Hope you enjoyed our mouth-watering article on the North Indian Desserts. In this edition, the focus will be on Authentic East Indian Desserts. The regions located in the eastern part of India are prominent in curating some of the traditional and delicious sweets, much to the delight of the foodies. The origin of most of these sweets dates back to the yesteryears when modernization had not even crept into the country. The recipes were developed with much care and attention, such that all of the East Indian desserts are still popular not only in India but abroad as well. The impression it creates inside your mouth after consuming them is a soothing and delectable experience. Without much delay, let’s ponder upon some of the renowned sweets of Eastern India.
Rasgulla, predominantly popular in the state of West Bengal and its adjoining state of Odisha, tops my list. The pure white color of it in round shapes is sure to attract and lure you to go for a sumptuous bite. Prepared from chenna (farmers’ cheese) and semolina, the taste of Rasgulla wins the heart of food lovers. It is one of the oldest and traditional East Indian desserts. Farmer’s cheese is prepared in the same process that of cottage cheese only that it is not pressed for a long time to form cubes. Made from a cow or buffalo milk, the chenna has a unique quality perfect for preparing the lips-smacking rasgullas. The round balls are dipped in sugar syrup before serving. They can be consumed both hot and cold, both with a sensational feeling for the taste buds.
Sandesh is one of the popular and renowned East Indian desserts. Made from cottage cheese and sugar, the moment you place it inside your mouth, it creates a tempting feeling within. The shapes are typically round or can be molded into various shapes of birds, animals, flowers, or patterns. Gifting a box of Sandesh during ceremonies, festivals or any gathering is very common. It is a specialty again of West Bengal. During winter, the sugar is replaced by jaggery imparting a brownish color to the normal white-colored sweet. The sugar ones as well as the ones made with jaggery are tasty and famous among the foodies. Some chefs garnish it with pistachios, almonds, or even a small pie of apple. Sandesh is served under normal temperature or sometimes chilled.
Think of Odisha and its traditional desserts, the first and foremost name that comes to every mind of Indians is Khaja. It is customary to offer Khaja to Lord Jagannath at the auspicious and religious temple of Puri in Odisha. Made with flour, sugar, and ghee, the dough is folded in layers and deep-fried in oil. The fry turns the sweet into golden brown in color and imparts a crispy taste to it. As you bite across the layers, the sugary crispy texture creates a luscious feeling enticing you to consume more and more. It is advisable not to consume in large quantities as you must not overwhelm your taste buds but relish its yummy touch. Visiting Odisha and not returning back with a pack of Khajas is something that never happens for the tourists who visit the state. Nowadays the shops sell variations in taste, shape, and texture but the authentic ones are still prominent and best among the East Indian desserts.
Thekua is said to be originated from the state of Bihar. The sweet is offered to the Gods during the Chhat festival, a 4-day long folk festival celebrated prominently in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand. It is customary in almost all the households of the states to prepare Thekua, offer to the Gods, and then serve friends and families. Made with wheat flour, jaggery, and grated coconut, the taste is unique and savory. Its reddish-brown in color imparted by the deep fry in ghee. The shapes are more or less oval in shape and pressed flat. The key feature of Thekua is it’s crispy and hard from the outside but soft inside. The coconut adds, to its soothing flavor.
The state of West Bengal stands ahead when it comes to sweets. Hence you find that most of the East Indian desserts I am referring belong to this state. The colloquial language for sweet in Bengal is mishti. Born and brought up in West Bengal, I have a special connection with the sweets from my childhood. We offer sweets to our guests and even when we visit our friends and relatives. Rajbhog is one such traditional and palatable East Indian dessert, prominent in Bengal. It looks almost like a Rasgulla but golden colored. Made with farmers’ cheese or cottage cheese and semolina, a mixture of nuts is stuffed into it, in the middle. Almonds, pistachios, saffron, cardamom, and sometimes dried milk solids are used for the stuffing at the center of Rajbhog. The round balls are dipped into sugar syrup for a spongy texture and sweet taste.
Mishti Doi is another vehemently popular dessert prevalent in West Bengal. Serving it at the end of a meal is a very common phenomenon in households as well as restaurant buffets. Mishti means sweet and Doi means curd, so essentially it’s a sweetened curd. Cow of buffalo milk is used for preparing mishti doi mixed with jaggery for that light brownish color. The mixture is cooked until it thickens and then left to ferment. The fermentation is normally done in earthen pots, which adds flavor and texture to the curd. It is served also in earthen pots chilled.
Come the season of winter, people in eastern India gear up to prepare Pithas. One of the popular East Indian desserts, prevalent among all the states. There is a wide range of Pithas, some are steamed, some are fried and whereas others are griddled. Few have a stuffing too inside them with coconut mainly. They are quite similar to of pancakes and are consumed as snacks in the evening and even during breakfast. Wheat flour or rice flour is the main ingredient. The stuffing is made with grated coconut cooked in sugar or jaggery.
Naru is a Bengali’s delight, a sweet specifically prepared during the festive season. The sweet is offered to the Gods in many households. In rural areas, a common sight is to observe ladies huddled together to prepare Narus, forming groups. Some grate the coconuts, while some mix the coconut with jaggery or sugar in a big container and some start preparing the small round brownish balls with the mixture. It’s an art and skill to shape the balls with absolute smoothness. Narus must be consumed bit by bit to feel the essence of its texture and flavor.
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