This project will explore the stateless Rohingya community’s traditional recipes and food practices in Kutupalong camps of Cox’s Bazar. Since 2017, more than 800,000 Rohingyas have escaped persecution by the Myanmar government. Rohingyas are the second largest group of stateless people who got shelter in the camps of southeast Bangladesh. Food for the Rohingya community is conceptualized in the context of food insecurity and hunger. Therefore being stateless also changed their traditional food culture.

The Rohingya community struggled to meet their daily nutritional demands as they did not have the right to food in Myanmar for decades. After they took shelter in Bangladesh camps, they had limited options for essential food items. In many cases, the Rohingya community had to be innovative in search of food to survive long-term exclusion in Myanmar and be stateless in Bangladesh. United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides food aid to Rohingya communities in camps in accordance with specific essential cooking items, which enables them to continue traditional food culture in their daily lives. In this context, this project will explore Rohingya recipes and food practices to understand how the traditional and cultural boundaries overlap, shift, and change through the long-term marginalization in Myanmar and within refugee camp experience in Bangladesh. This project will conduct six months of ethnographic fieldwork with 20 in-depth interviews, participant observation and audio-visual data to document recipes and food practices of the stateless Rohingya community in camps in Bangladesh to document and revitalize Rohingya traditional food practices.

The main goal of the project is to document the endangered Rohingya food recipes and practices to understand the cultural negotiation of this community made coping in daily camp lives with their traditional way of food culture.

Specific goals of the project are to:

  • Identify how the Rohingya community arranges food essentials for daily lives to cook traditional food within the fixed ration system and no income/lower income. The researcher will observe how the Rohingya community collect the food items from the WFP food distribution point and local market.
  • Documenting of the preparation of the food items, secret spices, and recipes for home-cooked meals through field notes and audio-visual data. The researcher wants to document the preparation and recipes of the daily main meals, snacks, and drinks of the Rohingya community. According to the Rohingya community (fieldwork 2023), they usually eat three or twice a day, and their staple is ‘rice’ each time. Usually, they consume fish or dry fish and vegetables with boiled rice. The researcher will observe the traditional Rohingya recipes of daily meals like ‘Masser Sallon’ (Fish curry), Gusto (meat curry), ‘Seek Gosto’ (dry meat), ‘Loppa or Nafphi’ (processed dry fish), ‘Massor Fiyanszu’ (bread with small fish or shrimp), ‘moringa’ (noodles soup with chili and tamarind). Also, she will document the preparation of snacks like ‘Lapacchu’, ‘Lotte Petra’, ‘Pakkom Petra’, ‘Dhom Perta’, ‘Sienna Perta’, ‘Gora Petra’, ‘Batt Petra’ and ‘Modhu Batt’. Furthermore, for the Rohingya community, consuming energy drinks, tea, and coffee is essential to their daily food ritual. Therefore, their daily drinks will be also observed.
  • Understanding how the traditional food rituals are related to the Rohingya identity in camps of Bangladesh, far away from home, while sharing the meals, especially on special occasions like weddings or religious festivals. Occasionally Rohingya community can eat meat (chicken, beef, mutton); for example, the researcher wants to observe how the Rohingya community prepares traditional ‘Gorur Gosto’ (beef curry with the sacrificed animal) and ‘Luthi Fira’ (rice bread) in Eid-Ul-Adha (religious festival).

This project will contribute to revitalising the traditional way of food culture of the stateless Rohingya community living in camps in Bangladesh.

Primary Applicant:
Tahura Enam Navile

Location of Research:
Rohingya camps, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Host Institution:
Durham University

Top Banner Image: Rohingya women preparing ‘Lappachu’, a home-made snack, Ukhiya, Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, 2023 (Photo: Tahura Enam Navile)