There is no denying the fact that Kolkatan people and sweets are almost synonymous to each other. Speaking about the Bengalis here, you will barely find their meal completed without the sweet treatment at the end.
Dine out at any fancy Bengali restaurant or fine diner and you will find a separate section of the menu dedicated to various types of delectable sweets. These items have an identity of their own and are very different than most parts of India.
Knowns as mishti in the vernacular, Bengalis spend a great deal in making them, just to satisfy their sweet tooth. So, if you thought that any other part of India had the best taste of sweets, come to Kolkata, you will find many ways to praise it.
That said, here are the top sweet dishes that you ought to try if you ever plan on visiting Kolkata.
Bengali sweets and Roshogulla go hand-in-hand. In fact, this special white and juicy sweet is considered to be the face of Kolkata when it comes to the quenching the sweet tooth. This is that special item that was born and brought up in this city itself and has turned out to be a crowd favorite.
Everyone who loves to indulge in the sweetness of Kolkata will barely deny that roshogullas are probably the unforgiving sin they would love to fall trap on. These small soft (but spongy) ball-shaped dough of semolina and chhena are given the extreme sweetness of warm and concentrated sugar syrup. As a result, these dripping sweet melts in your mouth and gives you a concentrated dose of tongue-smacking delicacy.
Malai Cham Cham
The Cham Cham Sweet can be considered to be Kolkata’s version of the popular Ras Malai. It is one of the most loved sweet dishes in the city and is best-known as ‘pleasure boats’. They are shaped a little more elongated than eggs and are truly delicious and would hit the right part of your heart.
This sweet-desired item is made with milk, something that makes it all the more delicious. Milk is heated (boiled) until the curd comes out in a concentrated form and the remaining liquid is almost gone. The curd is then left alone in a hanging cheesecloth to make sure that any extra moisture is dried. Once done, it is kneaded until smooth and has no lumps and molded into shape.
You will be forgiven for mistaking Pantua to be Gulab Jamun, but trust me, they are not the same. These light brown round sweets look hard on the outside but are very soft inside. However, it is not as spongy as the rasogullas and is made with cottage cheese (chhena), flour and semolina (suji). The dough mixture is molded into small round pieces and is then deep fried for the color. The fried balls are then dipped and soaked in concentrated sugar solution where it absorbs all the sweetness.
When you are in Kolkata, you might also come across something called langcha, which is essentially an elongated version of the same sweet. These can be served both ways, hot or cold.
Also known as Kala Jamun across the country, Kalo Jaam is one of the sweet dishes Kolkatans grow up eating. However, it is slightly different than the Gulab Jamun people are more familiar with like it is the drier counterpart and is made with milk solid and Chenna (cottage cheese).
If you are in Kolkata and have two plates in front of you, one with Gulab Jamun and the other with Kalo Jaam, always choose the latter. Want to know why?
Kalo Jaams is denser and darker than Jamuns. Plus, in most cases, they are stuffed with saffron, finely chopped almonds, and pistachios. Plus, if you are looking to cut down on your sweet intake, always go the Kolkatan way as the Jaams are grainy and dry.
Payesh isn’t the most unique sweet dish in Kolkata, but as usual, people do it differently here. Payesh is the kheer or rice pudding that people know it as and is very popular during the pleasant winter days.
Unlike what kheer is known to be in most parts of India, here in Kolkata, the sweetness is added by Nolen Gur (jaggery), which also adds the brownish color. And due to the color, it appears to be made with brown or pre-fried rice. Plus, the flavor of jaggery further entices the taste of the kheer in the original self and would leave behind a pleasant sweetness on your taste buds. However, there is just one major rule to prepare it – a lot of stirring while cooking or else the lower layer would be burnt.
But since it’s Kolkata, there ought to be more
Kolkata is a lot more than these five sweet dishes. In fact, if you go through the menus of any Mistanna Bhandar (sweet shop) or take a look at the variety of sweets, you might consider these delicacies to be the staple food for the people here.
Apart from these, there are some other sweet items that get the crowd running to the roadside sweet shops.
Kheer Kadam, in Kolkata, is nothing but an extra preparation over rashogulla. Locally known as Kadamba, it has a contrasting dry, grainy and not-so-sweet layer on the outside. However, once you eat this outer part, the real juicy roshogulla-like flavor greets your taste buds. This combination of dry and juicy layers is awesome.
Sandesh sweet is another popular sweet dish here in Kolkata. It is made with Chenna (cottage cheese) and isn’t very dangerously sweet. In fact, in most shops these days, you will get sugar-free Sandesh, which is made to quench the sweet-hunger without activating diabetes.
Jeelipi is nothing but the standard Jilebi that is so very popular around India. When you are here in Kolkata, you will get a different, and probably better, taste of this item as the preparation process is very different. It is softer and is made with flour, cottage cheese and khoya (concentrated milk). The prepared jilebi-shaped pretzels are then soaked in sugar syrup, and ta-da, the most amazing Jeelipi is ready.
Kolkata is all about sweetness
Sweetness flows within Kolkata. Just the way you will find the people here to be comparatively sweet in their tone, the food too has the sweet path. Having a sweet dish after meals (sweet curd is used commonly) is bliss for every Bengali in Kolkata.
In fact, such is the craze that any birthday party or special occasion is incomplete without the addition of a plate full of sweet delicacies. Hence, Kolkatan and their love for sweets is something you can barely neglect.
So if you have a sweet tooth, Kolkata welcomes you as your Paradise.