Rasagollas from Pahala (Bhubaneswar)
|Alternative name(s)||Rasagola, rasagolla, rosogola, roshogolla, khirmohan, kheermohan|
|Place of origin||India|
|Region or state||Odisha|
|Main ingredient(s)||Chhena, semolina, sugar|
|Variations||Kolkata white rasgulla|
Rasgulla (Oriya: ରସଗୋଲା rasagola; Sanskrit: रसगोलकम् rasagolakam; Bengali: রসগোল্লা rôshogolla; Urdu: رس گلہ rasgullā; Hindi: रसगुल्ला rasgullā) is a cheese-based, syrupy sweet dish popular in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha. The dish originated in Odisha. The dish is made from ball shaped dumplings of chhena (an Indian cottage cheese) and semolina dough, cooked in light syrup made of sugar. This is done until the syrup permeates the dumplings.
Typically, a 100 gram serving of rasgulla contains 186 calories, out of which about 153 calories are in the form of carbohydrates. It also contains about 1.85 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein.
The rasgulla originated in Odisha, where it is also known by its original name, Khira mōhana. It has been a traditional Oriya dish for centuries. People throughout the state consider the rasgullas prepared by the Kar brothers, the descendants of a local confectioner, Bikalananda Kar, in the town of Salepur, near Cuttack to be the best. Today this rasgulla famously named Bikali Kar Rasgulla is sold all over Odisha Another variant of this dish that is made in the town of Pahal, located between the cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, is also very popular locally.
Pahala, where only rasgulla and its derivatives, chhenapoda and chhenagaja are available, is reputed to be the largest market in the world for chhena sweets. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the popularity of rasgulla spread to neighboring West Bengal. This was during a period when Bengali cuisine borrowed heavily from Oriya culinary traditions. A sweet seller named Haradhan Moira may have introduced the dish to Bengal. In the year 1868, Nobin Chandra Das, a local confectioner of Kolkata, modified the recipe of the rasgulla as he wanted to extend the life of the sweet which was originally highly perishable. His son, K.C.Das started canning the product leading to wider accessibility.
Eventually the rasgulla gained popularity all across India and the rest of South Asia. Although traditionally sold inside clay pots called handis in Odisha and sometimes in Bengal, sponge rasgullas in cans have become popular nowadays. Such canned rasgullas are available throughout India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as in South Asian grocery stores in Britain and North America. They are marketed not only by K. C. Das and other confectioners, but also by several other Indian sweet makers from places such as Bikaner and Delhi as well as manufacturers such as Haldiram's. More recently, it has been marketed by the Kar brothers as well. In Nepal, the rasgulla is popular under the name Rasbari. The Indian space agency, ISRO is developing dehydrated rasgullas for Indian astronauts in its planned manned mission in 2016.
Puri temple tradition
In the coastal city of Puri in Odisha, the rasgulla has been the traditional offering to the Hindu goddess, Lakshmi, the consort of the Puri temple's main deity, Jagannath. In fact, it is an age-old custom inside the temple to offer rasgullas to Lakshmi in order to appease her wrath for being ignored, on the last day of the eleven day long Rath Yatra (chariot festival). Only after the goddess has savored rasgullas, do the trinity of deities re-enter the temple precincts after their sojourn. Copious quantities of rasgullas are distributed to the numerous devotees who throng to witness the event. This intricate ritual, called Niladri Vijay, has traditionally marked the concluding of the festival every year.
The genesis of this temple tradition of offering rasgullas has been obscured with the passage of time. Nonetheless, it has led scholars to believe that the sweet may in fact owe its origin to the very temple itself. Eminent historian, J. Padhi has claimed that "The rasgulla is more than 600 years old. It is as old as the Rath Yatra in Puri". Upon close examination of religious scriptures in Puri, Padhi, as well as another researcher, S. C. Mahapatra have discovered that this practice of offering rasgullas to Lakshmi dates back at least 300 years. "The Rath Yatra, which started more than six centuries ago, has not changed with times. And until today, rasgulla is the only sweet offered to Mahalaxmi, Jagannath's consort, to appease her when the deities return home," Padhi observes. The antiquity of this sweet is further highlighted by traditional Oriya folklore that likens Jagannath's round eyes to rasgullas. It has been suggested that Bengali visitors to Puri might have carried the recipe for rasgulla back to Bengal in the nineteenth century.
B. K. Industrial Training Centre
In order to revive traditional Oriya sweet dishes, the Odisha government in collaboration with Jadavpur university, Kolkata, has set up an Industrial Training Centre in Cuttack, that is named after the legendary confectioner, Bikalananda Kar. The institute trains students in both modern and traditional methods of sweet making of over 500 different varieties of sweets from Odisha and the rest of India, including the rasgulla.
Rasgullas have traditionally been served at room temperature. However modern Indian households also tend to serve them chilled. A popular variant in Odisha and Bengal is freshly prepared hot rasgullas. In Odisha, it is not uncommon to embed a single raisin or cashew inside each rasgulla. Cardamom seeds may also be embedded to create a fragrant version. In northern India, the dish comes flavored in saffron, rosewater, and sometimes garnished with chopped pistachios.
Rasgulla is the first syrupy Indian cheese desserts. It is the precursor of many other eastern Indian delicacies, such as Chhena Jhili, rasmalai, chhena gaja, raskadam, chamcham, pantua, malai chop, and kheersagar. Rasgulla, along with chhena gaja and chhena poda, forms the classic Oriya trinity of chhena desserts. In Bengal, rasgulla and a variety of other chhena sweets such as sondesh, are collectively referred to as Bengali sweets.
Kamalabhog, which mixes orange extract with the chhena, is commonly sold in Bengal. In the dish kheersagar, thick, sweetened milk called rabidi is used instead of sugar syrup. While this dish is largely confined to Odisha, a similar dish rasmalai has become very popular throughout India, mainly due to the efforts of the Kolkata based confectioners K. C. Das, Ganguram and Bhim Nag. In that, the syrup is replaced with sweetened milk of a thinner consistency. Malai chop, a Kolkata invention, consists of prepared chhena that is sandwiched with a layer of sweetened clotted cream. In the Bengali pantua, the chhena balls are deep fried in oil before being soaked in syrup.
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