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If you are one of those that never leaves a restaurant without checking the dessert menu, this one’s for you. Also if your staples are the laddoos, kheers and Gulab Jamuns of the world, lord knows how you’re going to react to a Shondesh or Lobongo Latika, when you try one.
From syrupy, dry, to semi-syrupy, the renditions in Khoya, Nolen Gur, Chana, and what have you, add a whole new dimension to desserts and the way they are had. Back in Kolkata, unless the mishti doi pots arrive post a platter of macher jhol and bhat, the meal is most definitely incomplete. Mishti, for Bongs, hardly has a celebratory connotation, it can be had anytime, post meal, like an evening snack with tea, when guests arrive, or simply by sneaking a couple of bites straight off the refrigerator when no one’s watching.
Introducing the mishtis that make a true blue Bong tick
This heavenly spongy sweet, pearl white in colour and swimming over a sweet syrup is the pride of every Bengali, and even Odia. Of contradictory claims by both states, one believing that it was first served as bhog to goddess Lakshmi at Jagannath Temple, Puri, while the other tracing it back to 1868 to a Kolkata-based confectioner by the name of Nobin Chandra Das who started making rosogolla with a mixture of chana (cottage cheese) and semolina dough in boiling sugar syrup at his sweet shop in the present day Baghbazar, rosogolla is at the heart of sweet-eating in the East.
2. Nolen Gurer Sondesh
If you think chanar Sondesh is a delicacy, wait until you try out the Nolen Gur version. For the uninitiated, Nolen Gurer Sondesh loosely translates into cottage cheese fudge with date palm jaggery and is ubiquitous at Bong weddings, Kali puja (Diwali) and as prasad at Durga puja. To make this Sondesh, you need to boil milk until it curdles and turns into chana. Further knead the chana with the heel of your palm and add the Nolen Gur and kead some more till it forms a homogeneous mixture. Stir the mix in a non-stick pan over low heat, and put them inside molds. Serve warm or at room temperature.
3. Mishti doi
Mishti doi is basically sweetened yoghurt that makes up for a perfect last course. Bengali homes are known to stock mishti doi in earthen urns and pull them out for large Sunday meals, or when friends come over to dine. Unlike the usual dessert, mishti toi has an extremely creamy texture owing to the caramelised sugar that is added to the boiling milk. Set overnight and served chilled, this dessert brings a smile on every Bong’s face.
4. Kalo Jaam
Kalo Jaam is a delicacy from the word go. With a dark black husk and a soft, gooey inside, one bite into Kalo Jaam can instantly convert you. This too is a chana (cottage cheese) based dessert that is semi-syrupy, typically made from milk solids and sugar. If you haven’t tried this before, make sure you ask for one the next time you visit your friendly neighbourhood Bengali sweet shop.
5. Gurer Paayesh
Basically rice pudding with date palm jaggery, Gurer Paayesh has a special connotation in a Bong’s life. Every birthday will have a ma, pishima (mom, father’s sister) make one and you cannot leave home before having it. This rice pudding infused with palm jaggery which adds a texture and richness to the everyday paayesh, kheer if you like, lifts the taste to a whole new level. It’s common to find Gurer Paayesh in the Durga Puja bhog lunch. Ask you Bong friends if they leave the table before tackling this sumptuous rice dessert no matter how pressed for time they might be.
6. Raj Bhog
A chana-based dumpling flavoured with saffron and rose essence swimming in a sweet syrup, is an absolute treat, and quite a meal on its own. You can call it another version of Rosogolla, which is often bigger in size and comes with a stuffing of dry fruits such as pistachio and almonds, or mawa. Like Rosogolla, Raj Bhogs too are soft and spongy, and a perfect way to bring in festivities.
This is the Bengali equivalent of Boondi Ka Laddoo which uses cashew nuts, raisins among other dry fruits, khoya or mawa, ghee and milk powder. Making this is quite an elaborate procedure. Boondi Ka Laddoo is otherwise a common offering at Ganapati puja. You will love this Bong version too, there is no doubt about it.
8. Lobongo Lotika
Bong’s love making this sweet at home and then pin the center with a clove. The procedure is so intricate, just as intricate and subtle as the taste of this unique sweet dish. The stuffing of a Lobongo Lotika can vary from coconut and Nolen Gur to Khoya or Chana. The flour pastry is rolled thin and stuffed and secured with a clove before deep frying in sugar syrup. Try a Lobongo Lotika the next time you miss the Holi-wala Gujjiya.
A traditional Bong pancake recipe with a stuffing of coconut and Nolen Gur or khoya. Patishapta is a special occasion sweet made on Bengali new year (Noboborsho) or Sankranti. You know Patishapta is being made in the kitchen from the aroma the moment you enter the house. If pancakes are your thing, the Patishapta will come as a magical invention.
Langcha originates from the Shaktigarh district in Burduwan. Langcha uses sweetened milk power, heavy cream, flour, ghee, cardamom, and oil for frying. The Langcha attains a gorgeous brown colour after it is fried in oil. An absolute must-have.
11. Kheer Kadam
Kheer Kadam is like a saffron-flavoured Rosogolla that has a stuffing of soft khoya and a coating of coconut and roasted chana. It is also popularly referred to as Khoya Kadam or Kheer Kadam.
12. Kolar Bora
Basically banana fritters that make for a perfect tea-time snack. To Bongs, it doesn’t call for any special occasion to rustle this sweet dish up. However, they are popularly made during Sankranti and Janmashtami, and served to guests. Ripe banana, some flour, sugar and ghee is everything you need to put this dish together.