Indulging in sweetness is bound to have a smile on your face just like the moment someone compliments you with the given adjective “Sweet” or just says it all with a bar of chocolate. .The mere mention of the word “sweet” invokes numerous positive sensations in all of us. Bengal, like its delectable variants of food, also boasts of a rich sweet tradition. However, the sweet image of Bengal has somehow stayed stuck at Rosogolla, Mishti Doi and Sandesh, despite a wide variety of desserts to their credit. Though this sweet is a lesser known sweets in outside Bengal that somehow remain hidden from the national limelight but are a rage within its territorial boundaries.To a layman it appears as a bowl of sweet white rice accompanied with miniature gulab jaamun pieces, but there’ s more than what meets the eye and definitely the palate.
The Sitabhog of Burdwan has been exciting many a taste buds for more than 102 years now. An invention by sweet maker Bhairav Chandra Nag- who is also known for creating the iconic Mihidana – the Sitabhog is made of powdered rice and cottage cheese mixed in a proportion of 1:4 along with ghee, sugar water and saffron. The Gobindabhog rice – that grows solely in one patch of Burdwan district which is why it is also called the Rice Bowl of west Bengal– is said to give the sweet a distinctive flavour and taste to this iconic sweet dish. Sitabhog is made by frying tiny, oblong, rice-like bits of a dough made of chenna and powdered gobindabhog rice, which grows in Burdhwan alone, in ghee. It is then soaked in sugar syrup. It is served with nikuti, which is also made from milk powder, curd, ghee and baking soda. A myth about this dish is that it was the favourite dish of Mata Sita of Ramayana.
Bengalis may dislike Lord Curzon for attempting to partition Bengal, but it was his visit to the district in 1904 that led to the king requesting a local halwai to invent a special sweet something to commemorate the British Viceroy’s visit. From a distance, piled on counter tops in sweet shops across Burdhwan, bowls of sitabhog resemble pulav made with the longest grain of basmati, topped with raisins and fried cashew. It’s a labour of love because the halwai must know how long to knead the dough, how hard to rub it against the metal grater like plate to ensure soft but firm basmati-like grains fall into a kadhai bubbling with ghee.
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Soak 1 cup of Govind Bhog rice in water for 1 to 2 hour. Drain and spread over a kitchen tower and keep under the fan to make it completely dry. Then you can put the rice in a dry grinder and grind to a fine powder. Alternatively you can use store brought Rice powder.
Boil 1 and ½ liter of milk in a large pan. When it starts to boil. lower the heat and add 1 to 2 tbsp of vinegar to it. Turn off the heat. Start stirring the milk, you will see that the milk has started to curdle. If needed you may put one more tsp of vinegar to completely curdle the milk. When you see a greenish colour whey, then pour this over a strainer lined with cheese cloth to drain out the water. Let it cool.
Take the cheese in a big bowl and add rice powder .Mix it well. Keep kneading. If it feels rather hard, add a bit of milk into it and knead again. Make the dough soft & elastic.
In another bowl put the sugar and water and let it boil. Make a thick syrup; Put the rest of the cardamom powder to it and the saffron for color and flavour.
Now put the pan on flame. Pour oil and heat it. In a sieve, put one ball of cheese and press it so that tiny, oblong, rice-like bits of cheese drops into the oil.
Deep fry till a light brown colour. Take them out and keep aside.
Add the fried cheese drops in the sugar syrup. Mix it well. Let it be soaked in the syrup from 10 to 15 minutes and then spread it on a plate to cool.
In a Mixing Bowl add Milk powder, Maida, Soda-Bicarbonate,1 1/2 tsp ghee and curd as Much required to make a dough.
Heat ghee in a deep frying pan.Make small 15-20 oval shapes and fry until golden brown in color.
In another pan add water and sugar and put it to boil along with the food color if using, Heat until it make a light syrup. Put these small balls into the hot syrup.Let it cool and then you can mix these Nikhutis in the Cheese grains prepared earlier.
Serve warm or cold as per choice.