A blog about food in Thailand
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Bangladeshi sweets

Posted date:  March 15, 2009

Sweets in Dhaka, Bangladesh

In general, food in Bangladesh wasn’t much to write home about. There were a few interesting dishes, some of which I’ll blog about soon, but most of our meals seemed to be endless but eerily similar variations on mutton and rice. The one area we were most impressed with was sweets. These ranged from syrupy-sweet golab jam, below:

Sweets in Dhaka, Bangladesh

to milky shondesh (background, image below) and the slightly more savoury mishti (foreground):

Sweets in Dhaka, Bangladesh

After a great deal of ‘research’, I realized that my preferences lie somewhere between the above, and this dish, taken at the sweets shop pictured at the beginning of this post, combined my favourite Bangladeshi sweets:

Sweets in Dhaka, Bangladesh

tender (and not overpoweringly sweet) carrot borfi, slightly firm and cardamom-rich laddu, and an unidentified one, which was remarkably similar in taste and texture to what we call ‘old fashioned’ donuts in the US.

There were even some great sweet-ish snacks, including poori (deep-fried bread) and semolina halwa:

Poori and halwa, Dhaka, Bangladesh

And although jilapi, strands of dough that are deep-fried before being soaked in syrup, certainly looked interesting:

Making sweets in Khulna, Bangladesh

the combination of oily and sweet was just a bit too much for me.

17 Comments for Bangladeshi sweets

Hi Austin, how was ur short trip to Phuket? any interesting place to eat around? i ll be there soon, and i know is not a heaven for foodies, but … any recomendation?

Wow! Fabulous pictures. Try the Ras Malai (cottage cheese dumplings bathed in a sweet and fragrance milk sauce) if you can find it, its the queen of all South Asian desserts

You’re right to stay away from the jilapi, they are strictly for those with an ultra-sweet-tooth or who want to acquire diabetes.

Hi Austin.

I’m from West Bengal, India; so pretty impartial!! Let me just emphasize that if all you ate was meat & rice, and indifferent at that, and all you experience were those few sweets, BOY, did you have the crappiest guide in the UNIVERSE, no make that the chiliocosm. B’desh, esp. Dhaka with its MANY noted cuisines, Hindu & Muslim, is FABULOUS. You must know where to find it and be instructed on its fine points. Likewise its sweets, extraordinary, but you must know where. Austin, you missed the treat of your life, seriously. It’s the equivalent of saying, I went to Paris and all I could find was some version of ham and cheese sandwich. That’s how absurd your hosts & guides were!!!! I am so mad. You never got introduced to the exquisite date palm syrup, jaggery and sweets made from these. What a shame. Who were these people anyway? Give me their names, I shall write and ask them how they were representing their country? Were they freshly arrived from the moon?

Next time, please go in Dec-Jan, and let me know 3 months in advance. Same if ever you decide to visit Kolkata or New Delhi or Bengaluru. Even though I am in the US, I shall get you a serious local in each city who will invite you into his home, feed you and show you around.

Through your writing Bangladesh can earn much positive publicity and tourist recognition. She should become a gourmet destination. People who know me from Indian food writing circles [Another Subcontinent, GourmetIndia.com] will realize that I never speak carelessly about Bengali cooking & foodways. Not just Dhaka but Natore, Rajshahi, Jessore, Barisal, Sylhet, each deserve to be on the gourmet tourism map for the adventurous tourist.

Why ‘Royal India’ is thought by anyone to be the best Indian in Bangkok, as they certainly advertise themselves and have occasionally been described in Lonely Planet, is a mystery to me, but I’ll swear by their sweets. They do an excellent version of the carrot barfi or ‘gajjar pak,’ and they are my favorite place to get a sweet that is as characteristic of Bengali sweets as sondesh and rasgulla: cham cham! If you feel a pang of longing for something more syrupy than any Thai khanom can live up to, and you feel like you’d like to gain a few kilos, check it out, or try some of the other sweet shops around Phahurat. But the cham cham at Punjabi Dhaba, just up the street from Royal India, is definitely to be avoided.

The jilapi looks and sounds like what the Iranians call zoolbia.

Hi Josh,

Just FYI, there are Bangali sweets made in Bengal, many types, and “Bengali sweets” [sic], a whole genre of them, prepared throughout North and Western India, that supposedly are derived from the Bangali originals but have been profoundly transmogrified; profoundly is a very polite and tactful way of describing that transformation.

Cham cham happens to be one of the best-loved victims! Any shop selling carrot halva AND cham cham is a practitioner of the dreaded art of “Bengali sweets”, NOT Bangali sweets!!

Love your blog …. very interesting and nice shots!

Hello. I just found your blog and am blown away by your incredible photos! WOW is all I can say! What wonderful experiences you describe and capture!

[…] In general, food in Bangladesh wasn’t much to write home about. There were a few interesting dishes, some of which I’ll blog about soon, but most of our meals seemed to be endless but eerily similar variations on mutton and rice. The one area we were most impressed with was sweets. These ranged from syrupy-sweet golab jam, below:… Read the whole story on TIT – This is Thailand […]

Hi Austin,

I completely agree with Gautam. If you get an opportunity to visit Dhaka, see Premium Sweets. Over 70 varieties of sweets that has been popular in Indian Subcontinent for last 7 centuries are preserved in their menu. You can check http://www.premiumsweets.ca to see the varieties. India has much much bigger sweet shops, but I believe its Premium Sweets who incorporated the sweets, the tradition and the ambience in one place. For Puja, Diwali, Eid or grand wedding sweets is in our tradition. From birth till orbituary, we need sweets. Out of Bikanerwala, Srikrisna, Haldiram, Soni, Rahmat-e-shiri, I guess Premium Sweets of Dhaka has the best. Check them out.

please stop calling these BANGLADESHI SWEETS – this is Bengali sweets, from India! And Bloody Bangladesh was a part of India before the British bastards mutiliated the country before they left! May the same fate befall Britain and America too!

I thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Thanks for sharing the colorful pictures.
Just a little note to Nina – We were all cavemen at one point in history. These are ‘Bangladeshi’ sweets and not sweets from Calcutta. If you have tasted both you’d know the difference. Surely you hadn’t.

As-Salam u Alaikum to all,
I am surprised to see that name of shop “Matre Bhandar” in Comilla district who are famous for making Rasha Malai is not mentioned in the articles. I am a Bangladeshi citizen, 40 years old & have been enjoying their Rasha Malai since my boyhood. Quality remain intact. There is a fake “Matre Bhandar” on Dhaka-Chittagong highway. Original shop is situated in the heart of Comilla town.
Pora Bari Cham Cham, Rasha Malai of Matre Bhandar etc. is our culture,tradition. On the other hand, Premium Sweets like shops are business, not last for long.

Mr. Mohammed Tareque Iqbal,

Nice to know about Matre Bhander and Pora Bari Cham Cham of Bengal. Now for us settled in North America, we can’t reach them or vice-versa.
Premium Sweets just opened their operation at Mississauga, ON, Canada on Feb 14, 2010
Personally I was in the showroom on that day. Loved the sweets, presentation and the team! I believe truly Premium Sweets is succesful in globalizing pure Bengal Sweets. The company is ISO 9001:2008 certified. Employed 360 people in Management, Marketing, Production, Distribution and Branding department. Just check http://www.premiumsweets.ca or look them up in face book.

I am from west bengal and a sweet lover. In india there are Bikaner, Sri Krishna, Chappan Vogh, Haldi Ram. But I guess Premium Sweets is the only company who has the vision to take our traditional Bangali Sweets to all over the world. Get to know them. You may like them, their sweets and purity.

Regards, Avishek

I certainly agree with Avishek.
Just visited Premium Sweets in Mississauga today.
Excellent boutique sweet showroom, may be first of its kind in North America. Unlike most other shops where curry and sweets are just goods, Premium is focused only on Bengal Specialty Sweets.
Worth a Visit.
Expect nice smiles from all of them working in customer service.

I enjoyed the comments as aforesaid.I am a sweet person just opened our new Bangladeshi manufacturing concern in Bangladeshi sweets.Please visit our site http://www.premiersweets.webs.com to see for yourself what really the Bangladeshi sweets are. Matribhander Rosmalai of Commilla,Porabarir Chamcham,Bogurar Doi etc.are really representing the country.Alas Mr. Austin Bush did’nt had the chance to test these sweets.Premium sweets by opening an out let in canada globalized Bangladeshi sweets and obtained ISO:9001:2008, yet their sweets are made for business not for representing Bangladesh.

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