Rationing rossogollas

Rossogullas at KC Das. Photo: R. Ravindran  

My colleagues shoo me out of the office. “Drive fast,” they yell. “Everyone’s saying the rossogollas sell out quickly.” I roll my eyes and snort defiantly (but only once I’m safely out of earshot). So KC Das has opened. Big deal. I’m a Calcutta girl. Ask any Bengali if KC Das defines the city’s confectionery, and expect the same reaction. Eye roll. Snort. Because in Bengal, home to thousands of feisty little indigenous sweetshops, everyone is loyal to their neighbourhood rossogolla maker. And, incredibly, almost all these places produce equally good rossogullas: soft, spongy and addictive.

Nevertheless, I admit that when it comes to brand names, KC Das tops the list for this sweet. And not just because Nobin Chandra Das, the father of KC Das, is said to have invented it. Of course, like everything else in Calcutta, this is open to debate. Some people say that it originated in Puri and was brought to the state by Oriya cooks. KC Das history says Nobin Chandra Das, born in 1845 to a family of sugar merchants, first came up with the idea of boiling springy balls of cottage cheese in sugar syrup. Undisputedly, the family is an inextricable part of this country’s dessert history, since they’re also the original source for both canned rossogollas, as well as the invention of the addictively smooth, milky rossomalai.

In a country that bristles with excellent milk sweets, why does the rossogolla stand out? Well, when it’s made right, it’s a delightful any-time-of-the-day treat. Living in Calcutta, I’ve breakfasted on them at my math tuition teacher’s house (which is why algebra will always make me hungry). I’ve popped them in my mouth as a quick midnight snack — because everyone always keeps a mud pot of them in the fridge. And at a friend’s wedding in Midnapore, I was the toast of the town when I ate 14 for lunch — she says her grand-uncles still talk of me with reverence. In my defence, the rossogollas served that day were fresh, warm and light. And small. Honest.

Unless you’ve tasted an authentic version, you won’t identify with a word I’m saying. Because the country is flooded with pretenders: heavy, overly rich versions soaked in cloying syrup. KC Das, however, gets it right consistently, even in production facilities that are far away from home. This is why they are so popular in the South: according to their website, they have just 4 outlets in Calcutta, but 19 in Bangalore.

There is a down side to this: Queues. I reach their newly opened Egmore outlet at 4 p.m., only to find it devoid of rossogollas. The marauding masses have also wiped out the sandesh, mishti doi and samosas, much to my annoyance. All that’s left are four dismal milk pedas sitting beside a lonely gulab jamun. And one tray at the bottom of which are a few rossomalais, which I quickly snap up. Soft and juicy, they flood my mouth with cool saffron milk.

The next day, tipped off by staff, I return at 11 a.m., when the shop opens. In an attempt to keep me motivated, my colleagues send a steady stream of messages on our WhatsApp group, all of which can be summarised as “Bring rossogullas or... (ominous string of emoticons.)” I’m in line with six angry-looking women, all flanked by their chauffeurs. But, the shelves are empty. “Product on its way from ECR, madam,” the nervous shop boys shiver. The matrons shake their fists and sulk. I go home.

12 noon. I’m back. The product has arrived. There are even more people in the store now. And the staff looks more frightened than ever. “Why? Why? Why?” snaps one lady, adjusting her bifocals angrily. “It’s inexcusable,” tut-tuts a grey haired man. “But I called ahead…” grumbles a majestic woman encased in silk. Sighing at the drama, I weave through the crowds and blithely order 20 rossogullas. Everyone recoils with horror. What? “No hoarding allowed,” I’m firmly told. I do a double take. What? “No parcels.”

Is it worth three visits? I’m not sure. It’s just a rossogulla. (And remember this is coming from Miss Midnapore.) That said, it’s delicious: squishy and still warm, squirting thin sugar syrup from every pore. I team it with delicious singaras stuffed with little cubes of cumin-flecked potato. And end with crumbly sandesh.

Fortunately, I’m allowed to buy samosas for ‘takeaway,’ so I grab a bag and run before the powers that be change their mind, and classify it as ‘hoarding worthy.’ My colleagues are mollified but I’m not quite off the hook yet.

Hence Visit Number Four is being planned. I’m still steeling myself.

KC Das is at Anna Nagar and Egmore. Call 42630363 and 28212232 for details.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 9:48:14 PM |

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