Sandesh are the Bengali lifeblood, and there are confectionery shops on practically every corner that prove it. They’re sold in shapes ranging from balls to conch shells and fish. The building blocks are simple: chhana, sugar, and no more than two other ingredients. While scores of varieties are eaten throughout the year, in the colder season nolen gurer sandesh, flavored with molasses derived from the date palm tree, are particularly popular. In the summertime mango (aam) sandesh are common.
Since nolen gurer can be difficult to locate, it’s fine to use molasses as an inexpensive substitute. In the summertime mango (aam) sandesh is also popular. To make the mango variety, follow the same instructions below, but substitute molasses with about ¼ cup of finely chopped mango. If the mango is very ripe, no additional sugar is necessary.
- Chhana cheese base
- 4 tablespoons molasses
- 4 pistachios or almonds for garnish
- Remove prepared chhana from cheesecloth, and turn onto a clean surface or cutting board. Knead for about 5 minutes to create a softer, smoother dough.
- Place dough in a mixing bowl, and add molasses (or mango, if desired). Mix well with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes, until colors merge. Dough will be sticky but smooth. Taste it for sweetness. If desired, add sugar.
- Set a medium pan over low heat. Add chhana-molasses dough, and stir frequently for 3 to 5 minutes. The colors will turn a darker brown. Remove dough from heat. While the dough will initially be soft, it will naturally firm up once cooled. Form into four equal balls. Garnish with a pistachio or almond. Alternately, use a mold to imprint a design. Serve at room temperature or chilled.