Punjabi cuisine & Bengali cuisine, these two have unique culinary styles based on their food culture, farming-based traditions & local ingredients. Each of these two cuisines also depicts the lifestyle of these two Indian states. Nobody needs to be an expert to identify differences between Punjabi cuisine & Bengali cuisine. You just need to try both of these two cuisines for a few weeks or months.
Being a Bengali, I am familiar with Bengali cuisine. I also spent many years in Delhi. So I got the opportunity to try Punjabi cuisine. I also spent time with the locals and tried so many Punjabi dishes at restaurants for years. I attended the various social ceremony where I got the opportunity to try authentic & traditional Punjabi food.
So after all those years, I found below mentioned 5 distinct differences between Punjabi cuisine & Bengali cuisine.
- Wheat & rice-based food: Punjabi meal is normally wheat-based food whereas Bengali meal is mostly rice-based food. Okay, I admit that Punjabi people also eat rice but they eat rice only along with dal or rajma or kadhi etc. But most other dishes for having with roti, paratha, naan etc. But Bengali dishes are mostly rice oriented. In fact, roti is not prepared at Bengali household until a few decades ago. They only used to luchi (maida made poori) & sooji in wheat-based dishes. Rice is the most prefered grain and all dishes are normally prepared to have with cooked rice. Unlike Punjabi people, Bengali people need multiple side dishes to eat dal & rice.
- Taste & Flavor: Punjabi food is spicier & flavorful than Bengali food. In Punjabi dishes, tomato, onion, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, chillies, garam masala, saffron, jaiphal, javitri etc are widely used. They use a lot of butter, ghee, fresh cream to make their traditional dishes. So Punjabi dishes are not just spicy but also very rich in calorific value. Unlike Bengali dishes, Punjabi people even prefer tomato, onion, ginger & garlic based gravy to make various vegetarian dishes too. But Bengali dishes are less spicy & less oily. They use panch phoron, kalonji seeds, methi seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds etc to make various traditional dishes. Fresh coconut is also used to make various curries.
- Cooking style: The cooking styles of these two cuisines are different because in Punjab, people use local homemade tandoor or bhatti to make various traditional dishes. Tandoori roti or tandoori dishes are very popular in the Northern Indian states. Punjabi naan, paneer tikka, chicken tikka etc are also prepared in tandoor or brick & clay made bhatti. Some Punjabi dishes also prepared in slow cooking method. But Bengali food is simple & maintains balanced nutrition. They prefer to cook in mustard oil instead of butter or ghee except a few special dishes. They prefer simple fried vegetables with dal.
- Paneer vs Fish: Punjabi people eat a lot of paneer made dishes (paneer pakoda, palak paneer, paneer do pyaza, chilli paneer, matar paneer, paneer chole masala) whereas Bengali people eat a lot of fish-based dishes. Unlike Punjabi people, most Bengali people love non-vegetarian food. They eat fishes a lot. There are many Bengali households who make fish-based dishes almost daily. There are so many types of fish dishes available in Bengali cuisine. Almost all of those are popular. Bengali people love almost every types of sweet water fishes. But the same thing happens with Punjabi people, you just need to replace fish with paneer, haha. They prepare a hundred types of paneer based dishes and many Punjabi families prepare paneer based dishes almost daily.
- Sweet dishes: Punjabi sweets are mostly lentils & other seeds made whereas Bengali sweets are mostly chhana or cottage cheese-based. Bengalis are very fond of sweets. Without sweets items, Bengali people do not imagine any special meal.
Actually, any cuisine is developed absolutely based on locally available ingredients and their farm based lifestyle. Though, you may find influences of some other cuisines on a specific cuisine. But still you can identify some distinct features of any particular cuisine.