Subscribe to our weekly newsletter


Bengal’s Ras Malai gets 2nd position among the world’s best cheese desserts – GetBengal story

19 March, 2024 17:03:21
Bengal’s Ras Malai gets 2nd position among the world’s best cheese desserts – GetBengal story

The world of cheese desserts is no longer confined to the creamy and cheesy capitals of Europe or the USA. It no longer revolves solely around New York-style cheesecakes or the gooey French cheese fondue. Believe it or not, Bengal’s famous dessert Ras Malai has challenged the cheesecake throne of the West and emerged as the world’s 2nd best cheese dessert in an award survey by the popular food guide Taste Atlas. Ras Malai is now set to tickle taste buds and captivate hearts across the globe.

Ras Malai’s unique taste comes from its cheese, known in Bengal as chhena. Chhena is a fresh form of cheese made by curdling milk with lemon juice or drops of vinegar and has been popular in Bengali households for ages. “It is very different from the ‘aged’ cheese used in Western cheesecakes. It is fresh and light, making it easy to create the soft, spongy cheese balls that are a major part of Ras Malai,” says home food chef Damayanti Rudra.

How and when was the first Ras Malai made? There are many theories about who first made Ras Malai, a quintessential Bengali dessert that was popular even at weddings. It can be found on the menu of Thakur Bari and in various weddings and ceremonies held in the Bonedi Baris of Kolkata. Kolkata-based confectioners, K.C Das Grandsons, claim their founder, Krishna Chandra Das, invented Ras Malai in the early 20th century. This is supported by most food historians who believe Das might have given a twist to the Rosogulla, which was also a kind of chhena ball in sugar syrup, and developed a new dessert, Ras Malai. Krishna Chandra’s father, Nobin Chandra, had come to Calcutta and opened a sweet shop in 1866. He wanted to create an entirely new dish, so he experimented and ended up inventing Rosogolla in 1868. The main trick was combining the flour and chhena. Fifty years later, his son K. C. Das adapted a similar technique and recipe, with a twist, and Ras Malai was born.

The youngest of his five children, Sarada Charan, was a research assistant at Raja Bazar Science College’s Physics department, studying under Nobel laureate Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman. Using the reverse osmosis process, Sarada figured out how to preserve Rosogolla and created canned rasgullas. His father K. C. Das, also scientifically inclined, carried this experiment forward and ended up creating the Ras Malai. Their shop was located in Baghbazar, where the Marwari community lived, and they helped popularise the dish, which later spread to other parts of the country. This story is detailed in the famous book Indian Food: A Historical Companion by food historian KT Acharya. He writes in his book: “In 1868, the 22-year-old Nobin Chandra Das of Sutanati created the spongy Rasogolla cooked in sugar syrup, and some fifty years later his son Krishna Chandra Das invented the Ras Malai.”

However, there is another story that comes from Bangladesh’s Comilla district. The Sen brothers of Matri Bhandar of Comilla claim they were the original creators of Ras Malai and even helped popularise the desert. Bangladesh had applied for a GI tag for Ras Malai under the name of ‘Comillar Roshomalai.’ Brothers Khanindra and Manindra had also registered for a G.I. tag for their alleged invention. The Bangladeshis also have a sister dish called Roshmonjuri, similar to Ras Malai, which was first made by Gaibandha Mishtanno Bhandar, owned by Romesh Ghosh. Though the exact historical details behind the invention of Ras Malai are still debatable, it undoubtedly came about during the late 19th century or early 20th century.

‘Ras’ means juice and ‘malai’ means cream. The name thus comes from the desert being made from soft fresh cheese, cooked in sugar syrup, and soaked in a cardamom-flavoured milk syrup. The syrup contains chopped almonds and pistachios. It is best served chilled and is enjoyed as a dessert during summer festivals like Dolyatra or Holi, and is even the choicest dessert during Diwali. As Rudra adds: “Ras Malai’s presence as a sweet dish during most festivals in Bengal and even in other parts of India reflects how this dish is very much a part and parcel of our tradition. I have personally seen the dish being served in South Asian countries. Even during special occasions like ‘Aiburobhat’ given to the future bride before marriage or during annaprasan, this dish is included as it is thought to bring prosperity.”

Thus, Ras Malai stands out from the other Cheese Desserts of the world, be it the blueberry or other flavoured cheesecakes. Among the '10 Best Cheese Desserts' in the world as unveiled by Taste Atlas, the first position went to ‘Sernik’ from Poland, followed by Ras Malai from India. Sernik is a cheesecake made with eggs, sugar, and twarog, which is a type of curd cheese. This cheesecake is usually made on a layer of crumbly cake and can be either baked or unbaked. As per Taste Atlas, one of the most popular varieties of Sernik has a sponge cake as its base and is covered with jelly and fruit on top. The others on the list include New York-style cheesecake, Japanese cheesecake, and Basque cheesecake. Below is the complete list: 1. Sernik, Poland 2. Ras Malai, India 3. Sfakianopita, Greece 4. New York-style cheesecake, USA 5. Japanese cheesecake, Japan 6. Basque cheesecake, Spain 7. Rakoczituros, Hungary 8. Melopita, Greece 9. Kasekuchen, Germany 10. Misa rezy, Czech Republic

One thing is clear, however, Ras Malai is everyone’s favourite dessert as it offers a special flavour yet is extremely light and healthy due to the presence of dry fruits. The high milk content is rich in calcium, which is good for bones and teeth. The chhena or paneer is an excellent source of protein. The dry fruits are rich in antioxidants and boost the immune system. And the dessert is low in sugar and not deep-fried. So the next time you indulge in the delicious Ras Malai, remember, you are enjoying one of the best cheese desserts in the world.

Leave a Comments

Related Post