Durga Puja is a time of celebration and feasting for Bengalis and non-Bengalis alike. One of the highlights of the festival is the variety of traditional Bengali sweets that are available in the market. From sandesh, roshogolla, mishti doi to chhenar jilipi, kacha gola and cham cham, these sweets are made with fresh chhena (cottage cheese), sugar, milk and other ingredients. They are often flavoured with cardamom, saffron, rose water or nuts. These sweets are not only delicious but also rich in protein and calcium.
Many sweet shops in Delhi’s CR Park, the hub of Bengali culture in the capital, witness a surge in demand for these sweets during Durga Puja. Sanjay, a sweet shop owner in CR Park, says, “During Durga Puja, we work in three shifts, and the sale goes up by 10 times. There is a lot of crowd at every sweet shop, we don’t even get time to look up.”
Fusion Sweets: Ras Malai Tiramisu, Strawberry Patishapta, Malpua Baklava and More
Some people prefer to try something new and different when it comes to sweets. For them, there are fusion sweets that combine Bengali flavours with other cuisines. For example, ras malai tiramisu is a dessert that layers soft ras malai (chhena dumplings soaked in sweetened milk) with coffee-soaked sponge cake and mascarpone cheese. Strawberry patishapta is a crepe filled with fresh strawberries and cream. Malpua baklava is a pastry that has the flavours of baklava (a Turkish dessert made with nuts and honey) with rose and orange blossom.
These fusion sweets are created by home chefs who specialise in Bengali cuisine. Sonali Chatterjee, a home chef based in Gurgaon, says, “I feel people either want traditional sweets like sandesh, roshogollas or chhena jalebi or they want something very different. To offer people something new, I have tried fusion desserts like ras malai tiramisu, strawberry patishapta, misthi doi cheesecake. This time, I am including new fusion dishes like malpua baklava, rum and raisin sandesh, gondhoraj sandesh, along with baked roshogollas.”
Lesser-known Sweets: Narkel Nadu, Paayesh, Gokul Pithe and More
Apart from the popular sweets that are widely available in the market, there are also some lesser-known sweets that are part of the Bengali tradition. These sweets are usually made at home during festivals or special occasions. Some of these sweets are narkel nadu (coconut balls), paayesh (rice pudding), gokul pithe (fried dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery) and pantua (deep-fried balls of chhena dipped in sugar syrup).
These sweets are also in demand during Durga Puja as some people prefer to order home-cooked Bengali food. Tapati Bhattacharya, a Delhi-based home chef, says, “People in Delhi are crazy about the Bong cuisine. Be it savouries or sweets, they love ordering home-cooked Bengali food. I get orders for traditional sweets during and post-Durga Puja as well. I even get orders for traditional sweets like narkel nadu, paayesh, gokul pithe and pantua, which are usually not available in sweet shops in Delhi.”