Bengal, situated in the eastern region of the Indian subcontinent, is known for its rich flavours. Predominantly focused on fish, lentils, vegetables and rice, they are also world famous for their fabulous array of sweets, in particular their cheese-based ones. This comes as no surprise, as Bengalis notoriously have a sweet tooth and enjoBengali Cuisiney making delectable treats to offer their guests, as well as to snack on throughout the day.
One of the most popular sweets in Bengal is ‘sandesh’ – perhaps the most famous sweet in Western Bengal. Sandesh is most commonly served at any celebration in a Bengali household. The authentic recipe for sandesh requires two separate preparations – one for the making of the paneer (homemade cottage cheese) and the other for the recipe of the actual dessert which is later mixed in with the paneer. The ingredients for the panner are simply whole milk and lemon juice, while the other ingredients include almonds, pistachios, saffron strands, milk, sugar, cardamom, rose water and ghee. Sandesh is an indulgent and special sweet which requires extensive care in its preparation.
Another Bengali sweet that has gained in popularity over recent years is ‘rasgulla’, a syrupy, cheese-based dessert consumed regularly throughout all of India. The sweets resemble dumplings and are made with semolina dough and cooked in a light syrup. Traditionally, they were sold in Bengal in ‘handis’ – clay pots. However, many stores throughout India now sell rasgulla ready-made in cans.
‘Cham chams’, as they are affectionately known, are authentic capsule-shaped Bengali sweets which are now popular all over Asia, particularly in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. They represent Bengali people – colourful and vibrant – as they come in a range of colours such as pale yellow, pale pink and white. Made from cream, flour, saffron, sugar and lemon juice, they are usually garnished with coconut flakes and are said to melt in the mouth. Many Bengalis also refer to chamchams as “pleasure boats”, which is also a term they use for their loved ones. Other ingredients such as cardamom or rose essence are added depending on personal preference.
‘Langcha’ is another very famous sweet of Bengal of the deep-fried variety. Originating from Shaktighar in Western Bengal, it consists of homemade cottage cheese, solidified milk (known as ‘khoya’) and flour. The ingredients are combined very simply before being fried and then dipped in sugar syrup. The sugar syrup is sometimes flavoured with green cardamom, which gives the sweet a subtle, aromatic taste. Langcha are normally formed in cylindrical, sausage-like shapes and are cooked on a very low heat so that they are golden brown all over. They are usually garnished with ingredients such as chopped dried fruit or grated khoya.
To sample some delicious Bengali sweet treats like these in the UK, visit some of the best Indian restaurants in London. Situated in London the Indian restaurants in London will offer you a one of a kind experience – their theatrical open grill kitchen and stylish interior will be sure to wow all the senses. As well as their outstanding main dishes, their sweets and desserts are also innovative and cutting edge.