One thing in Bengali cuisine which we bengalis take for granted is this "multi-course" thing -- where there is some sort of an unwritten rule as to which course should follow what. For instance, in general, meat always follows fish which always follows veggies. ( I said "in general", because as always there are exceptions).
Here for instance is a listing of a meal which includes all the courses. In my childhood, such elaborate meals would only be prepared on special occasions. Rice is commonly eaten with each and every dish:
1) start with "shukto" -- this is a bitter dish, usually made with bitter melon
1a) "Aloo-sheddho" -- mashed potatoes mixed with fiery mustard oil, onions and green chiles and a bit of salt. This is not a special occasion dish, but rather a "comfort" food. Even now when we come back home from a long trip, usually this is what we will have, with rice and dal.
2) Some kind of "shak" (greens) or "bhaja" (deep-fried potatoes or veggies and/or deep-fried-fish steaks and/or deep fried bori*) with "dal". As someone else pointed out in another thread -- there are even unwritten rules for which dals to use and the way to prepare them depending on season.
2a) sometimes a radhaballavi (its like a loochi, but thicker and bigger) or a loochi, with "chholar dal" or "aloor dom".
3) multiple "Torkari"-s (any kind of veggie dish; but even a "veggie" dish will sometimes have small shrimp in it, or will have broken up pieces of fish heads!)
4) Fish dish(es). Bengalis traditionally prefer to eat sweetwater fish or shrimp.
5) Meat dish. Commonly made with "mutton", aka goat meat. But can also be made with chicken.
6) Chatni, optionally served with Papad.
8) "Mishti Doi"
And of course, end your meal with Pan.
*bori=dal is made into paste, mixed with spices, formed into little pyramid like pieces and then dried in the sun.
Of course, we dont do such an elaborate meal on a day-to-day basis. But even in our simple day-to-day meal, we will follow this order of things. i.e. I will usually start with a dal, then a torkari, and followed by a fish or meat preparation.
There are major variations in Bengali cooking as you go from west to east (now "Bangladesh"), as you go from the cities to the villages, as you go from the coastal areas to the inland areas, as you go from hindu to muslim, and heck even as you go from one household to another!
I grew up in a middle class home in Kolkata, and in our house we alsways used to have fish at least 3-4 times a week, and usually a meat (chicken or mutton) at least 1-2 times a week. All my friends from outside Bengal used to find this very very odd, for some reason.
My last trip to Kolkata, I picked up these two books (in fact first time I purchased a Bengali Cookbook):
The Bengal Cookbook: Bangla Ranna
, by Minakshie Das Gupta
The Calcutta Cookbook
, by Jaya Chaliha, Bunny Gupta, Meenakshi Das Gupta
Since I have been back in the USA, I picked up yet another book:
Bengali Cooking: Seasons and Festivals
by Chitrita Banerji, Deborah Madison
If you like to learn how to cook Bengali food, the first book ("Bengal Cookbook") is the best. The last two, especially the "Bengali Cooking" one, are better if you want to learn about some of the social/religious/cultural background behind the food.
This is really a vast topic, and there is no way I can even begin to do justice to this topic here.