Many believed that this 700-year-old sweet dish was part of a ritual involving the goddess Laxmi during the last day of the Rath Yatra festival where they would be distributed as offerings
When any Bengali talks about a sweet, it is usually about the famous Roshogolla. The soft, white, spongy balls of pure bliss are one of the most popular delicacies in both Bengals.
Roshogolla is made from pure chhana (fresh cottage cheese) which is rolled into small balls and cooked in a light sugar syrup. The secret to the perfect roshogolla texture lies in mixing the chhana dough and viscosity of the syrup.
If there was one true 'game changer' of a dessert, it was roshogolla – or that is how British chef William Harold who went to India wrote about it in a journal. He described them as "sweet, syrupy, soft, cheese balls."
A must have dessert for every Bengali occasion, origin of this sweet creation was always a debate between West Bengal and Odisha; the former claimed Nobin Chandra Das to be its inventor, whereas the latter staked claims on it to be their invention.
The 'battle for roshogolla' intensified in 2015 when Odisha claimed that the sweet had originated in Puri.
Here, many believed that this 700-year-old sweet dish was part of a ritual involving the goddess Laxmi during the last day of the Rath Yatra festival where they would be distributed as offerings.
The circular roshogollas were said to resemble lord Jagannath's round eyes. However, originally, they were oblong and a bit brown in colour and used to be referred to as 'kheer mohana'.
It is said that from Odisha, kheer mohanas reached the shores of Kolkata where a sweetshop owner reinvented them as the now familiar white balls.
In response to this claim, the West Bengal government stated that Nobin Chandra Das, a famous sweetmeat maker in Kolkata, invented roshogolla and that he developed it in 1868. The sweet was popularised by next generations of his family.
Das started making the dessert by mixing chhana and semolina and then boiling them in sugar syrup in contrast to the mixture sans semolina in the original version of the sweet found in his shop located at Sutanuti (present-day Baghbazar).
The other popular tale is that a famous Haradhan Moira, sweet-maker of the Pal Chowdhurys of Ranaghat, invented roshogolla by accidentally dropping some chhana balls into a potful of bubbling syrup.
With so much tradition and history invested in it, Kolkata was unlikely to give up its claim as the iconic sweet's birthplace.
Ever since the debate, with both the governments asking for a Geographical Indications Registry in 2015, the sweet found itself at the centre of an interesting tug of war.
According to food historian KT Acharya and Chitra Banerji of Kolkata, there are no references to cheese (including chhana) in India before 17th century. The milk-based sweets were mainly made up of khoya (dried whole milk) before the Portuguese influence led to the introduction of cheese-based sweets. Therefore, the possibility of a cheese-based dish being offered at Jagannath Temple in the 12th century is highly unlikely.
It was a sweet victory for West Bengal in 2017 when the Geographical Indications (GI) Registry announced West Bengal's victory over Odisha. The registry office further clarified that West Bengal was given GI status for 'Banglar Rosogolla', or Roshogolla of Bengal.
In 2018, the Odisha government applied for GI status for Odisha's 'rasgulla' for its colour, texture, taste, juice content and method of manufacturing and won the status in 2019.
With these, the battle over our most favourite dessert ended for good.
After all, the best thing to do with a roshogolla is to gulp it down!