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Bangladesh: Cooking for a Community

 Photo: Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

Each day, children patiently line up for a hot meal in Kutupalong Camp, Cox Bazar, Bangladesh. While they wait they laugh amongst themselves, practicing their English skills and reciting the alphabet, knowing food will be served soon when a volunteer leads them in songs about good hygiene practices – clapping their freshly washed hands along with the beat.

These children are just a small portion of the more than 900,000 displaced Rohingya men, women, and children who escaped to Bangladesh last year from the increasing levels of violence and persecution in their homeland of Rakhine State, Myanmar. Action Against Hunger has been present in Bangladesh since the first wave of displaced Rohingya arrived, and with a team of more than 1,300 staff and volunteers, now manages 10 community kitchens serving 11,000 hot meals a day.


 Photo: Abdul Hachim serving children lunch. Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

Meet the Chef

One of the community chefs is Abdul Hachim, a young man who escaped the violence in Myanmar with his pregnant wife and their two daughters. Every day, Abdul and his co-chef, along with 15 volunteers, prepare and serve meals for the most vulnerable displaced people, including pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, children under five years old, people with disabilities, and the elderly. In this role, Abdul earns a salary to support his family, and he continues to work in an environment he enjoys.

In Myanmar, Abdul and his family were considered middle class; Abdul owned a grocery store, his father was a doctor, and one of his brothers was a pharmacist. Together, they would frequently volunteer to cook “Guru Gusto”- a dish with spiced meat and potatoes- for their village during Mezban, a term that means “host” and refers to community events and celebrations such as the birth of a child, a wedding, or a funeral. “We cooked because it makes us happy to serve our community and give them this food at such an important time”, Abdul explains. When the surge in violence began however, Abdul’s family, his parents, his eight siblings and their families, and the rest of their village all had to flee.

“At the beginning, I never thought I would end up in Bangladesh. We were just running away from a certain death. We hid away for four days in the forest. It was difficult for the mothers and the children, and then we finally crossed the border. My wife suffered a lot. She was pregnant, and so tired and hungry that she could not breastfeed out one-year- old daughter. People died on the way. When we arrived here, we were so many that there were not enough services for all of us. My children became sick with malnutrition, but they are much better now.”

Today, Abdul and his family are scattered throughout the camp, no longer living together; “As soon as a shelter became available, one of us would go and settle in. It wasn’t a choice to be separated from each other, but a necessity.”

On the Menu


 Photo: Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

When we spoke to Abdul he was working on preparing one of the hot meals for the day: chicken with rice and dhal, a lentil side dish.

Ingredients

  • Chicken
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Salt
  • Turmeric
  • Coriander powder
  • Cumin
  • Cinammon
  • Cardamom
  • Chili spices
  • Ginger
  • Lentils
  • Rice

Method

  1. In a hot oiled pan, stir the garlic and onion
  2. Add the spices and salt to the pan
  3. Once the onions are soft, add the chicken
  4. Cover the chicken in water, this creates a flavourful broth
  5. Cook until meat is tender, approx. 30 – 60 mins

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the dhal:

  1. Softly fry onion, garlic, ginger, spices in oil
  2. Add the lentils, stir together before adding water
  3. Boil the lentils until cooked

Serve with rice.

 A glimpse into the day to day routine of the community kitchen, Sébastien Duijndam for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh

What You Can Do

If you’d like to get involved, consider donating towards our #Brownbagit campaign. Instead of ordering lunch, make one of the suggested recipes from our website, you could even make Abdul’s recipe for chicken and dhal! Donate what you normally would spend on ordering lunch to Action Against Hunger, and support our teams in the field to deliver much needed aid and support.

 

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