Food in Bardhaman
Food is one of the major attractions for tourists visiting the city of Bardhaman. Apart from basic food staples, the speciality of Bardhaman lies in its desserts. Although the whole state of West Bengal is famous for the wide variety of delectable sweets that are made here, people travel from far and wide and specially come to Bardhaman just to savour the local fare of delicious sweetmeats that are available in the city of Bardhaman.
Local Specialities of BardhamanSitabhog, Mihidana and Lengcha are said to have been originated in the district of Bardhaman, have been made countless times and have been perfected over the years.
According to recent research studies, the average daily revenue from the sales of Sitabhog and Mihidana is around Rs 25 lakhs to Rs 30 lakhs and about 50 manufacturers are involved in the business of producing Sitabhog and Mihidana. This provides us ample evidence about the popularity of these delicious and mouth-watering sweets. The fame and demand for Sitabhog and Mihidana is so much that they can be found in even the smallest sweetshops in Bardhaman that are tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the city.
Sitabhog is a flavourful dessert that looks like white rice or vermicelli mixed with small pieces of Gulab Jamuns. Made from cottage cheese (also known as chhana in Bangla), rice flour and sugar, Sitabhog often gives the appearance of pulao, which is albeit sweet in taste. The cottage cheese and rice flour are rolled into a smooth dough using ghee in a 1:4 proportion. The dough is then passed through a ‘sev mould’ so that it strains like thin threads of vermicelli and is deep fried in a pan of ghee. These strips are fried until they are cooked properly and then soaked into sugar syrup that has been flavoured with bay leaf, cloves and saffron essence. The small dumplings that are added to Sitabhog are known as Nikhuti which are made up of flour, milk powder and ghee. These dumplings are deep fried in ghee, dipped into sugar syrup and then added to Sitabhog.
Mihidana is another scrumptious sweet dish which is made up of a batter of a small amount of gram flour and three different varieties of powdered rice, namely Kaminibhog rice, Gobindobhog rice and Basmati rice. The batter is blended with water till it is light and fluffy and flavoured with strands of saffron. The mix is then passed down through a large perforated ladle into a hot pan of ghee and fried till it gets cooked properly. Thereafter, these deep fried small grains are dipped into sugar syrup and the excess sugar syrup is drained properly once the grains absorb the sweetness of sugar.
Recognised as the heritage sweet of India, Mihidana is more like a micro cousin of the sweet and traditional ‘Boondi’ that is easily available in many sweet shops and temples of North India. However, Mihidana is finer in texture and is a sweet lover's delight because of the extra and special flavours that are typical of West Bengal. The recipe for Mihidana, which has been the handiwork of the sweet makers of Bardhaman, has been patented by the Government of West Bengal.
Sitabhog and Mihidana are sold between an average of around Rs 80 to Rs 150 per kilogram in the sweet shops around Bardhaman. However, visitors coming into Bardhaman can also savour these sweetmeats by buying them in small plates or ‘donnas’ as they are locally called. Since these sweets are made up of milk products that can curdle up in bad weather, Sitabhog and Mihidana are highly perishable items and they should be consumed within the same day.
Sitabhog and Mihidana have a very intriguing colonial past. It has been said that on 10th February in the year 1905, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy and the Governor General of India had visited Bardhaman to bestow the title of ‘Maharaja’ on the then King of Burdwan, Vijaychanda. In order to welcome the Viceroy, the king commanded the sweet makers all over the district of Bardhaman to make a unique and innovative dessert. One such local sweet maker, Bhairav Chandra Nag came up with the recipe of Sitabhog and Mihidana to commemorate the occasion and thus, these delectable sweetmeats were born.
Shaktigarh is a small place which is at a distance of about 12 kilometres from the main city of Bardhaman. The Langcha of Shaktigarh is a delectable sweetmeat that is famous all over the district of Burdwan. The Langcha is made up of cottage cheese (chhana), khoya (reduced solidified milk) and the pulp of chikoo which are mixed together along with a bit of cardamom to form a dough. This dough is then divided into small elliptical shapes, stuffed with a nakuldana (a hard sugar candy) in the middle, deep fried in ghee whereby the nakuldana gets melted due to the heat and gives a lovely flavour to the langcha and then soaked into sugar syrup.
The langchas are easily available in Bardhaman and visitors can relish these delicious desserts at a meagre cost between Rs 3 to Rs 20 per piece. The daily income generated from the sales of langchas is calculated to be around Rs 10 lakhs which are made by about 25 manufacturers around the town, as recorded by recent studies.
The conception of Shaktigarh’s langcha dates back to around 90 years ago when there had been a matrimonial alliance between the King of Burdwan and the Princess of Krishnanagar in Bengal. After the marriage, during her pregnancy, the Queen of Burdwan expressed a desire to eat a unique ‘mishti’ (meaning sweet) that was prepares by the sweet makers of her maternal home in Krishnanagar. Consequently, a sweet maker in Burdwan prepared the same ‘mishti’ that was innovatively prepared from chhana (cottage cheese), khoya and chikoo, a seasonal summer fruit. As the sweet maker who had prepared the sweet was lame and walked with difficulty which is termed as ‘langchano’ in Bangla, this delicious dessert was named ‘langcha’.
Food Specialities of Bardhaman
Since the district of Bardhaman is an agricultural district, the primary produce of the district is rice and it is also the staple food of the people living here. The inhabitants of Bardhaman have rice in its various forms as a main ingredient of their lunches and dinners. Along with rice, fish is also a staple of the people residing in Bardhaman. Rohu fish along with many varieties of prawns are the specialities of Bardhaman. These different types of sea food are cooked in a variety of ways which include curries and fries. ‘Chingdi Maacher Malai Curry’ (Prawns cooked in Coconut Sauce) and ‘Shorshe Bata diye Rui Maacher Jhol’ (Rohu Fish cooked in a mustard curry) are some of the lip-smacking dishes that are available in Bardhman.