Obsession with dessert is widely shared by the residents of Kolkata. Life's passages and religious rituals are all celebrated with sugary creations. Bengali desserts are typically made with some sort of milk product. Among these are mishti doi a custard-like dessert made by adding yogurt cultures to sweetened evaporated milk. However, Bengal is best known for desserts based on chhana. This is a fresh cheese with a consistency similar to ricotta.
Some chhana is made into fritters, which include pantua, a doughnut-brown ball about the size of a lime, and kalojam, a nearly jet black sphere of dough. Both of these are soaked in syrup. Rossogolla is made from a similar dough but is boiled rather than fried. When soaked in a milk-based syrup, it is called rossomalai. In a simpler preparation, the fresh cheese is cooked down with sugar and formed into many kinds of sweets called sandesh. One of the city's best know sandesh shops is Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy, or Nakur, in the old Shyambazar district. At Nakur they begin with raw milk, process it into cheese, and then cook, form, and flavor it into many types of sandesh of often unorthodox flavors. This artisanal approach cannot be followed by smaller neighborhood confectioners, called moiras in Bengali. They often use ready-made chhana for their confections. Trying to keep up with the times, new confectioners have tried to expand their operations and offer new products some of which are artificially sweetened.
- K.C. Das
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