Beyond the sandesh and the rasgulla, there is a lot to be discovered in Bengal’s tradition of sweets. This one begins with a love story from medieval Bengal.
Dhanapati, a wealthy merchant, once wandered into a village in search of his favourite pigeon. It led him to the house of a beautiful maiden, Khullana. It was love at first sight and Dhanapati brought her home as his bride. When it was Khullana’s turn to cook the customary bou bhaat feast for the groom’s family, she floored everyone. That balanced meal is the gold standard of Bengali feasts, with its subtly flavoured shukto (a mixed vegetable dish), niramish mangsho (meat cooked without onion and garlic) fresh carp and prawns. But the dessert, made of gram flour, khoya and sugar syrup, was the piece de resistance. Today, gokul pithe is what Bengalis remember their grandmothers by: it is made in very few homes and you will not find it in any shop. The long process deters most cooks. Bengal gram is to be soaked overnight, boiled and then ground into a paste. With a little addition of maida, the paste is turned into a dough. Tiny discs are stuffed with khoya and coconut fillings and then rolled into tiny balls. They are fried till golden brown and then soaked in sugar syrup for a few hours. The result is a piece of heaven.
– Premankur Biswas