Let me tell you a story about love. About Bengali love. About Bengali’s love for sweets. Fact is, Bengalis can die for sweets. Like, seriously. Their love for sweets is so intense that they will die from diabetes. In addition to the endless varieties of Bengali sweets that are compulsory accompaniments to every meal of the day, including breakfast, Bengalis also hoard sugar for emergencies–when the sweet shops close their shutters during afternoon siestas. I can confidently say that Bengalis are the only people who like granulated sugar on their morning toasts. A common Bengali snack is homemade chinir paratha, which is basically a fried flat bread, like tortilla, with a sugar filled center; or just dry rotis rolled with sugar in the center.
So, on my last trip to India when I told my dad that I don’t want any business with sweets (because those stubborn pounds are impossible to lose), my dad, concerned about what seemed to be an unnatural lack of sweet appetite for his Bengali daughter, decided to look into the matter. The next morning I woke up to our local pathologist Panka kaka’s knock on our door. I opened the door and greeted him with as much excitement as is expected of an NRI visiting their real home and meeting their old neighbors, but he reciprocated perfunctorily. He studied my face for signs of illness, with his eyes squinted and lips pressed together, and said “baba bolle tor naki sarir kharap?” (dad said you are unwell?). As a permanent resident of Bhawanipur we all know not to argue with the local pathologist who makes house calls. I replied with a suspicious “did he now?”. He said “you don’t look so good. You have lost some weight. I will need to draw some blood for tests”. I wanted to say, “Yes, I did lose weight and I worked really hard for that”, but, instead, I smiled and obliged. That morning my dad brought all sorts of non starchy vegetables, bitter gourds, beans, and berries. You see, he thought that I had diabetes and that I was hiding that information from him.
Anyway, that evening all the tests came back negative, finally bringing my dad and the bitter gourd-juice-making-machine to rest. Then he asked me, “why on earth would you deny sweets when in Kolkata? How will you survive without it here?” I saw his point. It really was impossible to avoid sweets in Kolkata; so I conceded. He quickly returned with baked rosogollas from Balaram Mallick, my most favorite Bengali sweet. Rosogollas are these spongy round dumplings made from cottage cheese that are boiled in sugar syrup. As if that was not enough sugar, Balaram Mallick had this brilliant idea of pouring a thick kheer over it and baking it to perfection. One such serving of baked rosogolla is sufficient to render an adult comatose, but unfortunately no one can have just one. And that is how Bengalis can die for sweets.
Happy valentines day! 🙂
- 14 rosogollas/rasgullas (I used the canned variety available at any Indian grocery here)
- 1 cup mewa/khoya (available at any Indian grocery)
- 14 oz (400 grams) of sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
- a few drops of rose water (optional)
- a few strands of saffron (optional)
- 1 tbsp slivered almonds
- Press each rosogolla between your palms to squeeze out the sugar syrup. Do not worry, it will spring right back into shape once you release them.
- Arrange them on a baking dish and set aside.
- Heat a pan over medium heat and add mewa, milk, condensed milk, rose water and cardamom powder. Bring it to a boil and turn off heat.
- Pour this kheer over the rosogollas, making sure to evenly cover them.
- Sprinkle the saffron and almonds on top, and broil for 6 minutes, turning the pan half way into the process.
- Serve hot or cold.