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Sweet as usual but not heavy on sweetness
- Mishti merchants adapt to changing palate

White chocolate sauce with a dollop of nolen gur blended with cottage cheese and transformed into an opulent orb of sandesh with a truffle topping. Sinful indulgence? No, sensible choice.

Health-conscious Calcuttans have forced the city’s mishti makers to alter the DNA of sweets that were once all about heavy-duty sweetness, calories be damned.

One of the cheeni-kum specials this Bhai Phonta is a fusion of east and west called Truffle Sandesh, a creation that is apparently high on taste and lower on calories.

“Conventional sweets have their fan club. But these days many want mishti that’s not too sweet,” said Sudip Mullick of Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick. “We are switching to fusion sweets like Blackcurrant Sandesh and Truffle Sandesh. These won’t overpower your tastebuds with sweetness.”

The thumb rule in the traditional sweet factories has been 700 to 750gm of sugar to go with 2.5kg of cottage cheese. This festive season, many have reduced the amount of sugar to around 500gm for the same amount of chhana.

“We now have a Butterscotch Sandesh where the crush is finely mixed with chhana to throw up a completely different taste. The same holds true for our Jaafran Chocolate Sandesh,” said Pradip Nag of Bhim Chandra Nag, the Bowbazar address that has been a pillar of sweetness for over 150 years.

The sweet makers don’t mind the shift in taste, particularly among the young. It helps them cut down on a commodity whose price has been constantly rising.

Sugar currently costs Rs 42 a kilo, against Rs 35-36 a few months ago. Cottage cheese has become costlier too, up from Rs 105 a kilo to Rs 160-180. Milk of the highest quality comes for close to Rs 50 a litre, against Rs 38 sometime ago.

Most sweet shops have increased the prices of their items as well with the items most in demand selling for between Rs 15 and Rs 35 a piece. They say price is not a deterrent for the customer, who is more bothered about the taste and the calories a particular item contains.

“Price is not an issue, at least not with our customers. Be it our Black Forest, the new Chanar Kulpi or the more traditional items like Parijat or Jol Bhora Sandesh, there is a market for each item,” said Prasanta Nandy of Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandy. “Those who say the love for mishti is dying should visit us.”

But what would sweets like Chitrakut, Khirer-Chop, Monohora and the evergreen Rosogolla be without their sweetness? Shop owners say the market for the traditional mishti is still the dominant one.

“We had introduced low-sweet white curd but our regular customers said they preferred the high-sweet red variety. High-calorie sweets reign supreme despite some customers demanding items that have little sugar,” said Robin Paul of Hindusthan Sweets, which had started experimenting with sugar-free and herbal sweets decades ago.