If there is one community synonymous with ‘sweet’, it is the Bengalis – be it their language, personalities or simply, their sweets.
And their simple but a true joy-to-the-palate, sondesh is a must during the festival of lights. Very few Bengalis today make sondesh at home, but DNA was lucky to savour some made by Sunanda Bose. She has been making the sweetmeat on every Diwali for past 20 years.
Sunanda moulds the sondesh into various shapes – embellished circles, shells, and squares. “These moulds are available only in West Bengal and made specifically for sondesh,” she says. “If moulds aren’t available we can also make laddoos and barfi of the chhena (primary ingredient of the sweet),” she adds.
Though she prepared coconut sondesh for us, Sunanda informs that there are several variants of the much-loved sweet.
“Pure chhena, milk, mango papad and date lend myriad flavours to the sondesh,” says Sunanda who retired as a school teacher.
For mango sondesh, she informs, mango papad is sandwiched between two layers of paneer and pressed into a mould.
“Similarly, grated paneer can be added to thickened milk to make pure paneer sondesh,” says Sunanda.
While the above steps might read easy, making sondesh isn’t everybody’s piece of cake, which is reason why it isn’t made at home these days. “The milk (for sondesh) needs constant stirring so that it doesn’t burn or stick to the vessel. Stirring should continue till the milk becomes a dry lump, and this can take upto an hour of work,” says Sunanda.
Sunanda spends most of the time with hobbies and her art, and making sweets such as the sondesh for her family. A true Bong, we say!