If you are a Mehman (guest) to a house in old Dhaka, most likely, you will be presented with Bakarkhani, possibly with some tea. Persian bread has a distinctive softness and chewiness that is comfortable inside the mouth. The flatbreads tend to be delightfully aristocratic as the browns, freshly baked off the stove and mixed with various flavours such as sugar, cheese, ghee, or butter, are a reminder of the traditional Persian delicacy. The linkage of Barbari bread, a famous Iranian flatbread, with Bakarkhani and Bakarkhani's association with the baking style of the Afghani Naan stands for the rich cultural tapestry of the food item.
Culture is an age-old flowing river coming from location to location, carrying the heritage from all of them, gently reminding us of the narrow, bustling streets often filled with shallow, muddy water there. The morning starts with Bakarkhani for people of all classes, from the poor to the rich. And a cup of tea merely sets the dish. Nazimuddin Road hosts many of the Mughal delicacies, Bakarkhani being one of the primary. YouTube tells stories of the famous Nasu Faruk er shera Bakarkhani.
When the Mughals started ruling, Afghani and Persia-originated rulers, coupled with local-born promising figures, started occupying and establishing control over Bengal; they could not help bringing their artistry along the way and blended it with the land, leaving their echoing footsteps.
Cuisine is no different. The dishes originated at that time blended with the Indian subcontinent, and one of them always makes for a deal of never-ending fondness over some sweet tooth. The story of Bakarkhani goes a long way back to finding its roots with some passionate ruler linked with Persian origin and grew to status during the Mughal era.
Bakarkhani is not just a breakfast item alongside the groom's khichuri, Sarkari, and dim bhuna. It is a snack item for afternoon addas and evening meet-ups, too. There goes a saying - "Dhakaiya Bakarkhani khaay sharabela," well, the existence of Bakarkhani shops all over Dhaka city includes tasters of the dish who are the non-Dhakaiya (new Dhakaiya or people who do not live in old Dhaka), including the Dhakaiya.
Processing Bakarkhani requires kneading dough in multiple steps, each time with some ghee or butter to form the stretchy dough. Old Dhaka became the place of fantasy as Mughal rulers had an affair with it, so much so that the food culture there is heavily influenced by them to date.
References to this dish tell of different flatbreads like Lachha paratha versions existing in Kashmir and Kolkata and distinctively tasting Bakarkhani in Chittagong and Sylhet. The Bakarkhani business in old Dhaka flourished on its own. Previously, savourers of the flatbread ate the dish in its classic form: wheaty, comforting saltiness perfected with the heat from the baking. Then came along the blending of cheese.
One packet of crispy Bakarkhani used to sell for Tk 100 only a year ago. Bakarkhani consists of aromatic seeds or aromatic water, contributing to its flaky, welcoming taste. The use of these items nods to the typical structuring of Iranian-style flatbread. The dish is affordable, so it is available for everyone to start the day or run up in a day.