The article was written in 2021.
Let me just start by saying no one is more passionate about sweets than we Indians are and no Indian is as engrossed about confectionery as the Bengali folk! Bengalis and sweets are synonymous with one another, sweet or "Mishti" as they like to call it, is something and it's safe to say that their meals are never complete without Mishti! Sweets are an integral part of Bengali cuisine and are popular amongst all ages. I have personally not come across a sweet lover who hasn't tried and loved Bengali sweet.
In fact, the city of joy is well known for delicious food, especially sweets, you are bound to find at least one sweet shop in every street, if not more. It's almost impossible to find a Bengali who doesn't love sweets. These delicate yet tasty authentic Bengali sweets make up an integral part of Indian sweets and Indian cuisine.
Sweets or Mishti of Bengal is very well known to everyone, not just in the country but around the world. Some well-known Bengali desserts that you might have heard are - Rosogolla, Sandesh, Malai Chom Chom, which are traditional Bengali sweets. Basic ingredients used to make are Ghee, sugar-sweet syrup, condensed milk, dry fruits, cardamom, jaggery, coconut, flour, and cream.
There's no denying that Bengalis have a huge hand in shaping the history of sweet or mithai in the Indian culture. Bengali confectioners learned how to make chenna and cheese from the Portuguese. Modern-day favorite Bengali sweets Sandesh and Rosagulla originated in the last eighteenth century which are made by combining Chenna and sugar. In the early days of Bengal, even before the time Sandesh and Rosagulla were popular. Bengalis made some of the tastiest sweets using refined sugar. "Batasha" was one of the simplest of sweets that were a favorite was made of sugar lumps. The Bengali traditional sweet "pithe" and "payesh" are still considered amongst the favorites in West Bengal.
"Pithe" is made from jaggery and rice flour with a sweet stuffing of either sugar or coconut before chenna was introduced to sweet lovers in West Bengal. "Payesh" another Bengali dessert that was traditionally made with milk, rice, and jaggery or sugar, also has been part of Bengali cuisine for well over a century.
As mentioned before, chenna was introduced to Bengal when the Portuguese invaded and now almost all Bengali sweet dishes are primarily made from chenna (cottage cheese) and sugar. The Bengali confectioners were quick to pick up the art of curdling milk and went on to create mouth-watering sweets like Sandesh and Rosagulla among others.
Before I let give you the best places to satisfy your sweet tooth, let me first give you a gist of what's in the shop for you! Get ready to start drooling as below are some of the most enticing and iconic sweets of authentic Bengal sweets:
List of Best Bengali Sweets In Kolkata
No list that is about Indian sweets would miss this one out. Rasgulla is the essence of authentic Bengali sweets. This would probably be the favorite Bengali mithai for anyone who loves sweets. Rasgulla is basically made using curdled milk and separating chenna (cottage cheese or paneer) from whey. The chenna is then dried enough and made into small balls and is cooked in sugar syrup which is made by boiling powdered sugar in water. It's the most iconic Bengali sweet with one of the easiest recipes for preparing it right at home.
2. Sandesh Mishti
This one is probably number 2 on your list of the most delicious and satisfying Bengali sweet dishes. It is made from fresh chenna and comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and variations. You can even find chocolate Sandesh, if you fancy that. At some places, you find nuts in them as well. You can also find jaggery variants, accompanied by fruits. The preparation of Sandesh is very simple, chenna with sugar over light heat and then shape it any way you like or prefer. This is also one of those sweet dishes, you would definitely find this in every household along with the Rasgullas.
3. Mishti Doi
Another sweet dish that has originated in West Bengal, but is world-famous. Mishti Doi's literal translation is sweet curd, and that's exactly what the dish is all about. This is one of the simplest sweet dishes you could make, but could very well take on the other, more complex sweets of the region. You basically require only 3 ingredients - cream, curd, and sugar. It only takes a short while for preparing it, but you require patience for it to ferment and set overnight.
4. Kala Jamun
Also known as Kala Jaam is another favorite sweet dish every Bengali grew up eating. Kala Jamun is basically a darker and drier version of Gulab Jamun. It is slightly denser than Gulab Jamun and is stuffed with chopped pistachio and almond along with saffron
Another creation of West Bengal, this sweet is also quite famous and loved by people all over the country. It is very similar to one of their other creations - Rasgullas, the only difference that the chenna balls are soaked in malai and powdered cardamom and are cooked in a concoction of sugar syrup, milk, saffron, pistachios, and kheer. The end result is you get to enjoy a Rasgulla soaked in creamy milk and dry fruits. Needless to say, you're in for a treat with this one as well.
Another Bengali sweet dish that needs no introduction, similar to the Gulab Jamun, Pantua is served soaked in sugar syrup. It's one of West Bengal's classics and a must-try for everyone who likes Gulab Jamun. Pantua is made of Milk, Semolina, Ghee, Khoya and sugar.
Similar to the Jalebi, the name Amriti is derived from Amrita, meaning "Manna" which is the food of the gods. This one is surely not going to be a disappointment, from my personal experience, trust me when I tell you this, you can't stop after just eating one, you'll ask for a second and a third as well! It is prepared in a similar manner to the Jalebi but is distinct in design, decorated with curlicues around the edges.
If you ask me, Patishapta is like one of the best Bengali sweets for me. It comes in like the top 3 list for me personally! It's a festive favorite in this part of the country and definitely a treat to your taste buds. It's basically a crepe that envelopes a magical mixture of grated coconut, cardamom, jaggery, Khoya, and dry fruits. If you're in Kolkata during the festival season, you'll definitely see Patishapta prepared. Don't miss out on the chance to taste it if you get it.
9. Kheer Kadam
Try picturing a Rasgulla wrapped in a Sandesh, which is the closest description you could get for this Bengali sweet, it's like an unofficial fusion of 2 of the most beloved Bengali sweets, which gave birth to another mouth-water, jaw-dropping sweet. This is a typical Bengali traditional sweets and a must-try for everyone who loves sweets.
10. Nolen Gurer Sandesh
This is a variation of one of the sweet dishes already mentioned in the list, the Sandesh. But this sweet has a very distinct taste and which is why it deserves a special shout-out on this list. The Nolen Gurer Sandesh is a seasonal sweet dish that is only prepared in the winter season. For all the non-Bengali readers, Sandesh, or "Sondesh" as it's said in Bengali, means message. Since winter marks the start of the marriage season in India, Bengali's send good news along with this sweet dish! What makes it so special and tasty is that Norel Gur is added during preparing this sweet. These Nolen Gur Sandesh will simply melt in your mouth leaving you in bliss and in a heavenly state!
List of Best Bengali Sweets Shops In Kolkata
1. Bhim Chandra Nag, Strand Road
One of the oldest standing Bengali sweet shops, established way back in 1826, was and still is the pride of the city. You would some of the city's best sweets here, including the mighty Rasgulla. Served in a clay pot, like they used to back then, just bite and you would be transported back to the 1800s. They have pioneered the art of making some of the best Sandesh as well! This sweet shop in itself is very old and gives you an authentic feel when you visit the place. They are also known to invent another one of Bengal's classic sweet - the Ladikeni (named after Lady Canning, who was the wife of the British Governor, Lord Canning).
2. Ganguram, Chandni Chowk
Ganguram is a very well know and reputed sweet shop in Kolkata. It's a household name, anytime you need sweets in your house, just go to the nearest Ganguram and get them. This is because of the quality of sweets it maintains, people trust the name Ganguram. You should definitely try out their Rasgullas once. A little history about - Ganguram Chaurasia, hailing from Varanasi, comes to Kolkata at the time looking for work. Started working in a sweet shop that got closed due to an eviction notice by the Britishers. The shop owner gifted a small plot to Ganguram who then opened his own sweet shop which is still open and functioning! Must-try sweets when you visit Ganguram's are - Rasgullas, Amriti and Kala Jamun's.
3. Sen Mahasay, Shyambazaar
This is once again one of those places that have deep roots in the culture and Bengali dessert. Currently run by the 4th generation of the Sen Family. You could find authentic Bengali sweet dishes which taste really great. Even before entering, the fragrance would make you drool. Along with the Rasgullas, you must also try their Nolen Gurer Sondesh, Mihidana, Misthi Doi, Radha Bhallavi, Rabri, Monohara, Malai Chop, Pink Pera, and Rose Petal Sandesh. During its early days, such was its popularity that the shop was frequented by famous Bengali novelists such as Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay.
4. Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick, Bhowanipore
Another establishment that has been in Kolkata since the very early days and is still standing strong. Established in 1885, today it has numerous branches all over the city. Their sweets won't disappoint you. They are known for their quality since 1885, which is why their name is associated with trust. In fact, Industrialist, Lakshmi Mittal often orders sweets to be delivered to his residence in London. Their Rasgullas are always in demand and goes out of stock pretty quickly, alongside their chocolate Mishti and Nolen Gur Sandesh. They also specialize in making sweets with jaggery in them instead of sugar.
5. Chittaranjan Mistanna Bhandar, Shobha Bazaar
This was, is, and always will be known to make some of the most delicious and mouth-watering Rasgullas, if you are a Rasgulla fanboy, you have to visit this sweet house and try Rasgullas, it's kind of their specialty. They have been serving Rasgullas since 1907, and have seen them known for their awesome taste. It's also a century-old shop, run by generations of the same family, maintaining the same taste and quality of their sweets. They have 3 kinds of options for serving Rasgullas - Rs.10, Rs.15, and Rs.20, the difference is in the size they serve, the Rs.20 one being the biggest. I would strongly suggest you go for the biggest one! Their Rasgullas are soft and juicy. Another delicacy that is their specialty is Rasmalai. You should definitely try them!
6. Nalin Chandra Das & Sons, Nutan Bazaar
One more jewel in the history of West Bengal's sweets history. The original shop still is open and sells sweet to all its beloved customers. People who are mad about sweets and especially Bengali sweets would have definitely heard about this shop. They are very popular and famous for their Rasgullas, which are pure white in color, perfectly round in shape, and spongy and juicy. One bite of this tasty delicacy and you enter bliss. They are also very well known for their mango Sandesh. Their specialty is the baked Rasgullas, if you are even in town, head to Nalin Chandra Das & sons and definitely give the baked Rasgullas a try, they're worth it. Fun fact, this is the oldest sweetmeat in Kolkata, opened in 1841.
7. KC Das, Baghbazaar
This is probably one of the most iconic sweet houses in Kolkata. This shop has a lot of history. The owner of this establishment, Sarada Charan Das, his father, Krishna Chandra das was the original creator of the famous sweet "Rosomalai!" and what's even more incredible is that Krishna Chandra Das's father, Nobin Chandra Das, created "Rasgullas." That's right, you've entered the establishment that had created this masterpiece centuries ago. This is the birthplace of our Rasgullas. Moreover, KC Das was the first establishment at the time to sell sweets in vacuumed cans! The concept of taking canned sweet to your home started from KC Das. First set up in 1866, this establishment has been known for its quality and authenticity for Bengali sweets. The descendants of this establishment put West Bengal's name in history! Their rasgullas are unique and any sweet lover must definitely go to this shop and experience true satisfaction by eating their sweets. Apart from Rasgullas and Rosomalai, they are also very well known for milk-based sweets as well.
9. Hindusthan Sweets, Jadavpur
Another famous name in Kolkata known for its variety of fusion sweets which have a very distinct yet mesmerizing flavor. They are very famous among South Calcuttans. They have branches all over the city. They are known to have some of the best Rasgullas in town, so if you're craving some really tasty Rasgullas, you can head to the nearest Hindusthan sweets shop and fulfill your cravings.
10. Gupta Brothers Sweets
This is one of the most successful chain sweets shops in Kolkata. They have numerous branches spread all across the city. They are also considered among the top Rasgulla makers in the city. Their rasgullas are just really spongy and juicy. If you are in town and see one of their branches, do stop and try their rasgullas, you won't regret it.
And there you have it! Some of the best sweet dishes you can have and where can you find the best out of the best! If you ever plan on coming to Kolkata or if you're already here and new to the town, here's a complete guide for you to satisfy your taste buds and have the time of your life!