(Last Updated on : 13/07/2010)
Sandesh is the most popular among the Bengali sweets. It is famed as a specialty of Bengal even outside the state. The most common way of making the sandesh is with the use of Chhana or cottage cheese. Chhana is the solid form which is separated by curdling milk, and it has wide application in sweet-preparation in Bengal. The simplest kind of Sandesh in Bengal is the kanchagolla. It is basically prepared by tossing the Chhana lightly with sugar over low heat. The sandesh is essentially hot, sweetened Chhana which has been shaped into balls. For the more complex and elaborately prepared sandesh, the chhana which is used for preparation is dried and pressed, flavoured with essence of fruits, sometimes even coloured and cooked to many different levels of consistencies. Sometimes it is filled with syrup, blended with coconut or kheer and moulded into a variety of shapes. These shapes can frequently be seen resembling conch-shells, elephants, fish etc. The shapes are mostly given my way of moulds. The majority of these moulds are carved out of stone, though some may also be carved from wood.
Speciality Sandesh, meaning those that are of a particular type or those that have been specially created in a place, abound in West Bengal
. Some of the best known among such sandesh are pranohara (robber of my soul), abaar khabo (I want to eat it again), nayantara (pupil of my eye), manoranjan (heart's delight) and ahladey putul (pampered doll). During the time of colonial rule in the state, the British were also honoured with names such as 'Good Morning' and 'Lord Rippon'
. Some of the sweets are famously produced in particular places. These include the 'kanchagolla of Natore', the 'monda of Muktagachha' and the 'chamcham of Tangail'.
Some of the best Sandesh-makers are said to hail from Narail and Dhaka in Bangladesh and Kolkata
in West Bengal, India. Popular types of Sandesh include the Parijat, Rose Cream, Dilkhush, Abar Khabo, Chocolate Talsansh etc. Nakur, Bhim Nag, Makhon and Nalin Sarkar are some of the famous Sandesh shops in Kolkata. The famous "makha" sandesh hails from Bardhaman district
. It may be mentioned here that another popular Bengali sweet dish, said to be a modified version of the Sandesh, is the Ros Malai. The major way in which the Ros Malai differs from the normal Sandesh is that while Sandesh is a dry preparation, Ros Malai is gravy as it is steeped in milk. The most popular kind of Rosmalai is the Comilla Bangladesh.
The kind of Sandesh that is being made, the texture of the Sandesh and its flavour, is almost always determined by the season of the year and the particular occasion for which it is being prepared. Thus during the winter season, the Nolen Gurer Sandesh is a particular favourite.
Thus, Sandesh is a part and parcel of everyday life in Bengal. It is a specialty of West Bengal and known the world over for its great variety and taste.