Sandesh is a sweet from Bengal which can be eaten as a dessert or snack. The main ingredient is ‘Chana’ or cottage cheese which was brought by the Portuguese.
The Portuguese came to Bengal around 1500s and began with Joan Coelho. Now getting back to Sandesh, unsold milk usually was converted into milk products or butter cream. The Portuguese settled in Hooghly and learned from the Portuguese, the art of making cheesy sweets.
Granulated sugar was introduced to Bengal by Tong Achew, who came to Hooghly, West Bengal some 300 years Ago. In Bengal the Portuguese introduced three types of Cheese:
1. The Pungent Bandel Cheese. Bandel is name of place in Hooghly, West Bengal, India which was founded by the Portuguese.
Bangladeshi Ponir is not Paneer from India. It is cottage cheese which has a pungent aroma.
The name Sandesh is mentioned in the medieval Bengali literature but the ingredients are not known. Thanks to Indrajit Lahiri who writes history of Sandesh in much details.
The current Sandesh was made by these confectioners:
Usually if you ask people in Bengal, what kind of food this Sandesh is? The reply would be, hey it is a sweet meat. The American visitor might think:” What the hell is Sweetmeat? How can a meat be sweet? Well, this India or South East Asia, anything is possible”. I being a Bengali had the same problem. This variety of sweets is called “Misti” in Bengali. This variety does not exist in Europe, USA or middle East anyway. You might have equivalents not exactly a translation. So, in the long, you can call it type of a dessert.
Now coming back to equivalent of a Sandesh, might be a cheese cake. In Bengal, people love mistis. Rosogollas especially, another type of Sweetmeat. Do not go to find an equivalent because you cannot. It is like trying to find an equivalent of a Pizza in Bengali culture. You don’t have Pizza since it was invented in GAETA, Italy :997 CE.
Amsotto dudhey feli, tahatey kodoli doli Sandesh makhia diya tatey… Hapush-hupush shobdo, charidik nistobdho Pinpra kandiya jay patey
This was a verse from the Famous Poet Rabindranath Tagore who shot to fame and won Nobel Prize for Literature from India. The translation is as follows:
“Mix aam papad in milk, along with mashed banana and sandesh. Relish and eat. The poor ants would return in vain“
The Mix aam papad is am sotto or mango pulp cut in rectangles having a mixed taste Sour and sweet. It is a type of pickle common in Bengal ,especially the women folk.
Place of Origin
The main ingredient was Channa which was learned from the Portuguese in Bengal. The Portuguese introduced Bengal with Quark Cheese.
Where to Buy
The best place would be Bengal, Kolkata, India.
The sweets listed above may not be best and if you really want to taste quality Bengali Sweets ,you have go to Bengal. That is Kolkata or Calcutta-the city of Joy or Natore in Bangladesh.
MacDonalds for Misti’s or Sweet Meat
Until recently you just to know one ,they did not have a grand restaurant but some confectioners like GC Das or NC Das. These shops originated some where in 1800’s or before.
The Macdonalds of Sweetmeat or Misti’ is called MistiHub.