The Sweet And Spicy Radhaballavi, Bengal’s Favourite Kachori

Luchis and kachoris are as much a part and parcel of Bengali fare as rice. The fish rice or maachh bhaat is a staple meal for any Bengali. Belonging to a Punjabi household, no one ever understood my immense love for fish curry and rice. Made in the traditional Bengali style, the fish is fried in mustard oil and dunked in a tomato and onion gravy with diced potatoes in it. This is then served with steamed rice. My paternal side of the family grew up and stayed in Calcutta for most part of their life. That’s how the food prepared at my home was shaped by the past experiences of my elders. The fascination for Bengali food grew even more when I dropped by Calcutta for a nostalgic trip for my family. 

Dining at an authentic Bengali buffet, I was welcomed with Gondhoraj, a milk-based drink, followed by a host of meats and seafood like Chingri (Prawns) and fish. They were served with a side of luchis and papads which I enjoyed to my heart’s content. Luchis, for the unversed, are Bengali-style pooris which are a cross between a poori and kachori. However, that doesn’t mean that Bengalis don’t have their own kachoris. Stuffed with a variety of lentils and served with a plethora of side dishes, the most special kachori of all is Radhaballavi. 

Appeasing The Lord And The Taste Buds 

Radhaballavi, as the name suggests, is derived from the iconic love couple, Radha and Krishna. While Lord Krishna has several names and avatars, one of them is believed to be Radhaballav and that stands as a reference for the etymology of this dish. There are plenty of tales that mark the historical lineage of these delicious kachoris. Most of them point the Radhaballavis to Sri Krishna, as a holy offering in different time spaces. 

One claim states that the deep-fried kachoris found their way in Shobhajbajar Rajbari’s kitchens as a prasad to the presiding deity of the Radhaballav Jiu house. These were the worshippers of Radhaballav , also known as Lord Krishna and would prepare these lentil-stuffed kachoris as Bhog. Another tale suggests that the stuffed flatbreads were an invention of Shri Chaitanya, who made them to be offered to an avatar of Lord Krishna, Shyamsundar ji of Khardah. The Rajbaris were commonplace during ancient times and it was during the Kandi Rajbari of Murshidabad that Radhaballavis were born in the Singha family as a prasad. 

The Stuffed Radhaballavis 

Made with a combination of lentil and flour, these special Bengali kachoris are made with maida and stuffed with a spicy lentil filling. Generally, urad dal or black lentils are soaked and used for stuffing the Radhaballavis. The highlight of this dish that makes it stand out is the sweet flavour of the kachoris with an addition of sugar to the mixture. Also known as Beshtonika in Sanskrit, the soft and deep-fried kachoris have become a legacy since the ancient period and continue to be part of breakfast spreads and festive eats. 

Radhaballavis are a well-kept secret of Bengal and the best ones can be eaten at Putiram Sweets in College Square. The charm of the kachoris, once introduced by Jitendranath Modak in his shop, inspired by his learnings from Vrindavan, still stays alive in the hearts and tables of true Bengalis.