Home City Trails Rasgulla – Origins Of The Unofficial King Of Sweets

Rasgulla – Origins Of The Unofficial King Of Sweets

by FoodDrifter

Rasgulla, Rasogulla or the Rôshogolla. You might call it anyway you like, but the unofficial national sweet of India has been in a center of fight between the Bengalis and Odias. I’m not going to get into the history as written already on Wikipedia. It’s recounted to have originated from the temples of Lord Jaganath in Puri. Every time someone posts about rasgulla on a public forum, the Bengalis and Odias have been ready to get on with the tussle, to claim it as theirs.

A Typical Shop At Pahala
Being from Cuttack, I have been bordered by the two phenomenal cities on either sides, from where rasgullas are said to be the best. Pahala on one and Salepur on the other. Everytime I drove down to Bhubaneswar, along the NH-5 a stop at Pahala was guaranteed, for having some of the piping hot rasgullas. Unlike the ones from Bengal, these aren’t spongy, but more melt in the mouth. They are mostly preferred had piping hot.

The Pahala Shops
The modern version of the Rasgullas, considering it’s been around for more than thousands of years is a very recent phenomenon. Having added, semolina to it and making the syrup thicker, Nobin Chandra Das went on to give this delicious sweet a better shelf life. And his son went a step further on canning them, so that people all over could relish it without having to think much of having to gobble down as soon as cooked.

Rasgullas 2
This time wanting to get into the history with the locals on a visit to Odisha, I drove down to Pahala again for primarily two reasons. One to have a plate of the piping hot rasgullas and two to actually hear out their version of the story. Some say that Pahala has been a recent phenomenon. But the shops say otherwise. Some of the shops making the rasgullas, have been doing it for more than a 100 years.

Rasgullas Being Made
You’ll find the shops at Pahala named quite funnily after relatives. While one simply translating will be “Aunt’s Son” while the other will be “Grandma’s Grandson’s shop”. All of them though have been very consistent with their sweet-making.

Chenna Used In Making Rasgullas

The use of chenna (a form of cottage cheese) is abundant in most of Odisha’s sweets and is used quite extensively in the Rasgulla too. Ranging from really small to much larger, they come in different price ranges. The bigger ones have a hidden cashew, elaichi or raisin fitted in them. The Rasagullas made at Pahala have a thinner syrup to it. They are best had hot once out and tend to spoil in a good 10-12 hours. Once refrigerated, their taste decreases over time and subsequently spoilt. They are mostly off-white to cream color and very different from the ones made at Salepur.

Hidden Inside Is A Surprise
Salepur can literally be called the place where you get the most delicious of sweets ever. Period. Like almost the best in all of India. A few 10-15 kms from Cuttack, Salepur was made famous and put on the sweet map of India by the Kar Brothers. As I rode over to Salepur one fine day, I couldn’t help but notice that rasgullas were part of almost every meal of theirs. They love having it with rotis, puris and just like that too. The Rasgullas at Salepur are thick, with a denser syrup and completely brown-ish. They are a bit sweeter than their Pahala counterparts.

Salepur Rasgullas
If not for Bikalnanda Kar, the rasgullas would have remained restricted to the temples of Puri. He is said to have been the one who perfected the art outside of temple premises in the town of Salepur. This is one reason why the Salepur version of the rasgullas have a longer shelf life than their other counterparts found in Orissa. The Bikalnanda shops have now expanded out of Salepur and have opened up many outlets in the capital city of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

Rasgullas 4
Rasgullas have always been a part of the Odia meal from ages ago. From marriage parties, to birth ceremonies, to just plain binging on them, Rasgullas hold a special place. Everyone has their own version of the rasgullas that they are attached to. The Bengalis love theirs, while the Odias love their version. But for India, this is one of the best sweets that a person can’t get enough of having only one.

Below is a video of Rasgulla being prepared in Pahala.

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10 comments

Kamal Rayaguru January 23, 2015 - 10:54 am

well written bro 🙂

Reply
fooddrifter January 30, 2015 - 11:59 am

Thank you Kamal Rayaguru. Hopefully catching up someday over a plate of some awesome rasgullas 🙂

Reply
Alok January 28, 2015 - 11:30 am

Fortunately I belong to both the places as my village is at Salepur and Currently staying at Pahal and the taste of Rasagola at both the places is unique in a sense that it urges you to have more. I have never seen people not asking for more after having a plate full of hot rasagola at pahal and people asking for parcel like crazy at salepur just to relish them at the luxury of home.
Very well written about Rasagola (actual pronounciation in Odisha).

Reply
fooddrifter January 30, 2015 - 11:58 am

Parcels are always taken when passing through one of these places. How can you not have an extra plate more of the soft rasgullas and then keep away. That is until you aren’t much of a sweet lover at all. Thanks Alok

Reply
Jumbodium January 28, 2015 - 2:27 pm

Rasullas are my fav and it is also very obvious for me as I belong to Kolkata. Just awesome. Thank u for the share.

Reply
fooddrifter January 30, 2015 - 12:00 pm

Well who doesn’t love them. I think for any sweet lover, it’s hard staying away from these.

Reply
Jumbodium February 11, 2015 - 5:50 pm

Yes u are actually right. Hard to stay away….

Reply
Rasgulla – Origins Of The Unofficial King Of Sweets | CHEFS.CO.IN January 30, 2015 - 3:15 am

[…] post Rasgulla – Origins Of The Unofficial King Of Sweets appeared first on […]

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Anita July 31, 2015 - 7:22 pm

Great pics & cool post.
Can’t understand why others are ready to “claim” Rasagolas as their own.
Rasagolas have existed for over 700 years in Odisha and have been a part of the Ratha Jatra festival for centuries. On the concluding day of the Ratha Jatra, Lord Jagannath offers Rasagolas to Maa Laxmi & then gains entry inside the temple! 🙂

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Odia Bhoji - Showcasing The Best Of Odia Food, Aish - FoodDrifter September 16, 2016 - 7:09 pm

[…] the desserts were Odisha’s famous Rasgollas and Chenna Poda. Lots of sweets in the state are made pre-dominantly using chenna (cheese). The […]

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