In a nutshell:
A Legendary Sweetshop selling traditional as well as unusual Bengali sweets – Good enough to justify a 1 hr local train trip from Kolkata to just feast on these.
Address & other details: Ask anyone at Chandannagore Train station or virtually anywhere in Chandannagore
Meal for 2: Rs. 60 onwards
Cuisine type: Vegetarian
Background: the Portuguese connection
Bengali sweets are different from most sweets in the rest of India due to the use of chhena (curdled milk / paneer / cottage cheese). ………………& u know what, this is due to Portuguese influence.
Inspite of bengalis having a sweet tooth, surprisingly sweet dishes are often bought than made at home. That is due to a wide variety of excellent sweets that are readily & easily available with the ubiquitous sweet vendors (Even the smallest colony in Bengal would have at least one sweet shop & a medicine shop). While Bengal always had a sweet tooth, the sweets earlier were usually made of any combination of thickened milk, jaggery, white sugar & coconut. Around mid 1600s almost 20000 Portuguese had settled in Bengal. They were skilled in the art of preparing sweet fruit preservatives & were fond of cottage cheese. The Bengali sweet makers fired their imaginations & came up with an array of innovative products based out of cottage cheese (paneer or chhena). Mid 1800s the rosogolla was invented by Nobin Chandra Das & his grandson KC das created Rasmalai fifty years later. He also launched a commercial company by the name of KC Das and Co. which is still a very famous chain of sweet shops till today.
Surjya Modak’s old shop lies as it is – as if nothing has changed in time. It is said that Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee used to buy sweets from this shop on his way back (from his native village to Kolkata) & load his bullock cart with it. By the time he wud reach Kolkata, he wud have eaten most of it.
Besides the small old Shop is the large swanky newer one.
The shop has a wide array of sweets & they r pure traditional sweets to later day innovations. They are particularly known for Jalbhara Sandesh – A sandesh with a liquid filling in the center. ‘Jal’ means water & ‘bhara’ means ‘full of / filled with’. Obviously the sandesh is not filled with water. In summers the liquid filling is ras & in winter the filling is nolen gur. The winter version is way superior.
Logo of Surjya (Surya / Sun) is present on the sandesh as well.
The jabhara sandesh was very good but it was surely not the best I have ever had. Nor was it so unique , the way people talked about.
We tried a chhana paturi – sandesh made in paturi style : wrapped in banana leaf & cooked. The surprise element in this sweet was very high. In terms of taste there was uniqueness & smokiness in flavour. However, on its own it was very good but surely not outstanding.
We also tried motichoor sandesh – a grainy round sandesh wrapped in white paper strips. It was juicy inside, soft, flavorful & very good. Loved this.
Rabri, chhana pora etc are also very good here.
They sell paneer as well that needs to b cooked back at home – soft, juicy, flavorful & tasty.
…………………………. surely worth a visit
Loved this article about history of Surjya Kumar Modak & hence attaching it here.