The Journey and evolution of Dolma | From Mediterranean sea to Bay of Bengal

It was so nice of our colleague Ms. Khalida to cook and bring today dolmas to the office in good quantity for all of us.

Dolma is a family of stuffed vegetable dishes common in the Mediterranean cuisine and surrounding regions including the Balkans, the Caucasus, Russia, Central Asia and Middle East. Common vegetables to stuff include tomato, pepper, onion, zucchini and eggplant. The filling generally consists of rice, minced meat or grains. In either case, the filling includes onion, herbs like dill, mint or parsley and spices.

Dolma word has derived from “dolmak”, which is a Turkish word that means “to be filled, be full”. Greeks call the stuffed vine leaves dolmades.

The use of grape leaves to wrap food is believed to date back to the days of Alexander, the Great. Greeks say that the origin of stuffed vine leaves goes back to the time when Alexander, the Great besieged Thebes. Food became so scarce that the Thebans cut what meat they had into little bits and rolled it in grape leaves. The Byzantines later refined and spiced the preparation and filled not only grape leaves but leaves of other vines as well as the leaves from hazelnut, mulberry and fig trees.

dolma
Stuffed grape leaves

Dolma has been a part of Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. It is a common dish in Iraqi cuisine, which includes stuffed cabbage leaves, onions in aubergines cooked in tomato sauce. Over time, regional variations developed. In the Persian Gulf, basmati rice is preferred, and the flavour of the stuffing may be enhanced using tomatoes, onions and cumin.

DOLMA REACHES BENGAL

The dolma in Bengal i.e. Bangladesh and Indian state of West Bengal no longer contains meats and has evolved into delicious pointed gourd (Trichosanthes dioica) — potol (পটল) in Bengali — stuffed with fish, shrimp, meat, or vegetables along with poppy seeds, grated coconut and/or raisins and goes by the name potoler dolma or a local variant potoler dorma. The dolma has become a local landmark in Bengal.

Pointed gourd (parwal, in Hindi) is a tropical green vegetable indigenous to India – with origin in the Indian subcontinent. It is widely cultivated in the eastern and some northern parts of India.

dorma2
Potoler Dorma

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the dolma could have traversed the sea route to reach the ports of Bengal, which was once ruled by the Nawabs of Bengal. This has become a very popular dish of Bengali cuisine.

The delicious journey of Dolma began from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and fulfilled on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, where it got the exotic transformation. I love it!

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