|Bengali Beauties @ Banchharam in CF, Salt Lake City|
Not only do I have a sweet tooth, I think have a sweet mouth :)). I find it hard to imagine a meal without desserts to follow. The sweet diet is clearly working for me, still wonder though - why can I not get a few pounds off my frame. Well, at this point, just a couple of pounds will make no difference, so what the heck - you only live once !
There is a certain thing about us inheriting eating habits from our parents, so I got the sweet gene. My dad and I can pretty much storm into a sweet shop and just lunch or dine on a mixed platter of them. My dad's pushing mid-sixties, so he needs to take it a little easy, while I take in the reins . Some say 'Old habits die hard, and Sweet habits never die !'
Calcutta and Bengal in my opinion remain the undisputed leader in all things sweet. The subtlety of most (certainly not all) bengali sweets is unparalleled. I have relatives living in different parts of north and west India and they all swear by bengali sweets and pack themselves bags full of such sweets during their visit to the 'City of Joy' ! The versatility and creditability of the 'chhanar mishtee' has spread far and wide.
People in Delhi run to C.R. Park for all things bengali including sweets, I am told by Finely Chopped it is Sweet Bengal in Mumbai and am sure other cities have their own brand of bengali sweet-wallahs trying to keep the tradition alive.
From the ubiquitous Chittaranjaner Rosogolla to Girish Chandra'r Sandesh to Ganguram-er Mishti Doi to Shashuri'r haather Peethey to Kaki Maa'r Narkoler Naru to Mouchak-er Jaul Bhaura to Rausho Malai to Raabri to KaNchagolla to Pantua to Shaur Bhaja to Baurdhoman-er Meehidana to Ranaghat-er Langcha to Chhanar Polao to Bancharam-er Abaar Khabo to Ice Cream Sandesh to Putiram-er boNdey; the list is endless. I have had them all.
And the winner is Nalen Gurer Sandesh and Rosogolla.
And you ask what is Nalen Gur ? Nalen or Notun Gur (Date Molasses) is a seasonal affair. It is a product of the date (khejur) trees.
The following is an excerpt from a short story by
The date palm sap is made into tree types of gur: liquid, grainy and the solid chunks of patali (cake like chunks). The sap is heated in huge karais (woks) over wood or coal stoves and it is only an expert who can gauge the different degrees of cooking to achieve the right texture. The arrival of gur in the market is the signal for the professional sweet-makers to start preparing one of their most popular products, sandesh flavoured with the new gur. This nalen gurer sandesh has a brownish-pink tinge and is very dear to the plump Bengali's heart. at the beginning of the season. Gur is sold in its liquid form, jhola gur. This comes in earthen ports and disappears fast enough. This is somewhat like maple syrup in America, poured over hot luchis or chapattis and as a sweetener in the milk. It ferments easily and so has to be eaten quickly. In rural areas the fermented gur is made into a kind of cheap liquour which tribals and poor villagers drink. It was this same jhola gur which inspired committed following from exceptional Bengalis like Sukumar Ray, our version of Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll. In one of his delightful poems he spun out an absurdly contradictory list of the good things of life, and the very best of the best was bread with jhola gur. The solid patali gur can be stored and used for quite a few months after winter is over, and refrigeration gives it even longer life. The most notable application for its use is in payesh, in place of sugar. The pure nutty sweetness of the gur makes this winter payesh a Bengali gourmet's dream.
Wonder what would call someone who is head over heels in love with these sweets, the term is Foodie for food lovers, would it be Sweetie for sweet lovers ?
Had the good fortune of trying some of the who's who of the sweet industry. I present a story best told in pictures as presented below (Note: this is just a start, I am going to get enough sugar in my system by the end of it, I agree sweets are my absolute fetish and they are certainly the way to my heart (this is for all the single girls out there, who are looking for a portly, balding, middle-aged, geekish but sweet young man !)
|Pot of gold errr... Rosogolla|
|Established in 1844 - Were you born then ?|
|Winner of Madly Mishti for Sandesh category|
|Iron Clad Security ...|
|Closed boxes, scroll to open them ...|
Hope these sweets will have your mouth salivating and keep you coming back for more, till then whet your appetite with this video ...