Bengal is rich with art, culture, literature, music and all things nice. But apart from these, it is considered to be the Sweetest Part of India. When in Bengal, it is mandatory to have your hands on some sweet delicacies that are predominant to Bengal. Its a heaven for sweet lovers and one can never stop exploring the immaculate number of sweets available to be devoured.
Cutting things short, lets have a look at the most famous and beloved sweets from Bengal, one must try when in Bengal.
- Rosogulla – Who does not know about Rosogullas. These round balls of semolina and ‘chena’ in a sugar syrup is the best delicacy that one can have. Such is the importance of this dish, that 3 states competed for its Geographical Indication or the ‘GI’ tag. Well, Bengal won it!
- Lobong Lotika – A concoction of dry fruits, grated coconut, enclosed like an envelope and stick with a single clove, this festive delicacy is then deep-fried in ‘ghee’ and sugar syrup to become an all time favorite.
- Pati Shapta – A crepe with a filling of ‘gur’ or jaggery and grated coconut, served with or without milk at some households, this is a delectable, melt-in-mouth experience.
- Moa – They generated in Joynagar District of Bengal, now widely produced. They are made only in Winter season, when the ‘gur’ is fresh. It is mixed with date palm and puffed rice, to be converted into round pieces. These are very flavorful and in winters, small shops selling these crop up in lots of places.
- Ledikeni – It dates back to the 19th century and an innovative masterpiece from the great sweetmaker, Bhim Chandra Nag. Ledikeni is the name given after Nag created this sweet to honor Lady Canning, the wife of then Governor General, Lord Canning. She tasted this sweet and the it lingered on her tongue for a lifetime. It is also a chena and semolina combo, deep fried in ghee. The color and taste resemble that of a ‘gulab-jamun’, but is unique in its own ways.
- Pantua – A distant cousin of Gulab-Jamun, but nothing like it. Very similar to the Ledikeni, Pantua was born in Kolkata and uses the same ingredients as Ledikeni, although the slight difference being the round shape and extra juicy flavor.
- Sar Bhaja or Shor Bhaja – Birthplace, Shanti Nagar in Nadia District of Bengal. One of the toughest sweets to make, but by far, one of the best to be made. Made entirely out of milk cream, this demands continuous stirring and expert skills. The dough is then fried in sugar syrup and sometimes added with cardamom and rose water for added flavors.
- Chanar Jilipi – The name Jilipi comes from the famous Jalebi. Its rounded design resembles that of a jalebi too, albeit it is made from chana (cottage cheese), maida and ‘khoya’. It is then dunked into cardamon flavored sugar-syrup to give an extensively lovely fragrant taste.
- Payesh – It is a mixture of rice and milk, which demands a lot of stirring, so that the mixture doesn’t becomes sticky. The other version of payesh, the ‘nolen-gur’ one, is prepared during the winters, once the nolen gur, or new jaggery, becomes available.
- Sita Bhog – Hailing from Bardhaman District of Bengal, comes another masterpiece, Sita Bhog. It is believed that this dish was the favorite of Maa Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. Dating back to 1904, Bhairab Chandra Nag made this by mixing chena dough with powdered rice and frying them in ghee. It looks like sweetened rice. Nowadays, this rice is served with mini gulab-jamuns.
- Kheer Kadam – A milk based, two layered sweet which is a guilty pleasure of many. The inside is a rosogulla with the outside made of kheer with another topping of dried kheer. The double taste makes the tongue go frenzy.
- Mishti Doi – A very simple sweet that can be made easily at homes. This is a sweet yoghurt that is a favorite of the masses. The yoghurt is generally served in earthen pots of all sizes, to absorb the extra water and is served as is. Pro Tip: Have it with nolen-gurer sandesh. You will simply love it.
- Malai Chum Chum – The base of this sweet is like that of Ledikeni, with different serving versions, the malai or thickened milk being the best. Sometimes, the ledikeni is cut from between and the malai is served in between, as a sandwich, or the malai drooling all over the base.
- Baked Rosogulla – A very modern twist in serving all-time fav rosogullas in milk cream and baked in high temperatures to get a burnt texture.
- Kalojam – Very similar to the Gulab Jamun yet again, Kalojam or Kalo Jamun, is made of flour and deep fried until black, dipped in simmering sugary-syrup.
- Kachagolla – It is one of the best examples of melt-in-mouth dessert from Bengal. A mixture of chana and milk, stirred well on a frying pan and made into round balls using your bare hands. The balls will melt in every single bite, oozing out the finest of fragrance and taste.
There are several other sweets that are variations of the ones mentioned above, that are as good as they can get. The history of these sweets dates back to few men like Bhim Chandra Nag, Ganguram Chaurasia & Nabin Das, who dedicated their lives in making innovative desserts for the kings and queens of their times. The more modern sweets have taken their twists from these basic desserts that are a household name and favorite in all parts of Bengal.
A small random visit to the “Bangla Mishti Hub” made me drool over the numerous offerings of sweets from Bengal. When in Kolkata, do make it a point to visit this place once before catching your flight back home.
Bengali food without the sweets is completely ‘incomplete’.
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