League Of Kitchens Bengali Cooking Class | Tasting Table NYC

The League of Kitchens runs cooking classes like no other

The moment we stepped into her Bay Ridge apartment, Afsari Jahan offered us puri and a cup of tea, just as she would in her home country of Bangladesh.

"We" were the handful of students taking Jahan's Bengali cooking class–and her welcoming gesture was only one of the things that made the day so memorable.

Jahan is an instructor for The League of Kitchens, a program in which immigrant instructors from Lebanon, Korea and elsewhere teach their native cuisine to small groups in their own kitchen.

It's an intimate cooking experience: During each five-and-a-half-hour class ($195 per person), students prepare a feast at the elbow of the teacher. We chopped bottle gourds (similar to zucchini) for shobji dal (see the recipe); rolled dough, stuffed it with cumin- and chile-flecked cauliflower and then pan fried the packets of gobi paratha (a savory stuffed bread); and helped Jahan make murgir mangsho–the "everyday" chicken curry of Bengali cuisine.

Working side by side with Jahan, we got a firsthand glimpse into the little tricks that make the dishes delicious: how she sautées whole dried chiles for flavor, not heat, for example, or measures out spices for a homemade masala mix for the curry.

Students help Jahan make Bengali chicken curry.

After hours of prepping, we settled down in Jahan's living room–now fragrant with coriander, turmeric and ginger–to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We were sent home with a detailed recipe packet, as well as a kit of ingredients.

It's one thing to take a class. It's another to see a cuisine through the eyes of an instructor who, despite having lived in NYC for more than a decade, continues to practice and perfect the dishes she grew up with. An afternoon with the League of Kitchens class is inspiring, fulfilling and filling.

Afsari Jahan, the one of The League of Kitchens instructors, teaches her Bengali cooking class from her Bay Ridge apartment.

Jahan's family photos; the course finishes with a taste of Jahan's rice pudding (right).

Participants rolls out dough for gobi paratha, a cauliflower stuffed flatbread.

A participant finishes a dish.

The "everyday" Bengali chicken curry; frying spices to add flavor (right).

A hearty pot of lentils with vegetables.

The students are excited to get cooking.

Jahan with a course manual; her collection of spices (right).