“Baghbajar rosogolla , Bhim Nagar Sandesh
Bardhamaner Sitabhog, Mihidana Dorbesh“
Kolkata is widely known as “City of Joy” holds an important place in the culture of India. This city has produced some of the greatest personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Satyajit Ray,etc. Indeed, ideas of Kolkata in the fields of art, literature, cinema, and theater have provided inspiration to the rest of the country. But the City of Joy is also well-known for its delicious food, especially the mouth-watering sweets. One can find sweet shops in every street and corner of the city. It’s very rare to find a Bengali who is not the love of these sweets termed as “Mishti” in Bengali.
The people of Kolkata are incredibly proud of the sweets of Bengal and their unique appeal. Bengalis and their eerie affinity for ‘mishti’ are all well-reputed. So much, that even movies use a person with a pot of ‘mishti’ to symbolize the quintessential Bengali ‘babumoshai’ (aka Gentleman). And for a good reason, too ‘mishti’ has always wooed Indians and foreigners alike. Sweets are also an important part of the culture and tradition of the city. Be it during festivals or weddings or just greeting guests. Bengali sweets are always the stars of the show. Moreover, sweets have time and again made their appearance in Bengali pop-culture including movies and novels.
A walk through the History
The prominent presence of sweets in Bengali cuisine can be noted throughout history. Ancient Bengal was known as ‘Gauda Banga’, a name believed to be originated from the term ‘Gur’(molasses) that were harvested in abundance all throughout the region. The early Bengali sweets were made from the delicious jaggery (molasses) and coconuts. The practice of using ‘chhana’ (cheese) came much later with the colonial invasions.
Early Bengal learned the use of refining sugar to make some of the tastiest sweetmeats. ‘Monda’ made from sugar lumps and ‘batasha’ was the simplest of sweets made from sugar. The traditional delicacies, ‘pithe’ and ‘payesh’ rules the Bengali platter from days of the yore. From a mind-boggling range of pithe to different kinds of nadu, moa and takti (fudge) to layered or stuffed pastries dunked in syrup and luxurious treats made of khoya and kheer. There is a whole world of iconic Bengali sweets, where chhana is conspicuous only by its absence.
So, come let’s begin our journey and see what types of mishti (aka sweets) we would find here at Kolkata.
Rosogolla which made the whole Bengal famous on the global map, was created by Sri Nabin Chandra Das in his small shop in Baghbajar, in the latter part of 19th century. The spongy white cottage cheese balls dipped in syrup are a sight of immense joy for any sweet lover. Biting into the spongy flesh to relish the syrupy sweet is ecstatic to say the least. It’s a Bengali delicacy and one could find so many flavors of them in most of the Kolkata sweet shops, like Nolen Gur/ Mango/ Strawberry / Cardamom. Among these my favorite being the ‘Nolen Gur’. One would find rosogollas in every occasion or events in Bengalis and no Bengali could ignore rosogolla if offered.
Nowadays, a new form of rosogolla is in trending among the Bengalis that is ‘Baked Rosogolla’. It is an authentic Bengali recipe that has been a favorite among all the sweet lovers all over the world. This heavenly delight is made using rosogollas, khoya, sugar, milk, rose water, saffron and unsalted pistachios. It is best served on occasions like kitty parties, game nights, buffets and family get-togethers, and surely would win the heart of all your guests. It is such a delicious sweet that you can even give a miss to the main dish, and straight away go for desserts.
Mishti Doi, a fermented sweet doi(yogurt) originates from the Bogra district in Bangladesh and gained much popularity among Bengalis especially in the states of Bengal. Made from milk and sugar/jaggery it differs from plain yogurt because of its is a preparation technique. It is prepared by boiling milk until its slightly thickened and sweetened with sugar, either Gur(brown sugar) or kejur Gur(date molasses). This is kept overnight for fermentation and served the next day.
Earthenware known as bhadd is used to both prepare and serve mishti doi. This bhadd helps in the preparation of the doi by gradual of water through its porous walls and also adds up unique taste in the doi .It is also seasoned with a pinch of cardamom to add an extra flavor and taste to it.
It is a drier variety of sweets, prepared using milk, sugar often with cardamom, pestas and other nuts is actually originated from Bengal itself from the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent. This sweet dish is also mentioned in medieval Bengali Literature including Krittibas’Ramayana and also in the lyrics of Chaitanya. It is hard to determine when exactly sandesh started referring mainly to the chhena-based sweet instead of the kheer-based sweet. The Portuguese influence led to introduction of chhena in 16th century.
The ‘sandesh’ comes in innumerable varieties. The simplest kind of sandesh in Bengal is the makha sandesh (kneaded). It is prepared by tossing the chhena lightly with sugar over low heat. This when shaped into balls, is called Kanchagolla . Over the years some of the catchiest names were given to the revolutionary ‘sandesh’ by their makers. ‘Praanhara’ and ‘Abar Khabo’ are two of the most prominent sweets. ‘Mouchak’ (or honeycomb) named ‘sandesh’ is made of milk and sweet corn which bears a prominent taste of honey.
The delicious steamed ‘Bhapa sandesh’ is made from steamed cottage cheese and served chilled has a self-explanatory name. ‘Jalbhara/ talsas’ is an another type of sandesh that is shaped like a ‘tal’ ( kernel of the palm fruit). The sweet was created on the event of ‘Jamaisasthi’ by Surjya Modak. It is filled with sweet ‘Nolen Gur’ inside and thus got its name. It is said that the Bandopadhay family of Chandernagar requested these sweets for their son-in-law. When he took his first bite of the sweet, the sweet juice spilled out. The sweet thus, got well-known among the Bengalis.
Langcha(Lyangcha) is an Indian sweet found in Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and is basically originated from Bardhaman,West Bengal. Traditionally, it is made from khoya but due unavailability of khoya in some regions milk powder is being used. It is then mixed with flour followed by frying and dipping them in sugar syrup for a long time. Then they are brought back to a tub containing cold rose-flavored or elaichi flavored sugar syrup. Where they are kept for few hours untouched and these hard pieces become soft and juicy and ready to be served. This sausage shaped sweet is delightfully savored by kids and adults alike.
Pantua a local confection from Indian subcontinent found in the eastern region, specially in West Bengal and Jharkhand. It is a traditional Bengali sweet made of deep-fried balls of semolina, chhana, milk, ghee and sugar syrup. There is a wide range of colour in Pantua from pale brown to nearly black depending on how long they are fried. Rose water, cardamom or other flavours are sometimes added to the sweet to make it more tasty. The brown crust of the sweet gives the illusion that its hard, but you realize its softness as soon as you bite into it. The interior is sweeter, softer and a bit juicy. The texture is due to the sweet being deep fried and the syrup is denser which makes it taste so sweet and yummy.
Described as the micro cousin of the traditional Boondi, mihidana is an Indian mishti origins from the district of Bardhhaman. This is made from powdered Kaminibhog, Gobindobhog and basmati rice, mixed with a small amount of gram flour and saffron for a golden colour. It is then blended with water by hand till its colour lightens. The mix is then poured through a ladle with tiny holes into a pot of ghee and deep-fried. The fine fried rice like grains are dipped in sugar syrup and drained once soaked. Often preferred as a dessert the yellow little balls are a delight to savor.
In some places it is also served with an another mishti named Sitabhog that looks like white rice or vermicelli mixed with small pieces of Gulab jamun. Another way of having mihidana is mixing it with plain yoghurt which gives it a totally different taste of sour and sweetness.
Joynogorer Moa is a seasonal sweet found mostly during the months of winters. Originated from Joynogor city of South 24 Parganas this mishti is totally different and unique in taste from the above mentioned mishtis.
It is made from Nolen Gur (jaggery made from date palm tree extract), Kanakchur Khoi (special variety of aromatic popped rice),ghee, elaichi (cardamom),and posto (poppy seeds). Both Nolen Gur and Kanakchur rice are found only during the winter months and hence Joynogorer Moa is available at this period only. Although it gains its omnipresence in sweet shops, the moa with authentic ingredients can be found only in shops at Joynogor, Bahura and in the outskirts of Kolkata.
A traditional pancake like recipe, Patishapta is a popular Bengali dessert. ‘Poush Sankranti‘ is celebrated by relishing the most delicious sweet where ‘Pithe‘ and ‘Patishapta’ being among them. This is a category of sweets that are prepared using rice along with milk, coconut, date, etc. Patishapta is a type of pithe prepared on such occasions and during the winter months. It is a seasonal dish, where the rice crust is rolled with stuffing inside it. The stuffing that is usually preferred to be coconut mashed with jaggery, kheer or in some cases it also stuffed with khoa.
Lobongo Latika, a typical Bengali sweet from of maida, khoya, nutmeg, grated coconut, ghee, nuts, raisins, cardamom, cloves, and sugar ingredients. It consists of a filling, dough, and sugar syrup where the dough is rolled out first and then the filling is placed in the center. The dough is folded to enclose the filling completely. Cloves are pressed over it to ensure that the fold doesn’t open up while preparing. It’s cooked in hot ghee until it turns golden brown and crispy. Lastly, it is placed in sugar syrup to cool down and absorb the syrup. Bite into its sweet crust to enjoy the sweeter stuffing inside and get immersed in an ocean of sweetness.
So lovely people which one among the above mishtis you found tasty and mouth watering. Do mention your favorite sweets right down in the comments below. At last I would love to ask all those who plan to visit Kolkata,
“Esho Kolkata, R mishti khete bhulona kintu“