On The Mishti-cal Trail Of Bangladesh's Bogurar Doi
Image Credit: © Mushfiq Turjo for Slurrp. All rights reserved.

FOR A DISH AS FABLED as Bogurar doi (also known as Bogura yoghurt/curd or Bograr doi), it is inevitable that some of the lore surrounding it has an almost mythic quality. Its creator, Ghetu Ghosh, is still spoken of in reverential tones. Claims about the yoghurt’s powerful patrons routinely list the names of royalty (Queens Victoria, Elizabeth II) and political leaders (Yahya Khan and John Anderson). Its terroir is exalted: the air and soil of Bogura — the “gateway” to northern Bangladesh — where it is made. And of course the milk: fresh, full-cream cows’ milk, referred to as “deshi dudh”. Rabindranath Tagore himself is said to have introduced one of the cow breeds considered critical to doi-making in Bogura: the Sahiwal. His family mansion at Sirajganj (“Kachharibari”) is a mere two hours’ from this epicentre of Bogurar doi.

Bogurar doi is a sweet made of fermented milk. The process involves boiling vast quantities of cow’s milk in kadhais set over an open fire (coal or gas), over several hours, until it reduces. During this process, the doi-maker will stir it and occasionally pour boiling cup-fulls of it from a height right back into the kadhai to ensure the fat doesn’t separate. Sugar is then mixed into the reduced milk. To set the curd, earthen containers are filled to the brim with this sweetened milk, and the seed (starter/portion of previously formed yoghurt) is added to each. They are placed around ovens in the karkhana/workshop. Since some quantity of the milk is soaked by the container, the pots are periodically checked and topped up. Once formed, the doi is packaged and sold at Bogura’s leading sweetshops.

A doi maker has a few stock tools of the trade: The dabu, or ladle used for stirring and frothing the milk as it boils; the jhapi, chhati or matal (all names for the large bamboo domes that cover the pots of doi as it sets, to ensure even exposure to heat); a coal stove or gas burner; the sara, i.e. the clay/earthenware in which the doi is prepared. Each sara is set in the oven or by the fire for a while, before the milk for the doi is poured into it.

In summer, Bogurar doi flies off the shelves as customers queue up for a portion. Sometimes, a sweetshop may sell out its entire stock for the day in just 3-4 hours. A spoonful of its creamy, sweet goodness is enough to indicate why, and make all the lore surrounding it seem entirely plausible.

Here’s a look at the process of making Bogurar doi:

◉ Bogura is among Bangladesh’s historically famous cities, but it is also widely known for its doi industry. For visitors to Bogura, sampling the doi is a must. “As this is a famous dairy product, it is prepared in almost every district of Bangladesh. But nowhere is it tastier than in Bogura,” says Gouro Chandro Mohonto, a 65-year-old yoghurt maker. The quality of the milk, and the condensation process, are vital to the end product, he believes.

Forty-year-old Shobuj, a resident of Khupi village, is among the milkmen who collect and deliver 550-750 litres of milk every day for the doi industry. Shobuj and three associates visit 40 to 50 houses in the nearby villages to milk nearly 150 cows and collect the yield. Shobuj’s men ensure that the milk has proper consistency and quality.

◉ Bulu Miya Sarker is a yoghurt maker of Jimu Doi Ghor who has been working in this industry for 29 years. At the start of his profession, he used to be a helper and learned techniques from others. Nowadays, he works as the head chef who produces yoghurt and local sweets at Jimu Doi Ghor where three helpers train under him. They supply their products to showrooms in different locations (Shabgram, Koipara, and Boubazar) of Bogura.

◉ At Jimu Doi Ghor, 40 litres of milk is boiled, until it reduces down to 24 litres. The boiling takes four hours, and 6-7 kg of sugar is added to the reduced milk. Akboria Limited is the only confectionery and bakery that makes special jaggery yoghurt; however, no one is allowed to document the process.

◉ Using earthenware is a must to produce the yoghurt. Although doi makers buy these containers from potters, they place them in the oven once again before filling them up with the prepared milk. This warms the clay pots, which in turn helps the doi to set. It also gets rid of germs.

◉ The chef and his helpers gather pots around the oven to keep them warm for hours. The prepared milk is poured into the pots. It takes nearly four hours for the milk to cool but remaining beside the ovens, and covered, helps maintain a lukewarm temperature.

◉ At the time of pouring the prepared milk, the owner also visits and works with the team to maintain quality. After one round of pouring, all the pots are checked and topped up if they aren’t filled to the brim. Any broken pots are separated from the rest.

◉ Bulu Mia Sarker checks the yoghurt pots for the last time before letting them cool for hours under a wicker cover. 

◉ The pots in which the yoghurt will be set are kept beside the oven. A big wicker basket-like cover shields the oven and the pots for nearly eight hours. The doi makers ensure that the room is also kept closed during this time, so the yoghurt retains its necessary warmth. After eight hours, the pots are uncovered and the “seed” (starter curd) is added if the milk has cooled. However, the coals remain warm to maintain a certain room temperature.

◉ A worker removes coal flakes/ashes from the yoghurt before selling it.

◉ Packaging of yoghurt underway at Asia Sweets. There are many other small and renowned sweetshops in Bogura, but Asia Sweets is considered to be among the ace players in the business. They need around 2,750 litres of milk each day to produce the doi they sell, says the manager Md Arifur Jaman Dipu.

◉ Asia Sweets started their journey in 1985. Currently, the most successful yoghurt sellers in the town, they only have this one outlet in Bangladesh. There are other noteworthy names (like Akboria, Mohorrom) who retail doi all over the country. The manager of Asia Sweets, Md Arifur Jaman Dipu explains that on the two Eids, and from the end of winter to the start of summer, they record the most sales. They sell three different yoghurts: Shahi Doi 300 BDT, Special Mishti Doi 260 BDT and Shada Doi 240 BDT.

◉ Asia Sweets produces their yoghurt at their own factory and these are transported to their outlet by 6.30 am every day. Later, workers stack them neatly on the shelves. On weekends they barely can keep the doi on display as a crowd of customers arrives. Sometimes the yoghurt stock is sold out within 4-5 hours. 

◉ Mithai Mela’s milk comes from their own farm (Sura Agro Milk and Bogura Bhandari Agro Farm), and they sell nearly 150 to 200 litres of yoghurt daily. Next on the anvil: selling their doi in decorated pots to attract customers. 

All photos © Mushfiq Turjo for Slurrp.


i. ‘Who Owns Bogurar Doi? An Ethnography of Placemaking and Craftsmanship in Bangladesh’ by Ishita Dey. Gastronomica (2022).

ii. www.bogra.gov.bd


Mushfiq Mahbub Turjo is a Dhaka-based artist and image-maker who works in the medium of photography. Follow more of Turjo's work on his website or on Instagram.