West Bengal--in its entirety--comprising towns, villages and cities have always been shrouded in a veil that is defined by its sweets. Forget the savoury cuisines part of many areas in the state, West Bengal seems faceless without talking of its sweets. The fact that the rasgulla or roshogolla is a torchbearer of Bengali greatness cannot be undermined. However, this syrupy ball waiting to melt in your mouth is not the ONLY identity of Kolkata or Bengal for that matter.

Looking Back At Some History

Rasgulla has made a foray into the sweets category much, much later in history. This is because the deliberately curdling of milk was considered inauspicious in Hindu culture back in the 15th century and around. While the Portuguese introduced this technique in Bandel, a colony a few kilometers from Kolkata, the art of making chena-based sweets caught up gradually. There are still hordes of sweets that do not use chena but signify the culture and identity of West Bengal as much as the rasgulla.

Shor Bhaja—A Fried Delight

Made from the light froth that comes on the surface of boiling milk, shor bhaja is a delicacy, not every Kolkatan might have enjoyed. The newer generations might not have got a taste of it if they have never visited smaller suburbs or rural areas. The sweet is fried deep, with a hint of sugar in it. The appeal lies in it because it does not excite the sweet buds on the tongue all too much. It leaves a subtle flavour behind that makes the feeling of shor bhaja being a melt-y kind of sweet.

Dorbesh—A Offering For Pujas

Made from besan boondi or bonde as the Bengalis prefer calling it, this is a delight. A unique combination of bonde bound tight with raisins and cashew bits are thrown in, these saw popularity as Puja Prashad offerings ages back. The dorbesh is a kind of laddoo but has a hardened texture. It is soft yet comes with a certain bite. The softer laddoos of the motichoor category are a fry cry from this traditional dorbesh. This sweet is mostly made from besan and harks back to the pre-Portuguese era that saw sweets sans usage of chena.

Naru- A Coconuty Delight

Mind you, the naru is not the nariyal laddoo or the nariyal barfi you find packaged across confectionery chains in India. The awesomeness of a naru-made from grated and roasted coconut, sugar or jaggery and lots of love—lies in the very way it is made. The super strenuous roasting process of this sweet gives out an aroma that transports to a place altogether unknown.

Associated with homes that host extensive pujas in Bengal, the naru is a granny recipe you might find hard to recreate on a stovetop.  Experts swear that the chulha lends the naru its unique woody taste! The naru stands out on account of the coconut—no dry fruits or fancy sprinklers used as garnish go in here! 

Ending On A Sweet Note

Mishti in Bengal has come far from these simplistic preparations of the erstwhile era. The rasgulla and similar chenna-based wonders sure are proud Bengali creations but the older school of mishtis are a heritage that makes Bengali sweets stand out globally--even more!

About Author: Satarupa B. Kaur has been writing professionally for a decade now. But, always on the go, she loves to travel, books, playtime with her toddler as she explores new places and food!