Eid Mubarak and Shubho Bijoya to all of you! Born a Hindu and brought up embracing all faiths, I am always amazed to find how different festivals from different faiths almost always coincide with each other – as if underlining my belief that we are ultimately bound by only one faith – that of humanity. It is all destined. Much like how my feature on a Food Safari of Bengal in BBC GoodFood Middle East’s 7th Anniversary Bumper issue coincided with the timing of writing a blog post on Bhapa Mishti Doi or the traditional steamed sweet yoghurt. I have been penning this down several times but it never got finished. I was determined to publish it during Eid and Bijoya. The latter is the culmination of the 5 day long autumn festival that surrounds around Durga Pujo – the most important festival for the Bengalis world wide. Every year, around this time, I anxiously wait for the Facebook uploads from our Bengali friends and family living around the world for an annual update on food and fashion ideas that are born during the Durga Pujo! This time, my brother led me through a journey of ‘Pandal hopping’ in Kolkata. He also shared his experiences of witnessing the Bishorjon or the immersion of idols in the River Ichamati – along the borders of India and Bangladesh, under the strict vigilance of the Border Security Forces. All via Whatsapp (I have shared the gallery below)!
Food Safari of Bengal in BBC Good Food Middle East, October issue: The article chalks out my childhood, my food and travel memories and Bengali cuisine, followed by the recipes of Bhapa Mishti Doi and Shorshe Bata Salmon or the Mustard Salmon (another version of the Mustard Salmon – with French mustard paste – in my blog). Both dishes are legendary *items* in Bengali Cuisine (obviously not the Mustard Salmon, but Mustard fish), although it doesn’t encompass all that Bengali Cuisine has to offer. If you are so interested, take a look at my post on what I often call, an encyclopaedic post on Bengali Cuisine. Following are some of the behind the scene shots of the photo shoot on the day the BBC GoodFood team came home. The photographs in the actual feature looks even more gorgeous (taken from the other side of the table!), so do grab yourself a copy and let me know what you think… The Travel Show of Dubai Eye 103.8FM: The protagonist in the last few months in my life has definitely been the Mishti Doi. Just a few days back, I had been chatting with Mark Lloyd and Lucy Taylor on the Travel Show of Dubai Eye 103.8FM about Kolkata, Bengali food, my blogging journey, Mishti Doi and more. Listen to the podcast – please relish the mmms as both Lucy and Mark taste the Mishti Doi on air!
Mishti Doi story and my thoughts on it: Mishti or sweets ‘belong’ to Bengalis. You will find many famous Indian sweet shops outside Bengal with a ‘Bengali Sweet’ Counter. Yes, even in Dubai – in Bikanerwala, Chappan Bhog and others. Sweets are a necessary sign-off for a traditional Bengali meal. A meal ends with a Chutney (a sweet, tangy paste that can be made with every conceivable fruit and even vegetables). After the Chutney comes the formal dessert tasting and the choices in Mishti/Sweets are absolutely endless. While Roshôgolla or the Rasgulla rules the popularity chart (yes, I have written an essay on them as well), the one dessert that comes a close second is definitely the Mishti Doi. While the making of the traditional Mishti Doi can be pretty time consuming and there is always the apprehension of whether the setting of the Doi is perfect, the Bhapa Doi or the steamed yoghurt can be pretty easy – you just have to steam it a bit longer if you find that it’s not set yet! In Kolkata, if you enter any sweet shop, you will get to see a stack of earthen pots in different sizes (above) – Mishti Doi is set in earthen pots like these. The traditional preparation of Mishti Doi calls for an elaborate process – caramelising the milk with sugar or Notun Gur / season fresh jaggery. The thickened milk is then let to ferment overnight in a container which has been coated with fresh yoghurt, which helps in the culture. An earthen pot allows gradual evaporation of water through its pores and provides the right temperature for the yoghurt to set in. Trust me, make Bhapa Mishti Doi instead!
I feel that Mishti Doi can cater to a non-Indian palette more than any other Indian desserts. As I spend more time with food and meet different people through my blogging, I have come to the conclusion that although people may enjoy and experiment with different types of cuisine, it’s not the same with desserts. My non-Indian friends may love Indian food, but when it comes to Indian desserts – they feel that they are too sweet. I absolutely love Thai food (having had a brilliant experience in the country along with some authentic Thai cooking lessons), I don’t get excited by Thai desserts. The liking for desserts, by and large, is probably an acquired taste. This is where Mishti Doi wins hands down over other Indian desserts. The texture and the taste resembles the crème brûlée or the pudding or the Dulce de leche – Journey Kitchen writes about her version of Mishti Doi – the Baked Dulce de leche Yogurt. The other day, I had dropped in at my friend and food blogger Debbie’s place (she writes as Coffee Cakes and Running) when she was in the midst of making her famous Banoffee Pie. The caramel toffee she had prepared tasted exactly like the Mishti Doi. A few blogger friends who had attended one of my Bengali Gourmet pop up in Book Munch earlier on (above), commented how the Mishti Doi would taste like a cheese cake filling if it had been thickened more – thus giving me new ideas – to set a thicker Mishti Doi in a pie crust. That would be my Mishti Doi Tart!
My own experiments on Mishti Doi: While the Mishti Doi Tart is yet to be born in my kitchen, there has been a few successful variants that I am already proud of. My friends and family are an integral part of my kitchen experiments – while the Z-Sisters are never tired of my experiments with Bengali fusion recipes, some friends willingly lend themselves to being the untiring guinea pigs (thanks Shelly). And there are other friends who are my *recipe consultants*. For example, Sumana. She is my authority on desserts – my *dessert consultant*, while with Neel I am always exploring new recipe possibilities. The former has successful inherited the recipe of Bhapa Mishti Doi, after having tweaked the original recipe from one of my favourite Bengali food blog – Bong Mom’s Cookbook. My recipe has been re-tweaked from Sumana’s. Often we brainstorm on different Mishti Doi variants. While different flavours of Mishti Doi are not unusual in Kolkata, like Elaichi Doi or the Mango Doi … from vintage sweet shop *Balaram Mullick*(estd in 1885!), we are currently experimenting variations of toppings, without changing the flavour of the original Bhapa Mishti Doi. Here are a few of them…
Bhapa Mishti Doi with pomegranates or the saffron topping – both worked very well (Lucy Taylor commented that the latter tasted like honey). Again, Debbie accidentally discovered during my Bengali Gourmet pop up event, the Mango chutney topping (above), which I have to admit worked really well! The next on the pipe line is the hard caramelised topping a la the crème brûlée! I have also tried setting the Bhapa Mishti Doi in one big earthen pot (below) – the challenge lies in not burning the surface, while making sure that it has thickened consistently. I ended up burning the surface as well as the earthen pot and spoilt the look by scraping off the burnt crust. It tasted very good, nevertheless!
Bhapa Mishti Doi or Steamed Sweet Yoghurt
1 1/2 can of sweet condensed milk (I use Nestle, each can = 350 gm)
1 can of evaporated milk (I use Rainbow, each can = 410 gm)
1 kg of plain yoghurt
1/2 tsp saffron strands
- Whisk the sweet condensed milk, evaporated milk and yoghurt finely or beat with a hand mixer or in the blender till nice and frothy
- Pour them into small ceramic pots (if you can’t get hold of earthen pots)*
- Sprinkle Saffron strands on top
- Pre heat Oven to 350º F. Fill a large baking tray with water. Put each pot with the mix in it so that water is half way up. Do not cover the baking dish
- After 30 – 35 minutes the yogurt will set. If not, allow a couple of more minutes. It’s ready when the top and the edges start browning a little. At this point insert a tooth pick lightly to see if it is done (the tooth pick should come out clean. It might be a little wobbly but cool in the refrigerator for 5-6 hrs or overnight to set completely). Take it out and chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
Why don’t you try out pomegranates for a topping?
*Note: I get my earthen pots from the Bombay Chowpatty, located in the food court of Lulu Al Barsha. The smaller ones cost Dhs 2/piece. Normally they don’t sell these but I persist. Al Adil Supermarkets also stock them – but they are more expensive – Dhs 5/piece. Please wash them in running water and let them dry out before you use them.
(As shared in BBC GoodFood Middle East, October 2014)
I have thought of writing this blog post so many times and have clicked various pictures at home. Probably, it wasn’t time yet! Not until now, I guess. I am happy that the Bhapa Mishti Doi gets a bit of publicity and so does the Z-Sisters! Do let me know what you think of it… and also the Food Safari on Bengal. I have been really keen on a write up on Bengali food in BBC GoodFood Middle East from the first time I got a mention in the magazine as ‘Meet the blogger’ – way back in August 2012! Do have a look at the incredible gallery of Durga Pujo in Kolkata – including the royal Shovabazaar Raajbari Pujo, and also the Bishorjon in the River Ichamati, as shared by my brother (@Kolkatan on Instagram). Stay blessed!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can catch my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
@Kolktan’s pick of the most creative idols…
Immersion in River Ichamati…
And finally, Pujo fashion…