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What to Eat in West Bengal
The specialty of traditional Bengali food lies in the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavors.
Laddu is a very common sweet in West Bengal and Bangladesh, especially during celebrations and festivities.
Ras malai is composed of white, cream, or yellow cloured balls of paneer which are dipped and soaked in sugar and malai or cottage cheese. This dessert resemble the rasgulla greatly. Though it is not a primarily Bengali sweet and originated from other places, Ras Malai is still very popular.
Pantua is somewhat similar to the rshogolla, except that the cottage cheese balls are fried in either ghee (clarified butter) or oil until golden or deep brown before being put in syrup. There are similar tasting, but differently shaped versions of the Pantua e.g. Langcha (cylindrical) or Ledikeni. Interestingly, the latter was created in honour of Countess Charlotte Canning (wife of the then Governor General to India Charles Canning) by Bhim Nag, a renowned sweets maker in Kolkata.
Chmchm, goes back about 150 years. The modern version of this ovalshaped sweet is reddish brown in colour and has a denser texture than the rshogolla. It can also be preserved longer. Granules of maoa or dried milk can also be sprinkled over chmchm.
45. Piha or pithe
In both Bangladesh and West Bengal, the tradition of making different kinds of panfried, steamed or boiled sweets, lovingly known as pi?he or the pitha, still flourishes. These little balls of heaven symbolises the coming of winter, and the arrival of a season where rich food can be included in the otherwise mild diet of the Bengalis... the richness lie in the creamy silkiness of the milk which is mixed often with molasses, or jaggery made of either date palm or sugarcane, and sometimes sugar. They are mostly divided into different categories based on the way they are created. Generally rice flour goes into making the pithe.They are usually fried or steamed, the most common forms of these cakes include bhapa pi?ha (steamed), pakan pi?ha (fried), and puli pi?ha (dumplings), among others. The other common pithas are chandrapuli, gokul, pati shapta, chitai pi?ha, aski pithe, muger puli and dudh puli.The Pati Shapta variety is basically a thinlayered riceflour crepes with a milkcustard cremefilling, very weirdly similar to the hoppers or appams of South India, or the French crepes. In urban areas of Bangladesh and West Bengal most houses hold Pithafestivals sometime during the winter months. The celebration of the Pi?ha as a traditional sweet is the time for the Winter Harvest festival in rural Bangladesh and West Bengal. The harvest is known as Nabanno
A moa is made by taking muri with gur (jaggery) as a binder and forming it into a ball, made all over Bengal. Another popular kind of moa is Joynagarer moa, a moya particularly made in Jaynagar, South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal which uses khoi and nolen gur as binder. Nolen gur is fresh jaggery made from the sap of date palm. Moas are made specially during winter.
47. Tehari and Biriani
Biriani is one of the oldest foods existing within these regions, and has its own food culture that is deeply steeped in history. The rice dish is found all over India and other parts of Asia, and is made slightly differently depending on the location. In Bangladesh, it is often made with mutton or beef, whereas in West Bengal you will find it with potatoes, egg, dal, fish or vegetables, and sometimes chicken. Tehari is a variant of biriani found most commonly in Bangladesh, and is most commonly cooked with beef, onions, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves, creating a very aromatic flavour. To taste some of the best biriani, you must travel to the city of Dhaka and take a rickshaw to Hazir Biriani, which is celebrated throughout the city for its amazing take on this age old dish. Existing for over 70 years and across two generations, you may have to queue for some time but it is well worth the wait.
48. Payesh Kheer
This rice pudding dish is made using glutinous rice, milk and sugar. The sweetness is further enhanced by adding nuts such as almonds, cashews or pistachios, or dried fruits, cardamom and saffron for more luxurious versions. The dish is commonly seen prepared in temples, and in eastern India is consumed at special celebrations such as birthdays. In Bangladesh, the dish is made slightly differently, using coconut milk and semolina, which makes for a more glutinous, sweeter pudding.
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