Roshogolla has made Kolkata famous, or Kolkata has made roshogolla famous – it is an eternal debate. (Although, it should be noted that the recent debate over the origin of roshogolla has seen neighbouring state – with which Kolkata has otherwise shared a very cordial and loving relationship – become involved in the prestigious battle.)
Roshogolla is not the only defining characteristic of the rich and traditional sweet panorama of Kolkata and Bengalis. A little in-depth journey to some of the old and famous sweet shops will offer choices that are definitely unsung heroes.
This is a tribute to the unsung heroes of Bengali sweets, which are delicious, authentic, have been able to almost hold the fort on their own, and attract loyalists towards them.
If one ever steps into Bhim Chandra Nag (which is over 190 years in business), then one will be amazed to see the varieties of sandesh available. They are sandesh specialists; however, the must-try sandesh are the monohara and paramount.
Darbesh is again one of the ethnic sweets that looks like a boondi laddu but tastes different due to the addition of khoya. Sen Mahasay, the sweet shop with a glorious reputation since its inception in 1897, is one of the pioneers in Kolkata for making darbesh. They have five outlets in Kolkata, with their flagship store at Shyambazar.
Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandy, situated in a busy lane of Shyambazar, is more than 150 years old and karapak sandesh (or hard-baked sandesh) is one of their signature products. This sandesh is known for its taste and palatability, has a firm body and is dry in appearance. This has been an all-season favourite for Bengalis for decades.
Abar khabo is a sweet whose name, if translated, means ‘eat again’. It is a circular, soft baked sandesh that is stuffed with kaju, pista and khoya . This sandesh is more than a 100 years old, and Nalin Chandra Das and Sons (a establishment that is more than 175 years old) was the pioneer in popularising this sandesh.
Another famous sandesh that rules the sweet shops (especially during the summer) is the kathaal sandesh. KC Das Grandson have been champions of adding fruit flavours to sandesh; this was one of their special creations. The jack fruit flavoured soft and moist sandesh directly challenges, and possibly wins over, a mango flavoured sandesh during summer. Although KC Das is known for its creation of roshogolla, this just goes to show how versatile and creative they were in creating numerous sweet innovations.