After sailing through weeks of culinary challenges, nerve-wrecking tasks and enormous pressure of honouring her Bangladeshi heritage, Kishwar Chowdhury reached the very top of the MasterChef Australia 2021 and won everyone's heart.
Not only did she recreate the simplest of local dishes such as Panta Bhat, an item that fills the belly of the working-class and is held dear by the culturally conscious urban middle class, but Kishwar also refused to box herself in and demonstrated her unique culinary skills that went beyond the classic dishes of the subcontinent.
Here are the ten iconic dishes from MasterChef Australia's second runner-up Kishwar Chowdhury:
Panta Bhat with Aloo Bharta, Fried Sardines
Kishwar served smoked rice water with Aloo Bhorta and fried sardines during the two-part grand finale of MasterChef Australia. “This is the type of food you wouldn’t see anywhere. It feels scary, but it also feels extremely rewarding to do this as my finale dish,” she said.
Judges called her Panta Bhat dish “unbelievable.” Jock Zonfrillo said, “My mouth is still watering. It is such a beautiful contrast." Mellissa Leong said that Kishwar’s dish was “powerful with flavor and powerful with history.”
After Dinner Mint
During the neck-and-neck race among Elise, Justin and Kishwar, the Bangladeshi-Australian prepared the gorgeous “After dinner mint,” an ice cream dish served on a betel leaf. Judge Melissa Leong, chewing on the leaf wrapped ice cream, rightfully called it "a love letter to Bangladesh."
After reaching the second round of the 'Game Meats' challenge, Kishwar prepared the classic local dish ‘Khashir Rezala with Porota’ for MasterChef Australia judges in 75 minutes.
“I have cooked it a few times, but it is still extremely hard. Picking a goat in 75 minutes is not an easy job and I am really nervous to do it,” Kishwar said. “It is a complex dish and it takes time. And I really want to nail it. Being in here unleashed a whole new side of me, in addition of knowing what my heritage has already taught me, what my parents and grandparents taught me.”
“It would be devastating if my journey ends here. Because I don’t want to leave before you taste some of my Bengali sweets,” Kishwar quipped.
The judges did not shy away from singing the praises of Kishwar’s dish. “It is a powerful plate of food. It is superbly rich, unbelievably rich and perfectly cooked,” said Andy Allen. Judge Jock Zonfrillo was equally impressed, “What’s in this bowl is magic.”
One of the most underrated dishes from Kishwar this season was her Goat Nihari with Naan Nawabi. “Traditionally a dish so irresistible, that it made its way to the royal court kitchens of the Mughals and was indulged by Emperors in the past. Today, I’m bringing my dad’s version of Goat Nihari to the MasterChef Royalty,” she said.
The judges were all impressed of her culinary skills and fans in Bangladesh could not stop singing the praises of Kishwar’s delicious-looking dish.
Kishwar prepared the classic Bengali dish ‘Bhapa Mach’ after trying her hand at ‘Khashir Rezala’ in the 75-minute round of 'Game Meats' challenge in MasterChef Australia.
She reinvented the local dish by following the simple process of poaching Murray Cod Tail Shank in Ginger and Tomato broth with Confit Tomatoes, Fried Leeks and Caraway Dust.
Kishwar brought popular local snacks – fuchka, chotpoti, samosa and a tamarind dip, all the way to the Masterchef’s kitchen and earned applause from the judge during the Innovation round.
A lifelong lover of fuchka-chotpoti, Kishwar wanted to introduce the judges to the unique flavours woven into the street food of Dhaka that she relishes during her annual trips to Bangladesh. “In today’s Invention Test I made a Bengali Street food platter. I reinvented how we utilize the “ordinary” potato by using it to emulate different pastries,” she said.
Khichuri, Begun Bhorta
Kishwar put together Khichuri, Maach Bhaja (Pan Seared Spiced Bream), Begun Bhorta (Smoked Eggplant) and Niramish (Bengali 5 Spiced Vegetables) in a bid to recreate an authentic Bangladeshi dish.
“These are just some of the no frills, authentic Bengali dishes you’ll find in more than 200 million Bengali homes across the world...including mine 🙂 Food has a way of transporting us and today after cooking this “simple” midweek meal, it really took me home,” she said.
Kishwar served a North African/Moroccan Oxtail using the traditional “Bhuna” techniques taught to her by her Bangladeshi father.
“During my MasterChef Australia journey I spent a lot of time researching ancient cooking techniques and spice blends from around the world. The word Bhuna actually refers to the cooking process rather than the type of dish. Originating from the Urdu word for ‘fried’. The origins of bhuna can be traced back to the area of Bengal, a state in northeast India as well as western Bangladesh. This method of frying the spices was a common cooking technique for the meals prepared for Indian royals and aristocrats. Over time, the technique became common in most subcontinental households, and bhuna gained wide popularity,” Kishwar described her dish.
The 38-year-old Bangladeshi-Australian prepared Bengali Beef Patties with Tomato Tamrind Chutney and Starfruit Salad in one of the early episodes of the 13th season. She said, “This dish takes me straight into the heart of Chandichowk in Dhaka. If you take a rickshaw straight to Gaucia Market, before you can get to the Beef Patties and Phuchka stall, there are vendors making fresh starfruit in kashundi, chaat moshla and chilli and giving it to you in a little plastic bag. I can’t go past it. Bengali street food, especially around the Old Dhaka areas makes me so so happy!”
Kishwar tried her hand at traditional Burmese noodle dish known as “Khow Suey.” She served the popular street food from Burma with a delicately spiced coconut milk sauce and different condiments, such as lime, salted peanuts, chilies in soy sauce and fresh herbs. Judge Zonfrillo gave her a score of “11 out of 10” for this dish.