Rasgullas, round sweets dipped in sugar syrup initially, have grown over the years to adopt to various tastes.
Though the origin of the rasgulla or roshogulla as Bengalis call it may be disputed among two states in the eastern part of India, Odisha and West Bengal. Yet, undeniably, the sweet has become synonymous with the Bengali culture. Jokes about how the Bengali accent reflects a ‘regular’ person’s speech affected by a rasgulla’s presence in the mouth have gone on for years and one cannot think of Bengali cuisine without thinking of this sweet. Granted, there is more to Bengali food and people than the humble yet tasty rasgulla, but this unique sweet dish makes for an important aspect. From plain old regular rasgulla to those in various flavours such as mango, the rasgulla is now prepared to be packed and carried anywhere.
The rasgulla, made of cottage cheese primarily, has taken on many flavours and forms now to keep up with changing taste buds. Initially, it was a white spongy ball dripping with sugar syrup. Today it can be seen being experimented on, with flavours such as chocolate, mango and the exquisite nolen-gur, a special jaggery, being popular ones. “I particularly like the baked nolen-gur rasgullas. They are a delicious take on the classic rasgullas,” says a student of literature.
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In urban areas such as the city of joy and capital of West Bengal, Kolkata, the humble rasgulla has also thus seen changing forms along with changing flavours. Today, in big chains of sweet shops, baked rasgullas and rasgulla ice creams can be found widely. “I think the good thing about the baked rasgulla is that at least it is somewhat healthier than the original one, or so I think,” jokes the student.
Rasgullas are still extremely accessible and not an elitist form of dessert that is only available to those who can afford to indulge in the luxury of a sweet. Having said that, beyond the shops that are found in the street corners in various places in West Bengal, such as those in the capital city of Kolkata, that have become brand names. Some of such popular and well-known shops are K.C. Das, Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick and Chittaranjan Mistana Bhandar.
Rasgulla to go
Some of the big names and sweet shop chains such as K C Das has endeavoured to make the sweet easy to carry and more long lasting, spreading the sugar-love across the globe. Earlier and even now, rasgullas are usually packaged in baked terracotta containers with a paper as a lid.
Though the packing has a charm to it, it can make carrying these sweets a problem. Preservation of the sweets was also an issue. Yet, today, rasgullas can now be bought in tin cans which make the carrying process much easier.