish- Mughal period is still ruling. Haji Mohammad Fazlur Rahman is one of those people who are still feeding the people of Bangladesh. His family has been involved in the raw material business for 87 years! One of the chefs who played a part in making kachchi biryani the national dish that it is now, was Haji Md Fazlur Rahman’s late father Ismail Miah. Now a veteran chef himself, Rahman runs his catering business out of Bosila, Mohammadpur. The hundreds of thousands of people that he has cooked for over the last four decades is quite literal. Simply on the occasion of the opening ceremony for the Bangladesh China Friendship Conference Center (now called Bangabandhu International Conference Center), Rahman, as the caterer for the program, served 50
thousand people. Remaining mostly true to the original style of preparing the kachchi, Rahman continues to oversee the cooking process at his 2,400 square feet kitchen in Bosila There are some delicate steps during the process, says the veteran chef, that you cannot leave for the staff to han- dle. One of these involves cooking the rice. “It has to be taken off the heat after it is cooked about 50% through. Otherwise you don’t get the separa- tion, and the rice comes out lumpy,” he informs you.
There is also the mixing of ghee and saffron that the chef does by his own hands, despite having a 30-strong staff in the kitchen. As much as Rahman’s kachchi cooking has stayed faithful to
the original recipe and cooking, it has also evolved. “Originally we didn’t wash the meat. It was part of the orig- inal recipe to start cooking the meat in its unwashed state (hence the name ‘kachchi’ or raw),” he said. But that changed around the 1980s
when people began to find the gamy taste unappetizing. Now the meat is washed with salt water before cook- ing, to get rid of the tangy smell. His success in the catering business looked unstoppable. Rahman trained his two sons — Md Shafiqur Rahman (managing director of the company) and Md Asiqur Rahman (deputy man- aging director) — as chefs and to con- tinue the family business. But then the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Like all other businesses, Rahman’s also began to suffer. The catering busi- ness was particularly hard hit as it relies on gatherings of people, the very thing at the core of all the pan-
demic-induced This led Rahman to take difficult deci- sions. He had to cut down staff by half. “Before the pandemic we would do 10 to 12 orders per day, with an average of 50 to 60 people per order. And that’s without weddings,” he said.
Now they get 3 to 4 orders per day for an average of 10 to 20 people per order. Tellingly, no orders for government and corporate programs, which used to be a big part of the business. All the AGMs (annual general meet- ings) also came to a stop because of the ongoing pandemic. Jamuna Bank
was a client which used to order food for 700 people every year during its AGM. That has stopped, along with business opportunities from all the other corporate events. But he is certain about one thing. Amid the rampant fast-foodization of
the kachchi biryani, food connoisseurs desiring an authentically cooked, high-quality kachchi experience can still get it from Masterchef Haji Md.
Fazlur Rahman Catering. The kachchi he serves is still the same “dom” (slow)-cooked-on-coal delicacy that his father started making nearly a cen- tury ago. The 64-year old master chef vouches for it.