Several dishes from the state have received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag and two more such items, Sharbhaja and Sarpuria, are likely to be added to the list soon.
By Reya Mehrotra
West Bengal revels in its reputation of being known as the land of sweets. Several dishes from the state have received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag and two more such items, Sharbhaja and Sarpuria, are likely to be added to the list soon. We highlight a list of sweet dishes from across the country that have been awarded the distinctive GI tag.
A soft sweet sandwiched between milk skin or malai, Sharbhaja is fried in ghee and dipped in sugar syrup. It is then garnished with pistachios and chopped almonds. It is usually consumed on occasions like Jagadhatri Puja, Loknath Baba Puja, Janmashtami and Kali Puja in Kolkata. The West Bengal government had applied for GI tags for Sharbhaja and Sarpuria and both the sweets are likely to get the tag soon.
Sarpuria is similar to Sharbhaja but the difference is that it is baked. The main ingredients include kheer, malai and chhena. Like Sharbhaja, it is also ordered in bulk during festivals and is likely to get a GI tag soon. The most famous Sarpuria comes from Krishnanagar and finds mentions in Krishnadas Kaviraj’s Chaitanya Charitam-rita that was written 520 years ago.
This Indian sweet comes from Burdwan in West Bengal. It is often referred to as the micro cousin of boondi as it has finer grains. It got the GI tag in 2017. It is prepared from powdered Gobindobhog, Kaminibhog and basmati rice, mixed with small amounts of saffron and gram flour for colour. It is then blended with hands. The mix then goes through the tiny holes of brass ladle and is deep fried, dipped in sugar syrup and then drained.
West Bengal’s Sitabhog looks like vermicelli mixed with small gulab jamuns. This sweet dish is made from chhena, sugar, ghee and rice flour. It is said that Sitabhog and Mihidana were prepared by sweet makers under the instructions of the Maharaja of Burdwan for his British guests. Sitabhog got the GI tag in 2017.
Bihar’s Silao Khaja got the GI tag in 2018 after an application was filed by Silao Khaja Audyogik Swavalambi Sahakari Samiti Limited. The taste and appearance of the delicacy are attributed to the climate and water of Silao. It is crispy and multilayered and consists of 12-16 very thin dough sheets placed one over the other. It is light yellow in colour and consists of sugar, maida, ghee, wheat flour, cardamom and aniseeds. A myth attached to the delicacy is that Buddha was offered Silao Khaja when he passed through Silao during his journey from Rajgir to Nalanda. The delicacy lasts for about 12-15 days after it is made and about two-three days during rainy season.
Pal means milk and kova refers to khowa. The sweet got its GI tag in 2019. Srivilliputtur Co-operative Milk Producers’ Society began making this sweet using their surplus milk. The milk comes from the locally reared cows. It is prepared by reducing milk by boiling it and adding sugar. The yellow-brown semi-solid product has a smooth texture and packed in butter paper. It is usually produced in and around Srivilliputtur in Virudhunagar district. Around 2,000 kg of Palkova is produced every day, as per the GI application.
Unique to Karnataka, this sweet derives its name from Dharwad. Its main ingredients include milk, sugar and Dharwadi buffalo milk. It was in the early 19th century that the Thakurs of UP migrated to Dharwad and Ram Ratan Singh Thakur, a first-generation confectioner, started making and selling pedas locally. Gradually, their business grew to other parts of Karnataka.
The GI Registry of India granted the GI tag to Banglar Rosogolla, the Bengali version of Rasgulla. However, a long-drawn fight between Bengal and Odisha ended in 2019 after Odisha too won a GI tag for its own variety of rasgulla, the Odisha Rasagola. Both differ in taste and texture. While West Bengal had claimed that the idea of rosogulla was conceived by Nobin Chandra Das of Kolkata, those from Odisha claimed that their rasgulla dates back to the 12th century as they were offered at the Puri Jagannath Temple.
Kovilpatti kadalai mittai
Kovilpatti Kadalai Mittai got the GI tag in 2020 after the Kovilpatti Regional Kadalaimittai Manufacturers filed an application. It is manufactured in Kovilpatti and adjacent villages of Tamil Nadu. Recognising the shelf life and export potential of the candy made of peanuts held together with syrup and topped with grated coconut, the GI office believes that the tag will help it reach international consumers.