A (mini) feast from Bengal

I have for a long time been a major fan of Bengali desserts. Their savoury stuff is good too but Bengali cuisine tends to have plenty of mutton and fish, and although I am no vegetarian, it’s the desserts they make that have had me ensnared. Possibly because of the years I spent in North East India, but I can hardly regret that.  Most of their desserts are milk based. Milk and milk products (like chenna or channa).

I am therefore constantly looking out for those original Bengali Sweets. I get good stuff out here, but the traditional homemade stuff is just... different. It’s not tooth achingly sweet, the texture is out of this world, and even though the primary ingredient is Milk and Sugar (or jaggery), the moment you eat a true blue Bengali dessert, a flavour so earthy and rich explodes in your mouth that its hard to believe that the dessert is made with so few ingredients (This is also why I haven’t tried a single recipe till date, I am too scared I’ll get it wrong. But if you a must try recipe, please let me know, like today).

Take for example Mishti doi. This is essentially a form of sweet yogurt – but don’t be fooled by that name. It is sweetened using jaggery and set in small earthen pots. No flavoured yogurt can compete with that. And you have to taste it to believe it. I haven’t attempted to make it yet but if you have, let me know how your experience was.

Ras malai and Chamcham

Here in Pune, during Durga Puja, Bengali Sweets are something that have to be tried. I didn’t know it before, but Anand Mela is traditionally held only on the first day of Durga Puja (Panchami - the 5th day of Navratra). An article on the blog Eat and Dust by Pamela Timms was where I later read that Anand Mela is where Bengali women bring their homemade delicacies. I had heard rave reviews about the food you get at at the Pandal in Congress Bhavan (The Bangiya Sanskriti Sansad). So we went there on the first day of Durga Puja. Here too the traditional ‘Anand Mela’ was held on the first day. And what was on offer was extraordinary. The food, the smells, the environment were so lively, so energetic, I felt I may just as well have been in Kolkata and not Pune.
If you have a Durga Puja celebration near you, please go; Today. You’ll still be able to eat some excellent food.

Pani Puri


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