If foods could write their stories, how would it be?
If Mexican Mole could write about the day a nun walked into the kitchen, randomly grabbing ingredients around leading to the birth of a dish that represents Mexico.
What if Mysore Pak could tell you about the day chickpea flour and sugar were drenched in ghee in the royal kitchens of the Wodeyars and later be devoured by the king himself?
The Rasgulla is an another interesting sweet. Though claimed to be from Odisha, it is a quintessential sweet/ dessert in West Bengal.
Rasgulla was originally offered to goddess Lakshmi at the Puri Jaganath Temple, Odisha on the last day of the annual Rathayatra. NC Das, who tried to recreate the dish, failed but came up with a simple form of the dish that could be made at home. His dish became so epic, it was assumed that the dish was invented by KC Das and is originally a Bengal sweet.
In another version, Brahmins from Odisha were invited to Bengali homes to cook in the 19th century. There is a chance that both these cuisines might have been influenced by each other and thus the similarities. Probably.
Same goes with Andaman. The Island has a Bengali population predominantly and their cuisines are very similar.
On the streets of Neil Island, just by the Jetty point, you’ll find women comfortably sitting with their sarees tucked higher than it should be, serving up juicy, spongy, soft Rasgullas, spiced carambola and pickled mangoes on square cut newspapers, all organized on her 4X4 piece of wooden board attached to her cycle.
The fact that she pulls each one out, one by one and hands it to you on a sticky piece of paper with a smile makes this experience better. I know a few may argue, but in that heat, that saltiness in the air, ocean breeze everywhere, that Rasgulla was the best I’ve ever had! Better than the ones from Kolkata. Yes, the Island weather made it better.
When I tried making Rasgullas at home, I wanted them to be at least half as soft as the ones I had had there. Since I am no expert in cooking with sugar syrup, I decided to bake them in a sweetened milk base.
To make the base: 500 ml milk
- 500 ml milk
- 1/4 cup unsweetened khova
- 3-4 tbs sugar
Boil the milk and reduce to half, add the khova and whisk till the base is smooth. Add sugar and boil for about 15 mins, or until the base had a consistency of whipping cream. Let cool.
In a ramekin, add a spoonful of the base mixture, place a rasgulla in the center (homemade or store bought) fill the ramekin with the base mixture or until the ragulla is submerged in it. Bake at 180C for about 10 minutes or till it starts to brown.
Let it cool for 3 minutes, garnish with toasted chopped nuts and dig in to taste the softest rasgullas.
Speaking of food in Andaman, I must mention Gagan’s Biryani. I don’t know where they are from or where they got their recipe, but this Biryani is spicy, flavourful and very different! Their spiced raitha was really, really good. Which is why you have to order it separately!