The nature and variety of dishes found in Bengali cooking are unique even in India. Fresh sweet water fish is one of its most distinctive features; Bengal's rivers, ponds and lakes contain varieties of fish such as Rui, Ilish, Koi or Pabda. Prawns, Shrimp and Crabs are also common. At least one meal a day is certain to have a fish course.
Bengalis also excel in the cooking of regional vegetables. They prepare a variety of dishes using the many types of vegetables that grow there year-round. They use fuel-efficient methods, such as steaming fish or vegetables in a small covered bowl nestled at the top of the rice pot.
The use of spices for both fish and vegetable dishes is quite extensive and includes many combinations not found in other parts of India. Bengali cooking includes the phoron - a combination of whole spices, fried and added at the start or finish of cooking as a flavouring special to each dish. Bengalis have a love for mustard - mustard oil, mustard paste and mustard seeds are commonly used in this style of cooking.