South meets North at mishti mela Mouthful of mishti - Three-day fest to showcase the excellence of Bengali sweets

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By ANASUYA BASU
  • Published 6.01.06
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For so many south Calcutta residents, trips to the northern part of the city are rare. But when they do make it to the other side, they so often carry back a pack of sandesh from Girish and Nakur or Bhim Chandra Nag.

For three days, the north Calcutta mishti and the south Calcutta sweet tooth find a meeting point midway ? at the Olpadwala Hall, on Chowringhee, playing host to the first Anadabazar Patrika Ananda Modhura, presented by Sugar Free Natura.

?I shifted to south Calcutta several years ago, and I sorely miss the sweets that we got from the famous shops in the north,? said Bithi Ray from Lansdowne Road, between mouthfuls of dilkhush from the Bhim Nag counter on Day I of the mishti mela.

Her two teenaged daughters found the festival fare opposite Rotary Sadan very ?novel?, but preferred to dig into the chholey bhature served at Haldiram?s round the corner.

If bridging the great north-south mishti divide is one aim of the festival, the other is raising awareness about the good ol? Bangali mishti, particularly from the districts, fast losing out to the namkeen-mithai combo of the Haldiram?s and Gupta Brothers.

The gourmet culture may be thriving thanks to a host of specialised Bengali cuisine restaurants, but there is hardly any sign of the monohora or the nikhuti.

And they will never stage a comeback unless there is more aggressive marketing from the Bangali mishti brigade, warns Shankar, author of the best-selling Bangali Khawadawa.

?How many of the young generation know of the 161-year old Girish and Nakur shop tucked away in the north?? asks Shankar. ?They would rather have a pastry for Rs 45 than a sandesh for Rs 10!?

What the three-day Bengali sweet festival would do is serve the connoisseur ? and the newcomer ?some forgotten delicacies.

Where else would you get to savour Shaktigarh-er lyangcha, Berhampore-r manohora and Krishnagar-er sarpuriya all under one roof? You could also go for the melt-in-the-mouth dilkhush of Bhim Nag or bite into the crunchy mecha sandesh from Bankura or lick the sugar syrup trickling down your palm as you dig into a jalbhara talshansh from Chandernagore.

And the famed Bengali sweet tooth lived up to its billing. Even before the inauguration of the mishti mela, people thronged the venue, and dhakis drummed up a festive beat.

?This is a very good and novel theme. I wish we had such festivals more often,? smiled Roopa Ganguly, before digging into a sarpuriya on Thursday evening.

While Shaktigarh-er lyangcha and Barddhaman-er mihidana proved the top draws, there were others queuing up for a combination of chhatu, chhana, khoya, sugar and ghee, called mecha sandesh of Beliatore, in Bankura.

Among other popular counters were Jadav Chandra Das (shada mishti doi and Babu sandesh) and Balaram Mullick (rabri and malpoa).

And for those craving for a change of tongue after an overdose of sweets, there was the mutton or fish shingara from Ananda Caterers. ?Our kochuris became famous from the tea parties we catered,? said Anil Chandra Guin of Ananda Caterers.