The Odiya taste for sweet is legendary and is reflected in various temple traditions and folklore.
When Lord Jagannath and Goddess Laxmi have a domestic scuff after the famous Bahuda Yatra, the Lord apparently tries to appease his sweetheart with…What else? A pot of Rasagullas!!! [And therein lies flat any claim or concoction cooked up by Bongs to claim IPR over this eastern piece of cheesy delight ;)].There is also a temple in Remuna, Balasore where the presiding deity apparently appropriated a sweet offering to him to save it for a devotee.
As their devout subjects, we the Odiyas, carry the sweet tooth to this date, and there are prominent and ancient sweet shops in many parts of this State to pander to this primal craving. And the sweets vary as much as the dialect in every part of the province. But for the sake of convenience here, we shall keep ourselves confined to BBSR/CTC and outskirts.
If you happen to be heading on the NH 5 to the Silver City Cuttack from Bhubaneswar, a little after crossing the Kuakhai Bridge, you are sure to come across a bazaar stretching out on both sides of the tasty sweetmeats.Welcome to Pahala, the sweet-lover’s heaven. Here , shop after shop delights with its delicious, exquisite fare—syrupy white and pink rasagullas, rich, dark, sinful Chenapoda and of course the Chenagaja– dedicated to and resembling—the human tongue.
Cuttack itself has no dearth of fancy sweet shop as any visitor to Cuttack Sweets Stall (blissfully, now in BBSR too) or innumerable Gangurams will tell you. There are few shops at Chaudhury Bazaar that specialize in besan-based sweets like Mysore Paks and Barfis too. Just be open-minded without waiting too much about calories…
But move a little farther and you will strike gold…about 25 km away on the Cuttack-Kendrapada state highway is a small town Salepur whose specialty lies in making Rasagollas. And like any true masterpiece, the best samples of those heavenly cheeseballs are to be found with the maestro. The great Bikali aka BikalanandaKar. There, for generations the Kar family has been doing what they do best….make and sell the yummy, delightful dumplings.
Bikalananda Kar itself is a Multi-Crore brand in Odisha today, as popular KC Das of Kolkata or Haldiram’s of Nagpur. Old timers remember him as an affable man who made delectable sweets including the now famous rasagullas at his humble thatched shed by the highway. Many Ravenshavians didn’t mind cycling down all the way down to his hut to sample his freshly-made fare. People coming into Cuttack or the New Capital Bhubaneswar would invariably carry an earthen pot of these rasagullas to their relatives or Govt. babus who were sitting on their files/cases to be assured of an enthusiastic response. And that’s how Kar became a household name.
The rasagullas are mostly an inviting pink here and the taste is a little cheesy than what you’ve sampled at Pahala. They are also available in all sizes –from the commonplace rudraksha sized to an eye-popping (and quite filling) grapefruit-sized one. Part of Kar’s growing success of course lies in the fact that the family thought ahead of its time and invested in technology and real estate to grow the business. Today, you have Kar’s shops in two locations in Bhubaneswar—at Sahid Nagar and Ravi Talkies square—and the rasagullas can be found in neat air-tight machine canned tins of 950 grams. And vouching for their popularity is that many of these cans are increasing finding place in the cabin baggage of our NRO fraternity.
But sadly, what could be Orissa’s sweetest ambassador is lacking behind in marketing 🙁 If the product is so good, and packaging is so neat, why is it not found in any of the online shopping sites aka flipkart/indiatimes/rediff, you may ask? Hell, they have even stopped accepting credit cards at their outlets the last time I checked. Didn’t they see Kal Ho Na Ho?
But let that not deter you from experiencing heaven…go straight ahead have a mouthful of these cheesy delights and indulge your sweet tooth!
Author— JD aka Somebuddy
(To earn a living he has done odd jobs, written paid news (without selling his soul), got fired, got sworn at and now handles communications for a Fortune 10 MNC. A typical NRO, you may say…though he HATES the NR part of it!)