The sweet or mishti culture of Bengal is unmistakably iconic. Moreover, there is no nook or corner across the state that does not have a sweet tooth.
The sweet or mishti culture of Bengal is unmistakably iconic. Moreover, there is no nook or corner across the state that does not have a sweet tooth. Even villages having limited electricity have a sweet shop for sure that serves the basic bonde, rasgulla and sandesh.
However, it might just be interesting to note that sweetmeat makers of Bengal or moiras did not necessarily make the sweets as we see today, eras back. This is because traditional local sweets in Bengal did not have chena as their centre point. Chena was curdled milk and thus looked down upon by the upper caste Hindus.
Thank The Portuguese For Mishtis
The Portuguese, when they colonized Bandel, a small township in Bengal's Hooghly, is credited with making the art of chena based mishtis mainstream. Once they started making sweets with chena, the moiras of Chandannagore, a neighbouring French colony came rushing to learn the technique.
The Chandannagore batch got so adept at mishti making that they established the now-iconic Surya Kumar Modak shop in Bhadreshwar. This small town close to Chandannagore was given the responsibility to make a unique piece of sweet that could make the new son-in-law of Bhadreshwar zamindari household laugh out loud. The latter was from a nearby area but barely opened up in front of his in-laws. Modak made a dry crusty sandesh called talsansh but innovated with injecting some rosewater inside.
A Funny Tale
When the son in law decked in gorgeous pajama kurta sat to bite into the sandesh, down came a spillage of rosewater, much to his shock. And the name jolbhora (filled with water) saw coining just then. Of course, the jamai babu had a hearty laugh as did the Modak household who are still reigning supreme with their Jolbhora.
So much is the craze for the sweet that we courier it every winter to our cousins abroad. The wintry chill signifies the addition of nolen gur to the filling and the summers mean that the jol of the jolbhora is plain white sugary syrup.
The daughters of the Modak household have been married into famous Kolkata sweet-making households too. The family still flourishes in the sweet-making trade. The price of a premium jolbhora in Chandannagore (that has a branch too) goes upto INR 65 at times.
A Heritage Now, More Than A Sweet
However, that never deterred the jolbhora lovers from having it. The jolbhora is an eternal part of Chandannagore's heritage as is its French colonial impact. The jolbhora is an example of desire fulfilment and the human tendency to be surprised by a surprise element.