Where and how one sources, cooks, and devours hilsa, the fish beloved across the Indian subcontinent, conveys a lot about one’s Bengali roots. In the 1947 Indian Partition, Bengal was divided along religious lines, and Muslims fled to East Bengal, while a majority-Hindu population stayed in West Bengal (an Indian state). Later, in 1971, East Bengal became the independent nation of Bangladesh.
Bengalis divide into two major groups: Bangal and Ghoti. “Bangal” refers to Bengalis from East Bengal, while “Ghoti” refers to those native to West Bengal. Perhaps surprisingly, the Bangal-Ghoti divide is largely innocuous amongst Bengalis, sparking fun debates such as how hilsa—a fish adored across the Indian subcontinent, but particularly in Bengal—should be prepared.