Some say Bengal is the birthplace of modern Indian cuisine. While that statement can be contentious for some, there’s no denying that Bengal is home to some of India's best desserts. Let us talk about some Bengali sweets that needs your attention.
From traditional sweets like roshagolla, and rasmalai to contemporary classics like kulfi and gulab jamun, Bengal is the mithai-lover's haven. But those are just the mainstream desserts. It only gets better when one goes off the beatan track and explores the uncommon niches of Bengali cuisine.
Also Read: It’s Egg All The Way To a Bengali Plate
Here are the 7 Bengali delicacies that you should check out when you feel like indulging your sweet tooth and want to try something new in the same vein.
Moa is a seasonal dish savoured by Bengalis during the Winter season and is named after Joynogar town in South 24 Parganas District. It is prepared from date palm jaggery and Kanakchur Khoi. It is a bit of a surprise that this sweet hasn’t gotten more popular outside the state, given its popularity in Kolkata and the rest of West Bengal. People visit the city just to buy moas in large quantities to carry back home for their friends and family.
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Mihidana is a delectable sweet first made in the town of Burdwan. It is often called the micro-cousin of the traditional Boondi. It comes from two words- Mihi, meaning fine, and Dana, or grain. These tiny yellow, round-shaped grains collectively make up the Mihidana.
It had a moment of national glory in pre-independent India when the Maharaja of Burdwan, Vijaychand Mahatab, invited Lord Curzon, then Viceroy of India. The Maharaja asked Bhairab Chandra Nag, his sweet maker, to impress Lord Curzon with a new sweet dish. Nag wracked his brains and came up with two new dishes: Sita Bhog and Mihidana. These wonderful inventions were loved by Curzon and have since become a popular sweet in Bengal. To make Mihidana, powdered rice and besan are mixed at a particular ratio along with ghee, powdered sugar, and saffron. This mix is turned into a loose paste, or batter-like consistency, fried in ghee and put in sugar syrup for a wee bit of time. You could also call the Mihidana a deconstructed motichoor laddu, but that would be an oversimplification!
In Bengal, a samosa is called a shingara. A khirer shingara is a sweet samosa filled with mawa and raisins. The samosas are then dipped in sugar syrup to give them a surprisingly gorgeous taste. You can even make crepes, fill them with this delicious mix, and roll them out to make Patishapta.
Misti Goja is another gem of a sweet from Bengal. A Goja is different from the traditional chhena-based sweets of Bengal. It’s made of pastry that is usually square-shaped. Flour & ghee are deep fried to make gojas, and these fried gojas are then dunked in sugar syrup and allowed to cool. Many Bengali homes prepare this sweet during festivals like Diwali, Holi, Raksha Bandhan etc. Goja also comes in various shapes and sizes. There is no one set recipe as it changes across the state, but one thing remains common: they all have layers. If you ever get a chance to visit a Bengal village fair, you should take the opportunity to participate just for the local take on sweets like Jalebi, Sweet Boondi and Goja.
Image: Youtube/Shiv Mona Ki Rasoi
Kheer Kadam is a traditional Bengali sweet made from khoya, milk, red food color, green cardamom powder, and sugar. It is a delectable treat that is a constant presence in the state for many festive occasions and is sure to impress your guests. Think of it as a roshagolla with a crust. Saffron is added to the dish by some cooks in order to elevate the flavor. Kheer Kadam is not as popular outside of West Bengal, but it’s only a matter of time before this layered, sugary goodness become a staple of festivities across the country. To prepare Kheer Kadam, you will need chhena to make the roshagollas and drop them in a sugar syrup. The outer layer or crust is made by heating khoya in a pan until it turns pink, then adding cardamom powder and coconut powder. Once it has cooled down, make small puris using the mix, add the roshagolla to it, and coat it with coconut powder. Leave it in the fridge to set.
Sita Bhog was said to be a favorite of Lord Rama's wife, Sita, and thus bears her name. When Lord Curzon visited Burdwan to crown the new Maharaja in 1904, he was served Sita Bhog by the local sweet maker Bhairav Chandra Nag.
Sita Bhog is made using dough that combines chhana and powdered rice. The mix is deep-fried in ghee and soaked in sugar syrup. The finished product looks like white rice grains or vermicelli, and is served with tiny gulab jamuns in it. A modern Sita Bhog is often yellow in color, to perhaps make it stand out in a sea of delicious sweets, but its original avatar was white in color.
Nolen gurer sandesh
Nolen Gurer Sandesh is tender, melt-in-the-mouth fudge made from date palm jaggery, which is available widely in Bengal. It is made using the juice collected from the stems of date palm trees. During winters, it is nearly a tradition for Bengalis to gorge on nolen gurer mishti to keep themselves warm. This sweet is made by cooking chhena with sweet date palm jaggery on a low fire in a heavy-bottomed pan. After it is cooled down to room temperature, the mixture is given a proper shape and stored in air-tight containers.
How to buy them?
You may find these classic Bengali sweets sold online by stores like KC Das, or you can purchase them while visiting Kolkata. Some popular sweet stores like Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick Sweets in Bhowanipore, Bhim Chandra Nag in Bowbazar, Adi Haridas Modak Mistanna Bhandar in Fariapukur, and Sen Mahasay in Hatibagan are great outlets to get that authentic taste of Bengali sweets.
It will cost two people approximately Rs 100 for a taste of each of these sweets.