Shubho Bijoya to all of you!
A few months ago my Rasgullas or Roshogollas was aired on Noor Dubai TV and Dubai One during Ramadan (above video). And I got the video in hand today just as I had sat down to write a festive post wishing all of you a Shubho Bijoya! And whoosh by some sudden act of magic, came up the video at the perfect junction when I was ransacking my photo albums to write a very, very Bengali post.
If you are hopping into my blog for the first time and wondering why you are being pulled into such a Bong (colloquial term to Bengalis) post – well, I am at this moment on a massive overdose of Bengali nostalgia and elation. Nostalgic because sitting here on the shores of Dubai, I am reminded continuously of the moments that I’ve grown up with… specially Durga Pujo. But at the same time Elated because here I am – a Bengali when I’m outside and an outsider in Bengal – sharing my stories with all of you coming from so many different parts of the world or coming from the same country I come from but living in different parts of the world!
Rasgulla Macapuno & Essence of Living in Dubai
In the month of May this year I had written a post – Rasgulla Macapuno – When a Filipina Turns Bong! Yet another fusion recipe on Rôshogolla – perhaps the most famous of all Bengali sweet and definitely my favourite subject to write on and to experiment. It’s a tribute to my my Lady Friday (LF) without whom my endless photographic sessions on food experiments would never have materialised. LF hails from Bikol, a region in Phillipines which is known for it’s spicy fare. Filipino food is cooked on a regular basis in our kitchen along with traditional Bengali or we end up cooking some Bengali Fusion food!
When I eat some traditional Filipino dish, I talk about how we could use and adapt it to our Bengali palate. When LF eats some Bengali dish she talks about how similar dishes exist in her cuisine or may be how a little addition here and there would make it quite easy to pass off as a Filipino dish.
If staying with a person from a different culture for a long time doesn’t inspire us, we must be devoid of all emotional sensibilities. The real essence of living in a city like Dubai is that for a Filipina who’s turned into a Bong, there is a Bengali me who’s turned into a Filipina!
Reem, Ramadan, Akl el Bait… and the Emirati woman of today
A very young, elegant lady (though I would like to say girl) by the name of Reem from Noor Dubai TV comes home to make a film on akl el bait or homemade food for Ramadan. Not writing anything on her would be wiping off some very essential facts about the modern generation of Emirati women. Sweet and almost shy but insisting on carrying her cameras and other props all by herself, Reem seems absolutely determined. She bowls me over – ‘I love Rabindra Sangeet and I love watching Bengali films’!
While the shoot was on in the living room, I had almost locked my Mum (my parents were incidentally visiting us at that time) inside. Mum being a typical Mum would otherwise start being her usual self… ‘Orokom kore Channata makhish na/Don’t knead the dough like that’ or ‘Dekh bhalo kore shirata phutlo kina/Check whether the Sugar Syrup is boiling properly’.
Sorry Mum, I’m a food blogger trying all I can to be caught in the right ‘social’ radar, please don’t snatch my thunder away from me, not yet. And definitely, not in-front of this sweet, young girl who’s called Reem!
Reem not only listens to Rabindra Sangeet but actually requested my mum to sing ‘Bodhu kon alo laglo chokhe‘ pronouncing the word in perfect Bengali. Reem loves listening to Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya (official site – here), the very famous Rabindra Sangeet exponent from Bangladesh. Dear Reem, this is for you as my Mum stumbled with the words while she sang for you (Forgive me Mama, for stealing your thunder away slightly – tit for tat!) singing. The least I owe you is a complete hearing of the song. Do click here to listen.
Bodhu-Kon-Alo-Laglo-Chokhe (webmusic.in) by Ishita Saha
Love for World Cinema has shaped Reem’s knowledge, exposing her to different cultures. She converses on Bengali Cinema and Rabindra Sangeet just like a proud quintessential Bengali would in a typical Bengali cultural meeting or a friendly dinner get-together. Her request of ‘Oh I can’t remember that song in Chokher Bali… can you sing that Mama?’ or ‘Give my regards to Mela’, my LF, every time we interact is absolutely touching.
‘There’s one condition when you mail me’, she tells me ‘and that is you’ll have to send me a Bengali song every time, preferably Rabindra Sangeet’!
And yes, Reem, I love the film that you have made on my dish and a few others I know for your Ramadan special episodes. You are a brilliant representation of modern generation Emirati women who are shaping up Dubai with their well manicured hands and a treasure chest full of knowledge and awareness in your brains. Professional yet humane, articulate yet coy, opinionated yet subtle.
Historically, the Emirati women had been responsible for looking after the day to day needs of their families as the menfolk who had been primarily engaged in pearl diving and fishing, left for work for many long months.
As the late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said, “Nothing could delight me more than to see the woman taking up her distinctive position in society … Nothing should hinder her progress … Like men, women deserve the right to occupy high positions according to their capabilities and qualifications.”
The right of UAE women to take part in the development of all areas of their society is laid out in the UAE Constitution, adopted when the federation was founded in 1971. It states that social justice should apply to all and that, before the law, women are equal to men. They enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles and access to education. They have the right to practice the profession of their choice… More here.
Today, Emirati women are significantly contributing to the nation’s progress – in all spheres of life – be it in the private sector or the public sector. The following articles are interesting reads on the roles that Emirati women play in the development of today’s UAE… The role of Emirati women in the UAE (The National), The Women in the UAE (Wikipedia)
Back to Rôshogolla or Rasgulla
This Bengali sweet is amazingly versatile – made from balls of Chhana/Paneer/Indian Cottage Cheese or Ricotta Cheese and Suji/Semolina dough. Then these soft and spongy balls are cooked in a sugar syrup. In Dubai, there are many Indian sweet shops selling good Rasgullas. We get our Rasgullas from Chappan Bhog which is located opposite Centrepoint on the Karama side of the Trade Centre road. Rasgullas from Chappan Bhog are soft and meets all the Bong sweet-satisfying criterion though it’s completely a subjective issue. Some prefer their Rasgullas from Puranmal and others from Bikanerwala, all located in Karama and details can easily be found over the internet.
The following Rasgulla recipe is from Cook Like A Bong. I have used the same recipe with stupendous success. The Rasgullas came out soft and round and absolutely crack-less!
For the Gollas or the round Channa balls
Full Fat Cow’s Milk – 2 litres (will make about 24 Rosogollas)
Juice of 2 limes
Suji/Semolina – 1 tsp
Maida/Plain Flour -1 tbsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Muslin Cloth/Fine strainer
For the Shira/Sugar Syrup
Water – 5 cups
Granulated Sugar – 3 to 4 cups (depending on whether u have a sweet tooth or not!)
Green Cardamom – ½ tsp Crushed
Rose Water – 2 tsp
Saffron – 1 small pinch
Method of Preparation
For the Gollas
- Heat the milk in a deep bottomed sauce pan and bring to boil
- Add the lemon juice slowly to curdle the milk
- Once the milk is fully curdled and the green whey has been released. Place the muslin cloth on a strainer and slowly drain – the whey out
- Keep the Paneer under cool running water for a few seconds (this will remove any smell of lime)
- Tie the ends of the cloth and hang for an hour. In a large bowl start kneading the Paneer
- Add the semolina and flour and knead for about 5-10 mins till the dough is soft and smooth
- Divide into equal sized round smooth balls (Note: Keep an eye on the size of the balls as they will get bigger-about double the original size!!) Make sure the balls are crack free!
For the Shira/Sugar Syrup and the Rosogollas
- Heat water and sugar in a wide mouth stock pot
- Add the rose water and cardamom powder after the water starts boiling and the sugar is dissolved
- Lower the heat and add the balls one at a time
- Cover the pot and cook on lowest flame for about 40-45 mins
- Remove lid and add the saffron strands and cook for another 5 mins
- Take the pan off heat and let it sit for 5 mins. Garnish with roughly chopped pistachios and serve warm
There is a superb conversation going on here regarding the making of Rôshogollas. It is a definite read for those who are attempting to make Rôshogolla at home. An excerpt from my essay on Roshogolla – Rôshogolla or Rasgulla – Bengali’s Own Sweet…
Importance of Chhana
Chhana is fresh, unripened curd cheese widely used in India and Bangladesh and is a crumbly and moist form of Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese or farmer cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids). This Cutting of the Milk to make Chhanna ie Acidification is the most important factor affecting the quality of Rôshogolla. Chhana is created in a similar process to Paneer except that it is not pressed for as long. Though the Paneer can be traced back to the Vedas dating back to 3000 BC and has an Indian origin, Chhana that is the base for most of the Bengali Sweets has been imported from Portugal and can be traced back to the Portugese settlements in Bengal during the 16th Century AD.
Important Factors Affecting the Quality of Rôshogolla
– The Cutting of the Milk to make Chhanna ie Acidification is the most important factor affecting the quality of Rôshogolla
– Rosh or Chasni ie the thickness or BRIX of Sugar Syrup
– The temperature and the way the medium ie the previous day’s whey water, vinegar, lime is introduced to cut the milk (the best results are produced when you slowly introduce the acid medium into the milk)
Please watch (though technically I should be asking you to read) a brilliant and beautiful post from Journey Kitchen on How to make Paneer at home.
Hailing from Philippines, this is a variety of coconut which has more flesh than the regular coconut. They are extensively used in making Filipino sweets, fruit salads, ice-creams with Macapuno flavours etc. Bottled or canned Macapunos are easily available in regular supermarkets in Dubai (Choitram’s, Al Maya Lal’s, Spinneys etc) and are available in different colours – green, red etc. I prefer to buy only the white Macapuno to complement the sanctity of my white Rasgullas!
It is also very easy to make Macapuno at home from regular coconuts. Coconuts are always available in the Lulu supermarkets or many other Asian supermarkets in Karama. Try to get a coconut which is very tender and will be having a lot of soft flesh inside - Shansh as it is called in Bengali.
Method of Preparation of Macapuno
Slice the soft kernel of a young coconut – the Shansh into thick strips. Mix it with white sugar and a small amount of water. Simmer in a pan for a while until it turns into a sweet syrup without dissolving the kernel strips completely.
Category – Dessert; Cuisine type – Bengali Fusion (Bong/Filipino)
Following are the characteristics of all recipes doling out of our little hands, big hearth -
♥ Easy to cook
♥ Regular canned products off the shelf may be used (However, we advocate using fresh products)
♥ Goes well both as a regular or party dish
♥ Children can easily help in making the dish (My two little sous-chéfs are aged 8 and 3 years!)
♥ And lastly, guaranteed to be tasty!
For the printable recipe →
Serves 5-6 persons (maybe less if they happen to be sweet-toothed Bengalis!)
Preparation time – 1 hr 30 minutes maximum (Making the Macapuno – 45-50 minutes; setting up – 10 minutes; Refrigeration – 30 minutes) or 10 minutes if you use bottled Macapuno
Rasgullas – 15 pieces (you can also get canned Rasgullas from Haldiram’s or other known brands. These are readily available in most hypermarkets like Carréfour, Lulu and other supermarkets like Spinneys or Choitram’s in selected locations)
Fresh Coconut Water – 1 glass
Macapuno – 1 cup (if prepared at home) or 1 Bottle
Saffron – 1/2 tsp, soaked in Milk
Pistachios – 4 tsp
Milk* – 2 cups
Method of Preparation
- Prepare the Macapuno (described earlier)
- Pour the Rasgullas into a deep glass bowl (it’s amazing to see them through the transparent glass when it seems like they are floating – there’s one photograph above!)
- Add fresh Coconut Water, Milk, Macapuno and the soaked Saffron
- Refrigerate and serve chilled
- Garnish with Pistachios just before serving
Durga Pujo around the world & I’m on a desi trail in Meena Bazaar!
As Bengalis celebrate the Pujo all around the world, I hit the roads of Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai area on the rebound… on my own little Desi trail! Contrary to the glitzy shopping malls in Dubai, Meena Bazaar has a different charm altogether. From glaring lightnings to the blaring horns from cars struck in perennial traffic, from the snaky lanes and by-lanes to the crowded main-road, from Indian and Pakistani stores selling traditional clothings to Iranian spice shops, from haute-couture fashion Boutiques (selling mainly traditional Indian and Pakistani ethnic attire) to stores selling high-street fashion, branded watch-houses to shops – the ’10 Dirhams shops’ selling inexpensive models, from electronics to home products, from computers to spare-parts, from quick-fixers like cobblers and menders to expensive tailoring shops – I love Meena Bazaar. Specially when the narrow dark alleys suddenly open up and you are hit with the bright sunlight and the sparkling sea-green waters of the Dubai Creek!
The alley leading to the Hindu temple is a sudden revelation – I love the cultural aspects of any religion – the strength in the spiritual beliefs and traditions of people believing in their respective faiths. The faces of people going into the temples with their flower offerings laid out on plates says it all – smitten with the belief of the submission to some strength above – however that may be defined in each individual’s respective religion.
Facebook reminds me of how forlorn and starved I am sometimes. Though I try to be generous and feel happy when my friends have the pleasure of some materialistic glory that I haven’t got myself but this is one moment when I break down, a little bit. Forget about the different cities in India that are celebrating Durga Pujo, the Facebook updates from my friends is testimony to similar celebrations the world over – Bangkok, Singapore, different cities in the US, UK and Europe, even Oman. Excepting the UAE. I would be lying if I said that Durga Pujo is not celebrated here. It is celebrated in Abu Dhabi, also in Dubai. The Pujo celebrations in Dubai takes place in the Sindhi Hall tucked into an alley in the Meena Bazaar area. Though this cannot be compared to the scale and the grandeur with which the celebrations occur world-wide. Yes, faith is in the mind but unfortunately celebrations aren’t!
The last entire week the Bengalis world-wide were caught up in a festive frenzy celebrating their biggest festival – the Durga Pujo. Today is Bijoya, the last day of the worship and the celebrations come to an end as everyone greets each other, the younger ones seeking the blessings of the elder ones. The Bengali married women wear their traditional white saris with red borders and perform the Sindoor Khela where the married women smear each other with Vermillion. The men engage themselves in embraces – the Kolakuli. Bengalis feed each other, gift each other and share with each other – yes, you guessed it correctly – Sweets!
As I binge on the Pujo pictures downloaded from the Facebook albums of my friends (with permission ofcourse) and inundate my desktop the following have been some Bong food posts that I’ve been drooling on -
Tomorrow is also Eid. This indeed is a festive season and I’ve only one thing to pray for – May your lived be filled with peace, prosperity, health and happiness. And may peace prevail everywhere!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. While you enjoy seeing them please don’t use them. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here. Chappan Bhog, Bikanerwala, Puranmal are just a few examples of very good sweet shops in Dubai. Most are located on Trade Centre Road in Karama and you may find all details from the internet.
My Dubai diary in this blog:
♦ Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City - Showcasing the city I love to call my home!
♦ My First Authentic Emirati Food Experience! – Al Fanar Restaurant, Dubai Festival City
♦ An Evening of Wine Tasting at Asado Wine Club – Asado Wine Club, The Palace Hotel, Old Town*
♦ The Label Project – Wines Tasted Blindly! – Invite to a Global Wine initiative from Jacob’s Creek
♦ TRIBES Celebrating South African Heritage Day! – TRIBES, the South African Restaurant in MOE*
♦ Zatar Lamb, Crushed Lemon Potato with Chef Ron Pietruszka – Treat 2012, Burjuman World Food Fest + a Recipe
♦ Back To Dubai, Back to Costa –A nostalgic recount of favourite coffee haunt
♦ Searching for Shiraz – Lucknow to Kolkata to Dubai – Nostalgic search for Kolkata’s famous Shiraz Restaurant ends with Siraz opening in Bur Dubai. Exploring some Awadhi/Lucknowy Khana!
♦ Down To Earth Organic Store In Dubai & Mutton Chick Peas Curry – An event + a Recipe*
♦ Mums Who Share @JBR - A charity initiative
♦ Deep Sea Fishing & Fish Barbeque – Persian Gulf off Dubai Coast
♦ The Million Street, in the middle of nowhere – Rub Al-Khali Desert, UAE
Bengali Food Banters you’ll find in my blog:
♦ Traditional Bengali Cuisine… In ‘Slight’ Details! – An etymological explanation to the Bengalis’ food festish
♦ Pickles… Mother (-in-law) Of All Pickles! – My Pickle Nostalgia
♦ Momos in Tiretti Bazar – The Last Chinese Remnants! – A chinese Bazar near Poddar Court
♦ Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park – An ode to Dilipda’s ‘world-famous’ Phuchka
♦ Bengali Sweets That Came By Parcel! – Gujia, Jibe Goja, Abaar Khabo & Jolbhora
♦ Rôshogolla (রসগোল্লা) – Bengali’s Own Sweet – An essay on the most famous Bengali Sweet
Bengali Food Recipes you’ll find in my blog: (Do click on Recipes, Reviews, Events for a complete list of all food banters)
♦ Mutton Kassa With Red Wine And Red Grapes – Bengali Fusion
♦ Khichuri As Harbinger of Hope & Kolkata Soaked In Rains – Traditional Bengali/Indian
♦ Hot Garlic Pickle… The Pickled Diary – Episode 1 – Indian Pickle
♦ Firni or Ferni, Ramadan or Ramzan, Mallick Bazar or Karama? – Indian Dessert
♦ A Tale of 2 Cities & Naru/Coconut Jaggery Truffles – Traditional Bengali
♦ Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park – Indian Street-food/Snacks
♦ Kaancha Aamer Chutney/Green Mango Chutney – Traditional Bengali
♦ Notun Gurer Payesh/Rice Pudding & My Dida – Traditional Bengali
♦ Rasgulla Macapuno – When a Filipina Turns Bong! – Dessert; Bengali Fusion
♦ Mango Lentil Soup/ Aam Dal – The Summer Combat – Dal; Traditional Bengali
♦ Easter Egg Curry – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion/Traditional Bengali/Continental
♦ Mashed Potato Bengali Style/ Aloo Bhaaté – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion
♦ Yoghurt Aubergine with Pomegranate – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion
♦ Purple Haze Yoghurt with Purple M&Ms – Dessert; Bengali Fusion
♦ Icecream Rasgulla with Blueberry Sauce – Dessert; Bengali Fusion