Bhorta or bharta is a generic term used in Bengal to describe anything that has been ground, pounded or chopped into very small pieces. It is a side dish almost like a relish, which is commonly eaten with rice and lentils.

No Bengali New Year celebration in Bangladesh is complete without various kinds of bhorta. If tomatoes are available, this bhorta will definitely be on the table.  

Since it has a salsa-like texture, it can be used as a relish for burgers or even grilled halloumi. It’s a great accompaniment to barbecued meats too. It can be made in advance and kept covered in the fridge for 24 hours until you are ready to eat.

There is a messy way to roast the tomatoes, using direct heat—either by cooking them on the embers of a barbecue or by holding them in tongs directly in a flame, turning them so they roast evenly. These methods give an added smokiness, but they are not always practical. The easiest way is to heat up a tawa or a griddle over high heat and roast the tomatoes on it until the skins blacken.

Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and chop the tomatoes into small pieces.

Mix the tomatoes with the chiles, onions, oil and salt and serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with cilantro.

Reprinted with permission from
Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking to Nourish Your Soul
Asma Khan. 
Interlink Books, 2022.

Asma Khan
Asma Khan is the chef and restaurateur of London’s Darjeeling Express, which began as a supper club, then a pop-up, before settling in its permanent location to wide acclaim. Khan’s food is homage to her royal Mughlai ancestry and the busy streets of Calcutta, where she grew up. An all-women team runs the kitchen at Darjeeling Express, which has been featured in Time Out, Harper’s Bazaar, The Guardian and numerous others. In 2015 it was named one of the best restaurants in London by the Evening Standard, and in 2017 Eater named it one of its most impressive restaurant newcomers.