Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Foodie Jaunts

Goodies from Chittaranjan Park.              
Kali Temple at Chittaranjan Park
My injured arm continues to play spoil sport, preventing me from regularly updating my blog. After some painful tests I thought enough is enough I must get back to my favourite task--- which is blogging. So I will quit the sob story and greet you all with some sweets on the occasion of the Bengali New Year which fell on April, 15. 
Nolen Gurer Sandesh

Bhapa (Steamed) Sandesh
Nolen Gurer Malai Chomchom
Nolen Gurer Rossogolla
The sweets you see here are sandesh, bhapa sandesh or steamed sandesh both made from paneer. I am sure most of you are familiar with sandesh or sondesh as Bengalis call it.  Then there is kheer kodom which is a small rossogolla with a covering of khoya or thickened milk (see photo below).
Nolen Gurer Kheer Kodom
Another interesting sweet is the jol bhora sandesh, which when translated means sandesh filled with water. Also called taal shaansh sandesh, this  sandesh is the sweet makers version of the palm fruit. Those living along the coast line maybe familiar with this fruit. If not have a look at this video. In the video you will notice the man picks out small round shaped fruits from the dark coloured palm fruit. These round shaped white fruits are called taal gola here in Bombay and taal shaansh in Bengali. Taal is the palm fruit and gola refers to the round shape of the white fruit while the Bengali word shaansh refers to the flesh of the white fruit. Once you bite into this fleshy round white fruit, a sweet cool liquid oozes out. What the sweet- makers in Bengal do is they prepare the sandesh in the shape of the white round shaped fruit and fill it with sugar syrup so that when you bite into the sweet, the sugar syrup oozes out just like the water oozes out from the fruit. 
Nolen Gurer Jol Bhora Sandesh
However the sweet you see here does not have sugar syrup but it is liquid date palm jaggery, in fact all the sweets you see here have been made from this jaggery. Every winter Bengalis eagerly look forward to this jaggery. Though my mum does make the sandesh when she lays her hands on some of this jaggery, the sweets you see here have been purchased from Sweet Bengal a chain of Bengali sweet stores.  Being an NRB (a non-resident Bengali) I satiate my desire for the date palm jaggery with these sweets. This year however we were lucky to be in Delhi and managed to by our fill of this jaggery from Delhi’s mini – Bengal Chittaranjan Park.

In my previous post I left you with a clip from the film ‘Saudagar’. If you have seen the clip you may have noticed Amitabh Bachchan collecting sap from the date palm and his wife Nutan converting the sap into jaggery. The film is an excellent document of the process of making date palm jaggery or khejurer gur as we Bengalis call it.
Date palm did not originate in India; thanks to foreign invasions and influences the tree found its way into the country and for reasons I am not aware of Bengalis collected the sap from the date palm tree and began making aromatic jaggery. This winter special, as far as I know is made only in Bengal and when I say Bengal I mean West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. In West Bengal and Bangladesh you will find poira gur which is the absolute liquid stage of the jaggery, then there is the nolen gur which is a semi -liquid stage and finally the solid jaggery which is called patali gur
Nolen Gur
Patali Gur
Nolen Gur is used for making the different kinds of sweets you see above but there is no hard and fast rule, for us NRBs it is near impossible to get hold of the nolen gur so we make do with the hard patali gur in order to make the sweets. We were lucky we happened to be at Chittaranjan Park at the right time and were able to purchase a jar full of nolen gur along with the patali gur.This was not all, there were other goodies which had just arrived from Calcutta some of which I had only heard about but never seen as for instance the two varieties of dal (lentils) we brought back with us; one is sona moong dal which is a variety of moong dal found only in Bengal. From the photo below you will see that the grains in comparison to the regular moong dal are quite tiny. 
On the left regular Moong Dal and on the right Sona Moong Dal
Likewise the masur dal too in comparison to the regular dal is very small. 
On the left is the regular Masur and on the right the tiny 'Bengali' Masur
Dal is something which is rarely a main dish it is more of an accompaniment and these particular varieties have a lovely aroma. Incidentally Bengalis often first dry roast the moong dal before cooking it. Besides these my mum eagerly purchased some fresh aromatic bay leaves and bori – what is that? It is ground urad dal which is shaped into dumplings and dried in the sun. This bori or badi as non-Bengalis call it, is also made by non –Bengalis, the only difference is in the ingredients used as for instance the Punjabi badi has plenty of whole black pepper. 
In the photo above you see two types of bori, the big ones are used in vegetarian and fish preparations while the smaller ones are deep fried and either eaten as an accompaniment during meals or the fried boris are crushed and used as a garnish for some vegetarian dishes. The crunchiness of the bori lends a wonderful flavour to the dish. One of the dishes in which it is used as a garnish is Mochaar Ghonto; Mocha is what we Bengalis call banana flower. My next recipe is going to be Mochar Ghonto or Banana Flower Delight as I call it.


  1. Shubho nobo borsho, Shilpi! And thank you for those lovely photos and the write-up. So much information, but put forward in such a nice, conversational way... am looking forward to your mocha recipe. I adore mocha!

  2. @dustedoff:Thanks for the greetings and the compliment and am also glad to see you like mocha, I like this Bong connection we have between us.

  3. this must be relatively new - I was a resident of Pamposh colony across from C'ranjan park! Nice to visit your space! those are some killer Sandesh! And I hope your arm feels better soon! i am doing extensive physio on my rotator cuff I've injured playing Wii :( Look forward to visiting your blog Hope you will mine too :) cheers, priya

  4. Shilpi this was a real teaser. All those mouth watering delicacies and I do not get to taste any. I scrolled down the entire page thinking that you must have given the recipes at the end !! You must give us the recipes of at least 2 of the sweets so that we can make them at home and appease our palates.Regards, Reshma

  5. Tempting and awesome Love the conch shaped ones.