Literature, music, food…Bengal is a land of cultural riches. The decadent Bengali desserts are a core part of this sumptuousness. If you want to leave a Bengali dumbfounded, ask them to name their favourite dessert. Expect some frowns and a pregnant pause, for there are no simple answers to this question in the Bengali way of life. Even if you are awarded an answer, there is a good chance it won’t be Rasgulla, Mishti Doi or Sandesh.
Here is a run-down some classic Bengali Desserts that perfectly sum up the sweet decadence of Bengal:
Shaped like an envelope and sealed with a clove, Lobong Lotika is a rich dessert made by stuffing flour pastry with a mixture comprising khoya, shrivelled coconut, raisins, nuts and cardamom. These envelope-shaped cubes held together by a clove piercing through the different layers of pastry are fried in ghee and then dipped in sugar syrup. Somewhat akin to the Turkish sweet meat, Baklava. Oh, sinful! Lobong Lotika is traditionally savoured on special occasions, like the upcoming Durga Puja.
A form of stuffed pancake roll, the Patishapta is prepared in most Bengal homes as part of Makar Sankranti festivities. An exceptionally thin pancake made from a batter comprising maida, rice flour and semolina blended together with milk is stuffed with a generous layer of jaggery mixed with coconut. This Bengali dessert is best enjoyed warm, as the temperature truly brings out the texture of the filling. In some regions of Bengal, the patishapta is garnished with a drizzle of sweetened and thickened milk, but that is somewhat of an acquired taste, as the addition brings in an element of sogginess to this sweet meat.
This Bengali dessert is one of those unputdownable delicacies that you just cannot have enough of. Named after a tiny white flower shaped like a ball, Kadamba, Kheer Kadam is prepared by coating a dry Rasgulla with kheer and then dusting it with dried kheer. To let the flavours truly burst in your mouth, you must pop the whole piece into your mouth at once and relish its intricate taste as the sweat meat disintegrates, layer by layer.
Made from chhana, a form of cottage cheese, maida and khoya, Chhanar Jilipi is a Bengal dessert characterised by its soft texture and exceedingly decadent flavours. The raw mixture is rolled into circular shape, much like the good old Jalebi, deep fried and then dipped in cardamom-flavoured sugar syrup. The end result is a sinfully delicious, calorie-laden delight that is every bit worth the guilty indulgence.
Nolen Gurer Payesh
Nolen Gurer Payesh is a unique rice pudding that gets its unique name from the use of jaggery or gur in the preparation. The Bengali dessert gets its richness, for which it is most relished, from this delicate combination of thickened milk, rice and sweet jaggery. The addition of jaggery, especially if it is freshly sourced, enhances the creaminess of this dessert, which is what makes it truly a delish delight.
Yet another Bengali dessert with an intriguingly unique name, Chitrakut is a preparation that leads straight to the heart of Bengal. Made with a combination of khoya, rava, refined flour, cottage cheese and sugar syrup, this sweet meat with a beautiful golden crust, a soft middle and a drizzle of desiccated coconut is one of the unheard delights hidden in the folds of the rich cuisine of the state.
This traditional Bengali dessert has a tempting chocolaty appearance to it that makes it instantly appealing to the eyes. The taste of this sweet dish, which is basically deep-fried khoya cakes with a coating of sugar syrup, is nothing quite like chocolate but hits whole different notes on your palette. Preparing Shor Bhaja involves a tedious, time-consuming process, which is why this sweet meat is prepared solely for festivals.