The lip-smacking Sitabhog served with nikhuti (tiny gulab jamuns) will assuredly send you to a heavenly place! This century-old sweet of Bardhaman along with Mihidana is an invention of the late Khettranath Nag. The city of Bardhaman derives its name from Mahavira or Vardhaman Swami (around the 6th century B.C.E.) and is famous for its Langcha, Mihidana and Sitabhog. Almost all the sweet shops in this heritage city serve high-quality traditional Bengali sweets. It is also said that Sitabhog was one of the favourite sweets of Sita Mata though not much information is available on this.
This irresistible sweet looks like white rice or vermicelli and is prepared out of Gobindo Bhog rice flour in West Bengal though other parts of the country use Basmati rice flour. Chhena (fresh soft cottage cheese) and Gobindo Bhog rice flour are mixed together along with fresh ghee to make a soft dough. The dough is then passed through a sev mould to make thin threads of vermicelli. These threads are deep fried in pure ghee till they are cooked evenly.
The fried threads are then dropped in freshly prepared sugar syrup till they become soft. Tejpat (Bay leaves) are added to the syrup to enhance its flavour. The soft vermicelli is then carefully removed from the sugar syrup and rested. Nikhuti (tiny gulab jamuns) are specially prepared for Sitabhog as it adds to its taste and appearance. These small oval-shaped dumplings are made from a dough of Gobindo Bhog rice flour, milk powder and ghee and then deep fried in ghee till they become dark brown in colour. These fried dumplings are then dipped in concentrated sugar syrup for a few minutes. They are taken out of the syrup and mixed with the vermicelli. Fried cashew nuts and kismis are also added to Sitabhog to make it more attractive and scrumptious.
You can see both white and yellow Sitabhog in almost all the sweet shops in Bardhaman. Sometimes, Nolen Gur (new jaggery extracted from date palm trees) is sprinkled over Sitabhog and served along with Mihidana. This dessert is extremely difficult to prepare and therefore, is priced on the higher side.
Bardhaman Sitabhog received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2017.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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