The Bengalis are diehard lovers of their traditional sweets. They adore their Mishtis so much that there is a self-proclaimed term Mishtimukh by which they like to call themselves. If you ask a Bengali speaking person about their favourite sweets, they would first think hard with frowned faces for a few seconds, or maybe even a minute, before giving an answer. From the quintessential rice based dishes and the various types of cooked fishes to the crunchy snacks and sinfully delicious sweets, the Bengalis always prepares and consumes their food seriously. Many of them make sure that the food mandatorily turns out awesome in taste and are eaten or served in a nice way.
Some of the traditional sweets of Bengalis includes-
A sweet pancake that is sinfully stuffed with a filling of a generous amount of jaggery, the festivals of Makar Sankranti and Poila Baisakh are incomplete without the Patishapta. As the pancake batter prepared with maida (all purpose flour), semolina, and rice flour is spread out like thin sheets of paper over a pan while cooking, it is the mixing of the jaggery that renders Patishapta the distinct sweetness. With the warm pancake batter melting the jaggery smoothly, Patishapta feels like a melt-in-the-mouth delicacy and remains delicious even when served hot or cold.
The famed chennaballs dipped in sugar syrup i.e. Rosogolla has been able to transcend its popularity as the quintessential Bengali sweet and has already become an iconic item in the Indian dessert menu internationally. Rosogolla is today made in almost every sweet shops across the country and sold like hot cakes. Meanwhile, the close cousin of Rosogolla i.e. Rajbhog has also become a popular sweet across India. While Rosogolla is a simple iconic sweet without any stuffing present in it, Rajbhog generally comprises of a filling made of dry fruits, saffron, cardamom and so on.
A dry sweet made of chenna, Sandesh is another popular variant of Bengali sweet that is also eaten with much love almost everywhere across India and has, therefore, become one of the famous sweetmeats that quickly flies of the shelves everyday from the sweet shops. Although the main cooking process of Sandesh involves kneading and cooking of chenna along with jaggery or sugar, its moulding and designs that are made in the last stage of its preparation gives it its unique identity. However, the texture of most variations of Sandesh consists of a hole pressed in the middle and then filled with some dry fruits like pistachios, raisins, almonds and cashews.
Unlike the regular version of curd, Mishti Doi, which literally translates to sweetened yoghurt, is a much complex cuisine and takes lots of manpower and time in its manufacturing. However, the sweet loving Bengalis always associate Mishti Doi as a unique dish of their cuisine and so it features highly in a dessert menu during formal breakfast, lunch or dinner fares. Hence, every guest who has gone to a formal Bengali party has been able to get a taste of this heavenly dish. Prepared by cooking full fat milk, jaggery and yoghurt and then fermenting it for some hours, Mishti Doi has always been enthralling every mortal in Bengali homes and restaurants.
A deep fried brown sweet, Pantua can look like a Gulab Jamun when seen from a distance. As it is easy to prepare, it is regularly eaten as a snack during tea time in the evenings. Pantua is made by making balls of a mixture of chenna, maida, semolina , baking soda and then deep frying it following which it is dipped in sugar syrup for some time. The soft fried texture of these spongy balls perefectly complements with its gooey inner structure to give the feel of a perfect sweet to the die-hard mithai lover.
As the name itself suggests, Chhanar Jilipi is the Bengali version of Jalebis made with chenna. Although the dough mixture is made with chenna, semolina, milk, cardamom, maida, baking powder, it is the rolling of each balls of dough into cylindrical threads to form a lookalike of Jalebi that give it its uniqueness. After the desired cylindrical threads of the chenna balls are combine together, it is deep fried in ghee and later dipped in sugar syrup for some hours. One of the special version of Jalebis and easier to make, you can easily prepare Chhanar Jilipis at home if you feel yourself like sinking your teeth into the addicitive sweet spirals of a Jalebi to satisfy your sweet indulgence at odd hours.
A cylindrical deep fried brown sweet, Langcha is believed to have originated in Shaktigarh which is a small town located in West Bengal’s Purba Bardhaman district. A close cousin of Gulab Jamun or Pantua, this elongated sweet is touted as a brand sweet of Shaktigarh and is often called as Shaktigarh-er Langcha. Made by frying cylindrical balls of chenna that has been mixed with mawa, maida and powdered sugar and further dipping it in sugar syrup, Langcha is also another sweet that makes tea times at Bengali homes a pleasant affair along with the gossips (addas).
A unique sweet of the Bengalis, Lobongo Lotika looks like a heavy envelope that has been tightly secured with a clove. Although the outer texture is made with flour, the stuffing comprises of a mix of khoya and dry fruits. After the main texture is given shape, it is slow fried in oil and then dipped in sugar syrup for some hours. Lobongo Lotika is mostly made for special occasions but you can indulge your sweet tooth by preparing this remarkable sweet any day.
Ledikeni is actually known as Lady Kenny. Although it seems funny that the sweet has been named after a person, history says that Lady Canning , the wife of Lord Charles Canning ( Governor General of India during 1856-62) visited Kolkata and got to taste this sweet which was specially created for her by a sweet maker Bhim Chandra Nag. She loved it so much and it was then added to the repertoire of Bengali sweets. However, the sweet came to be named after the artist Lady Canning and later came to be widely pronounced as Ledikeni. Made by deep frying cylindrical shapes of chenna, semolina, ghee, granulated sugar on which khoya is stuffed, it is later dipped in sugar syrup and served warm.
A fried milky sweet, Shor Bhaja is believed to have originated in Krishna Nagar, a city located in West Bengal’s Nadia district. It is prepared only from the cream of milk. After layers of cream obtained on simmering milk in low flame is taken out, it is then deep fried and soaked in sugar syrup following which it is served to everyone. Although the process of making Shor Bhaja is tedious, the end result will be rewarding as a uber soft fried piece of this milky sweet will melt in your mouth and leave you wanting for more.
To have a special variety of rich traditional Bengali sweet that is abundantly filled with varieties of dry fruits, you should try the Joynagarer Moa. As the name suggests, this sweet has originated from Jaynagar, a town located in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district. This sweet is prepared by making balls of a super delicious concoction of Khoi (puffed rice) , date palm jaggery , ghee and dry fruits like pistachios, almonds, raisins. There are over 250 sweetmeat shops around Jaynagar, which produce Jaynagarer Moa with the original ingredients. When you are next visiting West Bengal, you should surely buy this rich dry sweet to take back home because of its easy portability, durability and exclusivity.
A rich variety of stuffed Rosogolla, Kheer Kadam packs a punch of sweet and milky flavours and is worthy of making you completely swoon over with its taste. Rosogollas that has been generously filled with oodles of fried khoya and coconut constitute the Kheer Kadam. Moreover, the outing part of Kheer Kadam also comprises of a dose of sweetness as it is rolled over grated coconut flakes before being served. With the fusion of sugar syrup and coconut combining with the milky goodness of khoya inside, a sweet lover will surely attain nirvana with one bite of Kheer Kadam.
Darbesh is the Bengali version of Motichoor Ladoos. It is widely prepared in Bengali homes and enjoyed as a snack during tea time. Although it looks like the popular Motichoor Laddoo when seen from afar, it differs in taste and texture. As some edible food colours are put to good use while making Darbesh, it looks like a colourful version of Motichoor Ladoo.
One of the easiest Bengali sweets to make at home without much labour and time is the Kalo Jaam. This sweet is mostly prepared by kneading a mixture of flour, milk powder, baking soda with some quantities of milk, shaping it into small balls and then deep frying each of it in oil till attains a blackish hue. It is further dipped in sugar syrup and later served to people. As these sweets are of a luscious black colour, it is known as Kalo Jaam.
Sitabhog comprises of sugar syrup coated white rice and vermicelli grains served with miniature versions of Gulab Jamuns. The invention of this dish also has a wonderful historical story behind it. When Lord Curzon was about to visit Burdwan in 1904 to award the then king Vijaychandra the title of ‘Maharaja,’ he had ordered a local sweet maker Vairabchandra Nag to prepare a totally new and exclusive sweet which would amaze the Britisher. As per the king’s request, Nag came up with the preparations of Sitabhog and Mihidana. Lord Curzon was surprised to have such unique sweets and praised and thanked Vairabchandra Nag in the certificate given to him saying he never had such sweet ever before.