Khulna: A Culinary Journey

For travelers, perhaps the sole reason to visit Khulna is to explore the majestic beauty of the Sundarbans, world’s largest mangrove forest. While that is definitely a ‘must-visit’ for everyone, the food in Khulna, especially within the Khulna district should not be underestimated. Before my trip, I honestly did not have much of an idea about how delicious and unique the food is going to be in Khulna. Some of the food I tried, turned out to be so exquisite in terms of taste and aroma, that it upped my voracity in terms of food consumption. Without further ado, let us begin our culinary journey.

Restaurants Specializing in Choi Jhal

Choi Jhal is the stem of a particular vine called Piper Chaba. For decades, the different local restaurants at Khulna region use this as a spice to their meat based curry dish to bring out an extra dimension of flavor and fragrance to it.

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Choi Jhal Stems

My first stop to try out the unique Choi Jhal flavor was at Abbas Hotel, the very place where, according to the locals, the recipe originated more than 70 years ago. While the stem can be used to cook any sort of protein, Abbas Hotel serves only Choi Jhal Mutton along with plain rice. I must say that if you have just enough time for only ONE meal at Khulna, this should be it.

As per tradition, the waiter at any Choi Jhal restaurant will carry around a bowlful of their signature choi jhal curry to each table and give you the opportunity to choose which specific piece(s) of meat you want for your meal.

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Abbas Hotel: The Gigantic Bowl of Choi Jhal Mutton was Brought to My Table

While Abbas Hotel is surely the best in my opinion, you might want to try the Choi Jhal Beef dishes at the different restaurants of Khulna Zero Point. There are a handful of restaurants at Zero Point, serving delicious Choi Jhal Beef curry, all of them taste almost equally good in my opinion.

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Bowl of Choi Jhal Beef Curry at Khulna Zero Point

After a meal at Zero Point, you should not forget to try out their curd dessert. This curd (‘Doi’ in Bengali) tasted nothing like the ones I tasted in my home city of Dhaka. It tasted somewhere in between sweet and sour which, I think, made it better compared to a curd I would buy from a local store in Dhaka.

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Dessert at Zero Point

The Sweets

I have had the privilege of visiting a couple of legendary sweet shops in Khulna, the first one being Indromohon Sweets. Indromohon Sweet shop is barely visible to the people passing by the store itself. This is because of the fact that it looks nothing like a regular sweet shop, it’s rather a tiny inconspicuous tavern-like joint, in the middle of an alley in Boro Bazar wet market.

The unique characteristic of the sweet shop is the fact that they still follow the age old tradition of serving the sweets on a piece of Banana Leaf. I have managed to make a small video (embedded below) of how they serve the warm sweets right out of the stove and on top of the leaves.

Apart from the two insanely delicious sweets show on the video, you can also try the ‘Shondesh’ at Indromohon, which is a dry sweet made with cottage cheese.

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A piece of Shondesh served on a Banana Leaf at Indromohon Sweets

The second wave of amazing sweets I had in Khulna is located right alongside the Khulna Court. The name of the food place is Babul Datta’s Hotel. This happens to be a legendary local breakfast spot where the locals enjoy a big breakfast with Parata, Lotpoti (Chicken Offal Curry) and Daal. A typical breakfast at Babul Datta’s Hotel is usually followed by a choice of freshly prepared & ridiculously soft, Sponge Rasgulla and Pantua.

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Sponge Rasgulla at Babul Datta’s Hotel, High Court, Khulna
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Pantua at Babul Datta’s Hotel, High Court, Khulna

Another local favorite place I must recommend is the Shatkhira Ghosh sweets. The addition of molasses in their sweets, which is a popular tradition in the Khulna-Shatkhira region, makes it worth a try.

Home Cooked Shrimp Curry

Probably one of the best meals you ought to have in Khulna is at a local home. I happen to have a relative in Khulna which made it easier for me to have a home cooked meal there. Since Shrimp is inexpensive in Khulna compared to most of the other parts of Bangladesh, it is a popular choice of the local people to prepare a shrimp curry, especially for their guests. Therefore, if you have a friend or a relative living in Khulna, I would strongly suggest you not to refuse, if they invite you to their home for a meal.

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Home Made Shrimp Curry at a Local Residence in Khulna

‘Salam Bhai-er Shorbot’ at Khulna University

Founded in 1991, Khulna University is one of the very few Public Universities in Bangladesh where student politics is prohibited. Throughout the campus you can sense that a special attention to cleanliness and calmness is prevalent. It is indeed one of the most beautiful University campuses I have visited in Bangladesh.

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Khulna University Campus

But perhaps the most popular place for the students is a humble little juice stall right outside the back gate of the campus named Salam Juice Corner, but it’s more commonly referred to as ‘Salam bhai er Shorbot’.

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After tasting a glass of Pineapple juice and a glass of Tamarind juice for a total price of 35 taka, I clearly understood why it gained so much recognition among the University students as well as the locals. Salam bhai’s recipe for juice includes water from a deep tube well which gives it an earthy and humble flavor, and it served as a USP for the product for years.

I’m certain that by now, you have already added Khulna to your food itinerary. If you are a food lover, living in/visiting Bangladesh, then not going on a food trip to Khulna would be a terrible sin.