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Enigmatic India

This blog captures the life experiences of the Enigmatic India team in the beautiful and enigmatic country of India.We capture our experiences through our writings, photos and products that depict the very essence and fabric of India.Through this platform, we invite you to join us in our journey as we explore.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rasagollas at Pahala, Odisha...A tradition of Eastern India

Plate of pahala Rasagollas
Plate of Pahala, Rasagollas
Last week Dr. Bibek Debroy (Economist and Member, NITI Ayog) at the "Make in India" summit commented that the he believed "Rasagolla" was invented in Odisha, much to the joy of the Odia delegation and maybe bringing disappointment to the delegation from Kolkotta. Doesn't matter whether both the states(Odisha or West Bengal) are fighting over the GI status(do not read it as Gastro-intestinal, rather Geographical Indication), Rasagollas continue to have a special place in our hearts.

If you have grown up in Eastern India especially Odisha or West Bengal, Rasagollas form a fabric of daily life. Though the identities of both are visually different with one being "beige" and the other "white", it's the Cottage Cheese("Chenna") that forms the heart of a well defined and tasty Rasagolla. Well, Rasagolla term probably is very simple to understand "Ras" stands for Syrup/liquid and "golla/gulla" is something that is round in shape. So Rasagollas are round in shape and dipped in sugar syrup.

Mahaveer Mistana Vandar, Pahala, Odisha
Now, zooming into a place called Pahala, located between Cuttack and Bhubaneshwar on the NH-16(earlier NH-5 running between Chennai and Kolkata), this place has been traditionally(for more than 600 years) known for making various sweets - Rasagollas, Chenna poda, Chenna Gajja, etc. The food craftsmen from this village have been churning out these wonderful sweets over generations.

We stopped by at "Mahaveer Mistana Vandhar" to enjoy some Rasagollas. Babuli, one of the proprietors of this place was very keen to show us around and we latched onto this opportunity to see how "rasagollas are made". Well the cooking place just behind the counter was obviously not very neat, as there were wooden logs to make the fire and large vessels to cook the sweets. However the process of making them were just spell-bounding and we witnessed it for the first time.

The process of making it (handmade and not mechanized) is seemingly quite simple(watch the video):

1. Take fresh "chenna" and knead it, to make it light
2. Add "suji" and "elaichi" if you want to enhance tasty
3. Roll the "chenna" to small round balls
4. Drop them into hot sugar syrup
5. After 10-15 mins pull them out and drop them into hot water
6. Finally add the hot sugar syrup
7. Hot and yummy Rasagollas are ready to savour.
(Well, I am not an expert here and there are many other ways of doing it. So, you should try the method you are comfortable with :-))

After having our stomach fill of Rasagollas, Babuli offered us another very traditional dish i.e. Chenna Poda. This is made by baking the cottage cheese, which are wrapped in leaves and then baked over fire generated from firewood. Very tasty and quite healthy as its baked and not you should try them if you are in Pahala.

Unlike pickles (which have natural preservative i.e. oil and salt), sweets like rasagollas are quite perishable in nature and it continued to haunt us for many years. One couldn't store them for long for carry them on long journeys. This problem was solved by two entrepreneurs in each state i.e. Krishna Chandra Das from Kolkatta  and Bikalananda Kar from Odisha who introduced the concept of tinned cans. With this the sweets have started reaching out to different parts of the world and lot of people are enjoying them.

So, if you are India Or in either West Bengal or Odisha don't miss-out on enjoying this fabulous "Made in India, Made in Odisha and Made in West Bengal" delicacy.

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