The thought of Bengali sweets is mouth watering. Sweets from eastern parts of India are commonly known as Bengali sweets. Most of these sweets are milk based and yet it’s is amazing how well each dish is developed into a unique taste, using the same raw material. Rasgulla or a typical Roshogulla is a spongy-soft round mishtis (made from chenna or paneer or cottage cheese), soaked in sugar syrup. This sweet is iconic to Bengal cuisine and melts in the mouth, creating a craving for more.  This becomes the base for many other elaborate sweets.

Ras Malai is the same spongy chenna dumplings but soaked in sweetened, thickened milk delicately flavored with cardamom instead of the sugar syrup. It is served chilled and garnished with slivers of dried fruit. Raj Bhog is spongy Rasgullas stuffed with dry fruits. Kheer Kadam is an exotic Bengali sweet, made of mini rasgullas, grated khoya and powdered sugar. It is also known as Raskadam and has two layers of dessert.

In Malai Cham-Cham, sweetened cream is filled into the centre of light orange rasgullas. Chenna dumplings get their orange colour from the addition of saffron and are elongated instead unlike round rasgullas. This makes them highly appetizing with a combination of white cream centre. It is also called Malai chom chom.

Sandesh also has chenna, but is prepared in a different way, by mixing with milk powder and sugar. These are pressed into moulds instead of adding to sugar syrup and have a pedha like texture. Sandesh is topped with dry fruit slivers and saffron strands.

Bengali sweets list can’t be complete without the mention of the very quintessential Bengali Mishti Doi or sweetened curd. This is a light and sweet blend of milk, yogurt and caramalised sugar, left to ferment overnight. The delicate sweetness of this elegant dessert in earthen pots adds a special flavour to all celebrations and auspicious occasions.

Bhapa Doi, a variant of Mishti Doi, is made by blending curd and condensed milk. It becomes tastier with its garnish of almonds and pistachios. It is served chilled straight out of the refrigerator.

Popular Indian sweet Gulab jamun has many indigenous versions in Bengal. Pantua is similar to gulab jamun, but is a Bengali variant. This traditional Bengali sweet is made of deep-fried balls of semolina, chhana, milk, ghee and sugar syrup.  These deep brown sweet balls look hard from outside but are very soft from inside. Mishti aloor Pantua is made by mixing aloo. Ledikeni, a variation of Pantua, is another variant of Gulab Jamun. Lyangcha is a variant of pantuwa, made into small sausage shapes and is stuffed with raisin and coated in castor sugar.

Kalo Jaam or Kala Jamun is another variant of Gulab Jamun that is made of chenna and khoya and is easy to prepare at home.  Chanar Jeelapi is another common home-made tasty sweet made of chenna, khoya and maida and sugar.

Payesh is Bengal's equivalent for kheer and is a popular dessert recipe for festive occasions. Garnished with nuts and pistachios, payesh is an all season favorite.

Lobongo Latika is an elaborately prepared traditional sweet and hence is popular at sweet shops. The neatly folded flaky pastry of maida is filled with well blended khoya, nutmeg powder, grated coconut ghee, nuts, raisins, cardamom, sealed with a clove and dipped in sugar syrup.

Bengal has its Sooji ka halwa and Darbesh, Bengali style Boondi Ladoos too that are not milk based, but are commonly made. Pati Shaptas are thin crepes filled with coconut and jaggery.  Crepes are made of maida, sooji and rice flour. It is served hot or cold.

In whatever form and shape, Bengali sweets and desserts are a great treat and have become popular through-out the country. One can enjoy these at sweet shops in most big cities and towns.

By Anand & Madhura Katti


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