(Last Updated on : 30/06/2010)
Sweets in the land of Bengal occupy a prominent place. The sweets from this eastern part of the country are known for its rich taste and texture. Most of the sweets in Bengal are made from Chana or cottage cheese. In fact it can be said that Bengal`s chhana-based concoctions have long been famed outside the region. Some of the well known sweets in Bengal are sandesh, rosogolla, kanchagolla, chamcham, kalojam and a lot more.
It should be noted that the sandesh today is a totally different creation from the one offered to Chaitanya
and his medieval contemporaries. Sandesh is made from sweetened, solidified kheer. Since the dryness of the kheer made it easy to preserve, Bengalis developed the custom of carrying some sandesh with them whenever they visited some-one. The term sandesh also meant news, and the sweet, therefore, became the perfect offering for a visitor bearing news or interested in getting the host`s news.
When the term sandesh came to indicate a sweet made with chhana rather than with kheer is difficult to determine. But it is reasonable to assume that it had become common usage by the latter half of the nineteenth century. Today, the simplest Bengali sandesh is the kanchagolla (literally, `uncooked ball`), that is, hot, sweetened chhana formed into round balls. The term kancha (uncooked) does not indicate a lack of processing by heat after the milk has been curdled. The chhana is actually tossed lightly with sugar over low heat and the mastery of a moira is indicated by the complexity of texture he can achieve despite the shortness of the cooking/processing time. Kanchagollas are generally given as offerings to the goddess.
The chhana for sandesh can be pressed, dried, flavoured with fruit essences, coloured, and cooked to many different consistencies, filled with syrup, blended with coconut or kheer and moulded into a variety of shapes. The Bengali obsession with this sweet is indicated in the flights of fancy displayed in the naming of different kinds of sandesh. The names of the sandesh are based on form, content, consistency and flavour.
Chhana-based sweets in Bengal are too numerous to enumerate in full. Next to sandesh, the wsogolla is the best known as the representative sweet from Bengal. Its most obvious characteristic is that of being soaked in syrup. The other is the exquisite smoothness of the chhana. There is no room for graininess in a good rosogolla. A variety referred to as the `sponge rosogolla is considered the best. Other syrup-soaked sweets made from chhana include chamcham, pantua, chhanabora, chhanar jilipi, rosomundi, golapjaam and kalojaam.