This post was first published on April, 2011 and have been republished with fresh and better photographs and a slight change in the recipe that over the years I have perfected it.
Sandesh, an exquisite dessert from Bengal, unparalleled in its taste, and in purity is made with only two ingredients – chenna (the curd cheese) and sugar. Aam sandesh or mango sondesh / sandesh is a delightful rendition of the classical sandesh and when it appears on display at sweet shops it pronounce the onset of summer.
Bengali’s love for sweet dish or mishti is well-known and an eternal love affair and sondesh has a special place in our heart. Our daily meals to extravagant luncheon always ends on a sweet note. A simple roshogolla, payesh on special ocassion or sandesh for all ocassion always adorn our dessert platter. Life revolves around tales of sweets from birth, marriage till death and memories laden with nostalgia keep haunting, weaving the stories and unfolding the secrets of sandesh making, a culinary art which remains the forte of selected few.
There are no shortcuts to make a sandesh. The dessert which is judged only by its texture and moistness. It takes years to master this art of making sandesh. Blenders can quicken the process but then it will be anything but sandesh. Sorry, I am a bit purist. It needs patience and perserverance.
A brief histry of sondesh : A 150 year old tradition pioneered by Bhim Chandra Nag, Nabin Chandra Das and Sen Mahashoy, whose repertoire makes them an icon in the history of sandesh, later joined by Gangurams and Balram Mallick, sondesh has evolved through times and is present in infinite incarnations displayed in countless number of sweetmeat shops in Kolkata and in West Bengal.
The name of sondesh often reflects their shape, size, texture, flavouring, and sometimes even portrays the psyche of society. For instance, shankh (conch shell) and maach (fish) are the two most common shapes whereas pista, saffron, almond, rose, nolen gur in winter and mango in summer are the usual flavours. Sometimes it caught the poetic fancies of its creator, so we have pranhara and manohara (captivator of soul & heart resp.), nayantara (star of the eye) and its charismatic magic spell leads to the creation of abar khabo (I’ll have another). One more variety which deserve special mention is jalbhara talshansh sandesh (with a filling of rose syrup or dtae syrup in winters inside) and khirpuli sandesh both of which is created by S.K.Modak around 1820, a very renowned sweet maker of that period.
Khirpuli sandesh is perhaps the most difficult one and it truly reflects the art and creativity of its creator, and grace only the occasions marked by marriages and like. During marriages it is a ritual to exchange tattwa (marriage gifts) which comprises around twenty variety of sweets (sometimes even more) all in massive size but the cynosure of all eyes remain khirpuli sandesh in its colossal form. From Eiffel tower, Statue of Liberty to London Bridge anything can be beautifully crafted with khirpuli sandesh and these are usually presented to NRI grooms from the brides family.
A note on making aam sondesh / mango sandesh – mango puree brings not only a delightful flavour to the regular sandesh but also it adds extra moistness to the sandesh. So this recipe can be adapted for any other fruit puree base sandesh but wont give you the desired results when making plain sandesh or gur sandesh.
I beleive desserts should be made with the best fruit available, if using mangoes , ensure that best mango variety and perfectly ripened one should be used. I have used badami mangoes here, you can use alphonso or kesar too. Mangoes were too sweet and that eliminates the use of sugar in the recipe, thus making this completely and naturally sugar free dessert. I think thats the best part of using a perfectly ripened fruit.
Bengali Mango Sandesh
- 2 l Milk (full fat)
- 2 cups Ripe Mango pulp (I use 2 badami mangoes)
- 1 tsp Cardamom powder
- Vinegar / other souring agent to curdle the milk
- Boil the milk, curdle it using vinegar or a juice of lemon, drain the whey and collect the chenna. See recipe note for the process.
- Wash the chenna under cold running water thoroughly, squeeze out lightly the remaining whey. Hang it or keep aside for 2 hours.
- Knead the chhana / cottage cheese with the heel of your palm for 10 -15 minutes until it become soft and smooth, palms become greasy. It should look like very soft smooth dough.
- While pureeing the mango add cardamom powder and blend it very smooth. Do not add water. My mangoes were very sweet, hence I have not added any sugar. But if you are adding sugar, then blend it along with mango puree.
- Heat a non-stick pan and put the sweetened mango pulp and reduce it till it becomes litle thick. Add the chenna and mix thoroughly with the mango pulp and cook it on low heat, stirring continously.
- If you do not stir it continously chenna texture will change and you wont get the desired results. This step is tricky and keep the heat to lowest possible.
- You will notice that it gradually changes its color and texture, when towards done it will become lumpy or dough like. Take it off immediately from the heat and transfer into a bowl. This is called "makha" or ready to be moulded. This process will take around 20 min time.
- If you are using saanch / moulds, then grease the inner design slightly with melted ghee , sprinkle some topping like finely crushed pistachios in the centre of the design, press the mango chhana into the moulds, smooth out the edges giving a neat shape and gently take them out of the mould. This needs little practice.
- Sandesh are usually served at room temperature that will give perfect taste. If refrigerated, then bring it to room temparature and then serve it.
Mango sandwich sandesh
To Prepare this : pinched some cooked chhana (not mixed with mango pulp, but cooked as described above), flatten them gently and shape it as you wish. Spread evenly the thickened mango pulp and cover it with another layer of cooked chhana. Mango sandwich sandesh is ready and serve it chilled.
If you make this then do not forget to tag @saffronstreaks on Instagram.