Vir Sangvi, a popular Indian journalist, in talking about Durga Puja once said that “you can take the craze of Diwali in Delhi, Christmas in London, Summer Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Valentine’s day in Paris and then add it to the month long madness of Olympic Games or the World Cup and cram all that into a span of 5 days and you still wouldn’t know what you are missing if you haven’t been in Kolkata during Durga Puja”. That’s exactly how Durga Puja is. And when the festival comes to an end with the ritualistic immersion of the Goddess, we feel sad as a community. It’s Dashami (the final day) today. If you are in Kolkata, you are either preparing for the grand sendoff, or the pandal already looks bare with only a flickering lamp that’s at best a shabby evidence of the grand festival and even grander finale. If you are in Kolkata, you are probably tremendously sad. Some of you are already packing to leave the city, some of you start office again tomorrow, some of you are sad to learn that your probashi (Bengalis who live outside of Bengal) neighbor crush did not come home for pujo after all (Ooops! Sorry about that 😉 ), and some of you are worried that you may never see that cute girl/boy you struck up a conversation with at Maddox Square. The time of unrestrained joy is over. Friends will get busy again, the city will get sober, the sounds of dhaaks and the 70’s R. D. Burman songs will die out, traditions will be abandoned until next sharat, the magical realism will be lifted.
But nothing to fear. Our hedonistic ancestors had this figured out. There is a reason why dashami is followed by another month of ritualistic naru and nimki eating. It is a cure for communal healing from post-puja-depression. Narkel naru has this uplifting effect–it soothes, coddles and makes you feel like all is okay in the world. Therefore, on Dashami mornings in Bengal, Bengalis undertake this elaborate project of grating coconuts, making kheer (milk solids), grinding cardamoms, churning coconut and jaggery/sugar, and finally rolling them into round shapes to be served to every guest for another month.
This Bengali home in Texas is no different, except, I buy grated and frozen coconut, and I always use sugar because 1) you don’t get fresh jaggery here, 2) my husband is not very fond of jaggery. So I make my grandma’s special kheer er narkel narus that are super easy to make and delicious. Hope you like the recipe enough to leave a comment! 🙂
Narkel Naru Recipe
Level: Easy Cooking time: 15 mins Serves: 10-12
2 cups grated coconut (I use either frozen grated coconut or freshly grated coconut. Dessicated coconut does not work so well for this recipe)
1 cup khoya/mawa (available in all Indian groceries) or milk solids
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder (you can make your own by grinding 5-8 cardamom pods in a food processor and then sieving to separate the shells)
Mix all the ingredients in a cast iron skillet or a heavy bottomed pan (as shown in the image above).
Heat the pan over medium heat.
Stir continuously until the sugar and kheer are completely melted and the mixture starts forming a lump and sticks to the spatula. Takes about 8-10 minutes.
Turn off heat and let cool slightly.
While the mixture is still warm, take a little bit and roll it between your palms to form round shapes.
Tranfer to a plate that has been slightly greased.
Store the narkel narus in an airtight container. It keeps for about a month.