Stepping into Kolkata, the City of Joy there are some things you will always find. One of those being sweet shops in every lane and every street. This is because Bengali souls are made of 90% sweetness and the varieties offered are no less.
This list suits for every type of dessert lover, starting from the one who loves sweets and wants to try every last one available, to the ones who likes the sugar quantity to be a minimum, and even those who don’t prefer having sweets all the time but wouldn’t mind trying something new.
Prep yourselves, because it is definitely going to be long.
Rosogollas or Rasgulla tops the chart of sweets found in Kolkata. This delicacy made from plain or flavored chhana (curd cheese) dipped in sugar water salivates our mouth even with the mere thought of it. The same is also available in nolen gur flavor, which is different but equally tasty. This traditional dish is also found with a twist in the form of Baked Rasgulla, which is basically kheer/mewa poured over the traditional one.
Sandesh has originated in the Bengal region. It is yet another popular sweet of Kolkata made from Chhana. Over years many new recipes have developed, like Mango Sandesh, Chocolate Sandesh, Nolen Gur Sandesh, Strawberry Sandesh, etcetera. These variations have become so common that you’ll find them in every other sweet shop.
3. Puli Pithe
During the middle of January Pithe is most commonly found in sweet stores. Pithe is typically a dumpling made by a batter of rice/wheat flour. To make it a sweet dish, the center of this dumpling is filled with grated coconut, pistachios, gur and cashews. The Pithe is fried and depending on the preparation, it is soaked in heavy sugar water or milk. If you ever visit Kolkata during January, be sure to add this to your bucket list.
4. Cham Cham
No, this isn’t a song of the movie Baaghi 2. In fact, it is one of the most authentic traditional Bengali dishes. This may be pronounced as Chom Chom. The recipe to this delicacy is actually very similar to that of Rasagulla, with chhana as the base but the taste is much different since it is topped and stuffed with mewa instead of being dipped in sugar syrup. Also, kesar is added to give it a yellowish color. Further, it is rolled in coconut powder before serving. Not trying this sweet at least once in your life would definitely be a shame!
5. Kheer Kadam
This sweet has been one of my favorites since childhood. Imagine Rasgulla, without its excess water, being wrapped around thick kheer (of almost dough consistency). That’s it. Hold on to that thought because that is what kheer kadam exactly is. It’s like a two flavored sweet, one being Rosogolla and another being Sandesh.
6. Sita Bhog
When you take a look at this sweet dish, it will appear as if extremely small oval-shaped gulab jamun has been mixed with rice strained from sugar water, but spoiler alert-it totally is not. Yes, rice is involved but in a powder form mixed with chhana. The mixture is kneaded to make a dough with the help of milk. The mixture is then grated to form long rice like structure.
Frying and soaking them in sugar water are the following steps. The oval sized particles are prepared in the ditto way gulab jamuns are but the ingredients vary. Instead of chhana, these are made of maida, ghee, yogurt and milk powder as base ingredients. Combine them and you’ll get a tasty sweet named Sita Bhog.
7. Pati Shapta Pithe
Pancakes are the most common breakfast meal in the western region. Now you must be wondering why did I suddenly bring pancakes into traditional Bengali sweet dishes. This is because Bengalis have found a way to turn the idea of pancake into a sweet as well!
Make a semi-liquid batter of Sooji, Maida and sugar. Pour and flatten a small amount of it in an oiled tawa just like a thin pancake. Put a tablespoon of sweet khoya over it and roll the pancake sort of base like a bread roll around the khowa mix. And voila! You get yet another traditional and famous Bengali sweet called Pati-Shapta Pithe.
Another sweet of Kolkata without which preparations of Lakshmi Puja is incomplete; Nadu. It’s a wonder how can a 3 ingredient sweet be so delicious. The three ingredients includes grated coconut, condensed milk and a pinch of cardamom powder.
You can add Nolen gur for flavor and it tastes even better. Another type of Nadu includes tiler Nadu which is commonly made during durga puja and lakshmi pooja. This preparation is even easier with just two ingredients, that is sesame seeds and jaggery mixed with water. These three Nadu together complete all the craving of Lakshmi puja bhog.
9. Mishti Doi
Everyone loves yogurt/doi but Mishti doi has a separate fan base. The preparation is not too different from that of normal yogurt. All you need to do is add jaggery/gur to reduced quantity of full cream milk and then add normal curd. Allow it to set down. Just by adding one simple ingredient, that is gur, you can change the complete flavor and taste of yogurt and also make one more type of sweet dish.
Last but not the least, we come to yet another sweet dish which, for Bengalis are not only the most loved dessert but also without which their birthday is incomplete. Payesh is the easiest and most common sweet dish of Bengalis and to achieve perfection in this sweet dish is also easy. All you have to do is add rice (preferably a special type of rice named gobindo bhog rice) to milk and boil. Add gur or sugar for sweetness after the rice is cooked and cardamom, cashew nuts and raisins for flavour.
When it comes to Bengali sweets, there is no end to it. But if you try the ones mentioned above, you’ll probably reach the level of understanding when Bengali people say, sweets are not just sweets, they are an emotion!