Monday, December 05, 2005

winter means nalen gur

Nalen gur (or date molasses) is a specialty of Bengal – both West Bengal and Bangladesh - and is used extensively to prepare delicacies of winter. Nalen gur is a preparation from the juice of date trees that are collected and heated to obtain the final product that leaves one wonderstruck – the taste is heavenly. It is said that the heating is an art. Those who have seen the movie ‘Saudaagar’ starring Amitabh Bachhan and Nutan will realize that a lot of dedication has to go into the process. Unfortunately, this year, there is a complaint that the nalen gur has lost its flavor.

‘…… Regrettably though, the date trees are now more in use for their fuel wood value than as a source of the traditional juice which is made into cake called nalen gur (boiled and condensed juice of date plant). However, the numbers of these date tree are dwindling in the division. Production of nalen gur, too, has fallen sharply compared to the previous years …..’

‘ ……. The date palm sap is made into three types of gur: liquid, grainy and the solid chunks of patali. The sap is heated in huge karais over wood or coal stoves and it is only an expert who can gauge the different degrees of cooking to achieve the right textures. The arrival of gur in the market is the signal for the professional sweet-makers to start preparing one of their most popular products, sandesh flavoured with the new gur. This nalen gurer sandesh has a brownish-pink tinge and is very dear to the plump Bengali's heart. At the beginning of the season. Gur is sold in its liquid form, jhola gur. This comes in earthen ports and disappears fast enough. In our home it would be used like maple syrup in America, poured over hot luchis or chapattis and as a sweetener in the milk. It ferments easily and so has to be eaten quickly. In rural areas the fermented gur is made into a kind of cheap liquour which tribals and poor villagers drink. It was this same jhola gur which inspired committed following from exceptional Bengalis like Sukumar Ray, our version of Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll. In one of his delightful poems he spun out an absurdly contradictory list of the good things of life, and the very best of the best was bread with jhola gur. The solid patali gur can be stored and used for quite a few months after winter is over, and refrigeration gives it even longer life. The most notable application for its use is in payesh, in place of sugar. The pure nutty sweetness of the gur makes this winter payesh a Bengali gourmet's dream……’

KRISHNAGAR, Nov. 21. — As the winter approaches Bengalis are busy preparing their favourite sweet meats, as it is the time when old Krishnanagariks enjoy a variety of recipes with nalen gur (date molasses) which are now sold even from regular sweet shops. …… In the past few days, it was the best time to have dinner with the hand-made rotis. ….. Now they have found more attractive uses like nalen gurer sandesh and rosogolla, not to forget the payesh that tastes wonderful at this time of the year.
It was during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th century that the Nadia sweet-makers came up with the nalen gur sandesh, which is now popular not only in Bengal but in other parts of India also.
The enjoyment of Raas festival is now slowly fading out from Nadia but the aroma of the first nalen gur in the earthen pots has started to fill the air. This is the season of molasses, better known as nalen gur. And if you wish to have a taste of the original stuff, then you will have to visit Majdiya in Nadia bordering Bangladesh.


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10:22 PM  
Blogger Dilip said...

Highly informative. Thank you. I was looking for the difference between 'Nolen' gur and 'Patali' gur which I didn't get.Would you be kind enough to throw some light.

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