|Alternative names||Rasagola, Rasagolla (Oriya), Rossogolla or Roshogolla (Bengali), Rasbari (Nepali)|
|Place of origin||Indian subcontinent|
|Main ingredients||Chhena, Sugar|
Rasgulla is a syrupy dessert popular in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Odisha, West Bengal and Mauritius. The dish originated in Odisha centuries ago, while a whitish spongy variant (called "Bengali Rasgulla" or "Sponge Rasgulla") became popular in Bengal in the 19th century. Rasgulla 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.
The rasgulla originated in the present-day Odisha, as Khir Mohana. It has traditionally been offered as a special offering to goddess Lakshmi a day after the famous Ratha Yatra or car festival at Jagannath Temple, Puri. While the exact dates are not known, the ritual seems to have existed for at least 600 years. So, Rasagolla is surely centuries old.
The spongy, white variety of Rasgulla that is most popular today originated in present-day West Bengal. In 1868, a Kolkata-based confectioner named Nobin Chandra Das modified and perfected the traditional rasgulla recipe to produce this less perishable variant. Das invented a novel method of processing the chhena in boiling sugar syrup in his sweet shop located at Sutanuti (present-day Baghbazar). Bhagwandas Bagla, a Marwari businessman and a customer of Nobin Chandra Das, popularized Das' Rasgulla variant beyond the shop's locality by ordering huge amounts. In 1930, the introduction of vacuum packing by Nobin Chandra's son Krishna Chandra Das led to the availability of canned Rasgullas, which made the dessert popular outside Kolkata, and subsequently, outside India. Krishna Chandra's son Sarada Charan Das established the K.C. Das Pvt Ltd company in 1946. Sarada Charan's younger, estranged son Debendra Nath established K.C. Das Grandsons in 1956.
Today, canned rasgullas are available throughout India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as in South Asian grocery stores outside the subcontinent. In Nepal, Rasgulla became popular under the name Rasbari.
Puri temple tradition
In the coastal city of Puri in Odisha, the rasgulla has been the traditional offering (bhog) to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. According to the tradition, her consort Jagannath tries to pacify her by offering her rasagullas, so that she lets his convoy enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. This ritual, known as Bachanika, is part of the "Niladri Bije" (or "Arrival of the God") observance, which marks the return of the deities to the temple.
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. According to the researcher Jagabandhu Padhi, the dish was invented in Puri and is as old as the Puri Ratha Yatra festival. Another researcher, Sarat Chandra Mahapatra, has stated that several religious scriptures, which are over 300 years old, provide the evidence of rasgulla offering ritual in Puri. It is possible that the Bengali visitors to Puri might have carried the recipe for rasgulla back to Bengal in the nineteenth century.
The traditional rasgullas of Odisha are softer, more creamish in colour than white, and less spongy than the Bengali rasgullas. The Bengali rasgullas are whitish and rubbery. In Odisha, it is common 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.
In Odisha, the Bikali Kar Rasagola prepared by the Kar brothers (the descendants of Bikalananda Kar) in Salepur, Cuttack, is very popular. The Pahal Rasagola from the Pahala area (located between the cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack) is also popular in Odisha.
While, Rasgullas have traditionally been served at room temperature, the modern Indian households also tend to serve them chilled. Freshly-prepared hot rasgullas are also popular.
Derivatives and similar desserts
Along with Chhena Gaja and Chhena Poda, Rasgulla is one of three traditional Oriya chhena desserts. Due to Rasgulla becoming associated with the Bengali cuisine, the Odisha Milk Federation has tried to popularize chhena poda as the signature Oriya dessert.
In Bengal, Sondesh is another popular chhena dish. 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.
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.
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