Outside one of Action Against Hunger’s community kitchens in Kutupalong Camp, Rohingya children have lined up to wait for a hot meal. Their clapping hands are washed, and a volunteer leads them in songs about good hygiene. As they grow impatient, they show off their English language skills, reciting the alphabet together.
It’s an everyday scene in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where more than 900,000 displaced Rohingya men, women, and children now live after seeking safety from persecution in their home country, Myanmar. Powered by a staff of nearly 900 people and a volunteer force of more than 1,300 people, Action Against Hunger manages ten community kitchens and serves 11,000 meals each day.
Meet the Chef
Adbul Hachim, 27, is one of the kitchen’s chefs. A year ago, he escaped violence in Myanmar with his pregnant wife and their two daughters. His parents, his eight brothers and their families, and the rest of their village fled, too.
“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 our 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.”
Back in Myanmar, his family was part of the middle class; Abdul owned a grocery store, his father was a doctor, and one of his brothers was a pharmacist. Today, the entire family is scattered across the camp. “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.”
Each day, Abdul, along with his co-chef and 15 volunteers, prepare and serve nearly 500 nutritious meals for the most vulnerable displaced people, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under five years old, people with disabilities, and the elderly. As a chef, Abdul earns a salary to help support his family, and he’s able to continue to do something he loves: cooking for others.
Abdul’s relationship with food dates back years. He and his family often volunteered to cook “guru gusto” – a dish with spiced meat and potatoes – for their village in Myanmar during Mezban, a term that means “host” and refers to community celebrations such as the birth of a child, a wedding, or a death.
“We cooked because it makes us happy to serve our community and give them this food at such an important time,” says Abdul.
On this particular day, chicken with rice and dhal, a lentil-based side dish, are on the menu. To make Abdul’s recipe you need: chicken, oil, garlic, onion, salt, turmeric, coriander powder, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, chili spices, ginger, lentils, and rice.
- Stir garlic, ginger and onion in oil for few minutes
- Add the spices and salt
- Cook for few minutes
- Add the chicken
- Pour water to make a broth
- Cook until the meat is tender, about 30-60 minutes
Separately prepare the dhal: boil the lentils with onion, garlic, ginger, the above-mentioned spices and a bit of oil.
Serve hot with rice.