‘Mishti’…Doesn’t this word sound magical to your ears? Trust us, it tastes even more heavenly and can tempt your soul. The favourite word of all Bengalis is ‘Mishti’ and its their favourite type of food too. No offence 🙂
No points for guessing, ‘Mishti’ is the term used for sweets in Bengal.
West Bengal is renowned for its opulent culture, be it literature, art, films, music or cuisines. Sweets occupy a significant place, rather the most significant place in the hearts of Bengalis and the Bengali cuisine. And, it would not be wrong if we say they are obsessed with sweets, as no meal goes good without a ‘Mishti’ or may be two. Well, we are infected by this obsession too.
All social and religious ceremonies of Bengalis are graced with a wide variety of sweets, ‘Sondesh’, ‘Rosogolla’, ‘Mishti Doi’ ‘Ledikeni’ being few of them.So, this weekend we decided to explore a local sweet shop (more than 50 years old), near the house to capture the soul of Bengal and present our readers a photo journal on how these sweets are prepared.
It is an ancient tradition among all Bengalis to distribute sweets during celebrations and the confectionery industry has flourished based on this. Competition and ever-changing tastes have contributed in the invention of many new sweets, and today this industry has seen a massive growth within the country as well as all over the world. The sweets of Bengal are commonly made of sweetened Indian cottage cheese (chhena), unlike the use of ‘khoa’ (reduced solidified milk) in Northern India.
Sandesh comes in an array of shapes and flavors and can be made with the use of chhena. The simplest kind of Sandesh is ‘Makha Sandesh’ and is usually prepared in all households by lightly tossing chhena with sugar over low flame.
It is also famous as ‘Kanchagola’ sandesh, which is a saleable form (round shape) of the same preparation.
More complicated forms of Sandesh are prepared by cooking chhena to different textures, flavoring them with fruits, coconuts, dried fruits, mixing colours, filling syrups and moulded in a variety of shapes such as conch shells, elephants, triangles, circles and fish.
The moulds are usually made of wood that gives attractive shapes to these delicate darlings.
Sandesh is typically of two variations: ‘Norom Paak Sandesh’ where chenna kneaded with sugar or jaggery is stirred gently at low heat to form a soft grainy mix and ‘Kora Paak Sandesh’, where chenna is stirred for a longer time to make it hard.
Another exceptionally famed variant is nolen gurer sandesh, which is made with date palm jaggery. It is known for its brown or caramel colour that comes from nolen gur. This form is made specially during winters after the Kali Puja as the ‘gur’ is available only during the winters.
Kheer er Sandesh is another variety where sandesh is made with kheer, is considered very auspicious and is used in all occasions.
It might sound odd, but a set of bride and groom are made out of this form of Sandesh (bor-bou sondesh) which is presented with other offerings in a Bengali wedding. Since ours was a combined Bengali-Marwari wedding, this bor-bou kheer sandesh gained quite a lot of attention.
Kolkata also has a great history of chocolate flavoured sweets and is credited to it’s origin too. This particular variety enjoys a tremendous market amongst all cultures because of the taste, modern approach and special target towards the youth. Cadbury Mishti Shera Shrishti is a competition organized by Cadbury in Kolkata which invites entries from individuals and sweet shops, to recognize the talented lot of chocochefs in the city.
Not only chocolates, Kolkata has a great market for sweets made out of seasonal fruits like mangoes, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, kiwis, oranges and any other fruit you can think of. Not only locals, but the visitors also love them and also take away for their loved ones.
We all eat yougurt and have seen flavoured yougurts being sold in the commercial market. But this type of yogurt is specific to this culture. ‘Mishti Doi’ is as famous as sandesh. It is a fermented sweet yogurt made of milk and sugar/jaggery.
It is prepared by thickening milk and sweetening it with either sugar, brown sugar or date molasses, and allowing the milk to ferment overnight.
The container used is always earthenware as it allows the yogurt to thicken further. Cardamoms are at times used for flavour and fragrance.
Ledikeni or Lady Kanny is named after Lady Canning, wife of Charles Canning, and there are various legends behind the name. This sweet looks very similar to the famous ‘Gulab Jamuns’ and these are also light fried reddish-brown sweet ball made of Chhena and flour and soaked in sugar syrup.
There has been various claims by various states about the invention of Rosogolla, but if you see these round little babies in every possible sweet shop, that too in various flavours, rest assured you are in Kolkata.It is made by soaking ball shaped dumplings of chhena and semolina dough, in sugar syrup.
Apart from these, Bengal bags many other sweets like Dorbesh, Joynagarer moa, Mihidaana, Sitabhog, Kheerkadam, Sorbhaja, Chhana Bora etc.
In case you are wondering, where to eat these, we got a list of 10 best and most renowned sweet brands of Kolkata where you would love to step in to.
Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandy
This is one legendary sweet shop that has been satisfying the sweet tooth of Bengal for decades. They have an enormous variety of sandesh in all possible flavours and shapes.You would not be able to stop at one 🙂
56, Ramdulal Sarkar Street, Hedua Park, Near Hatibagan, Kolkata
Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick
Read about the chocolate-mishti above, this is the place to find the delicacy.
2, Paddapukur Road, Bhawanipur, Kolkata
Looking for mouth watering traditional sweets, you have reached the right place.
48B, Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Ballygunge, Kolkata
Known for their amazing collection of bhaja-mishtis and herbal mishiti.
3, Tollygunge Circular Road. New Alipore, Kolkata
Want to try rasagullas soaked in cream? They are the ones who make it 🙂
126A, Bidhan Sarani, Shyam Bazar, Kolkata
Mouchack is the place for savouring some traditional sweets. Almost everything they make is brilliant.
23, Gariahat Road, Golpark, Kolkata
Nalin Chandra Das and Sons
The rasgullas and nolen gur sweet at this place are so legendary, people from far-off towns come to taste them.
57, Ramdulal Sarkar Street, Near Hedua Park, Hatibagan, Kolkata
Chittaranjan Mishtan Bhandar
Centuries old, they offer some of the best mishtis of the state including soft ad yummy rasgollas.
34B, Shyam Bazar Street, Near Lal Mandir, Shyam Bazar, Kolkata
Spongy rasgullas again. We told you you will find them everywhere.
28, Chetla Road, Rash Behari Avenue, Near Gurudwara, Kalighat, Kolkata
Known for making sweets that use a lot of ghee. Their laddus and chocolate-mishti are delicious.
198, Block J, Opposite Triangular Park, New Alipore, Kolkata
Don’t think much…Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first!