One festive season has just gone by. I am sure you brought out your brightest and nicest clothes. Some new ones must have been purchased for an important puja or your favourite day of festivity.
It is awe inspiring how various festivals celebrated by people belonging to different religions and communities follow one another so closely, and we spend so much time in gaiety and revelry.
One thing common to festivals, be they of any religion, is the tradition of exchanging sweets. Durga Puja, which just concluded, brought me closer to the wonderful world of Bengali sweets and that is what we are going to delve into today.
Rosogollas, sandesh and mishti doi rule the roost, yet there is much more to the Bengali sweet. The lovely chom-chom, the aromatic kalakand, the shapely langcha… you name your preference and the Bengalis will present you with something that is apt for your sweet tooth.
A wonderful thing about most Bengali sweets is that they make for a healthy choice. The main constituent of these sweet preparations is milk, used in the form of chenna or sweetened cottage cheese. These milk preparations are a winning choice also owing to the fact that they are rarely fried. For example, consider the sandesh. The sweetened cottage cheese is simply dried and pressed into a shape, often that of a ball, to make the basic avatar of the sandesh called kaanchagola. Thanks to the innovative minds in the food industry this sweet now has many variants on offer, made with the addition of syrups, fruit and even chocolate.
The rosogolla also has been touched by chocolate. The internet informs me that the Bengali rosogolla had its origin in Odisha where it was popularised by a local confectioner Bikalananda Kar. Nobin Das, a Kolkata confectioner who is also fondly called ‘rosogolla’s Columbus’, tried to simplify the traditional Odisha recipe. He also wanted to increase the shelf life of this highly perishable item. The end result of the various trials that Das Babu carried out was spongier and could be kept for a longer duration without fear of its getting spoiled. Rosogollas were earlier sold in earthen pots, a trend that has made a healthy comeback over the years, but Nobin Das’s son K C Das saw a business opportunity in selling canned rosogollas. This led to popularising the sweet as it became easier to transport. So much so today any sweet shop, and many selling confectionery items, can be seen selling either their in-house preparation of the rosogolla or a product of one or other major brand in the sweet business. The sweet has even crossed the seven seas.
Rosogolla served as a predecessor to many chenna-based preparations like chom- chom, kheer sagar, pantua and, even rasmalai.