Before diving into a story set well within the periphery of North Kolkata, I'd suggest you all cue 'Duranta Ghurnir' by Hemanta Mukhopadhyay. For a story that is steeped in history and culture, it's only fair that you set the atmosphere to take you back in time. Mishti Patti refers to the not-so-quaint lane in Hedua, Kolkata that is dotted with sweet shops, serving the most decadent and delectable Bengali sweets since time immemorial. A place that takes massive pride in its stupendous range of sweets (or mishti as said in Bengali), shondesh and more, it's needless to state there will be uncountable stories this chronicled town has to offer when it comes to desserts. While most of them have been recorded via documentaries, articles, cinemas, and local folklore, this sugary tale I chanced upon in my pursuit of an entirely different story and it has left me with a fine mix of unadulterated amusement and complete fascination, if I may dare say so.
As mysterious as it may sound, the Mishti Patti of Kolkata is very present under the bare eyes of its regulars but has seamlessly gone unnoticed for years now. About a five minutes tram journey away, this bylane is quietly tucked away amidst the bustle of the very busy Beadon Street in Hedua. Talk to anyone who has grown up here and you'll know. With two popular colleges, Scottish Church and Bethune at the two ends of the same location, and the ever-so-packed Hedua Park, people often flock here in numbers to buy their pochonder (read: favourite) mishti. From a household popular roshogolla to a more complex roshomadhuri (a soft milk-based dessert soaked in flavoured milk), a delight found at the star of this hidden gem—Nalin Chandra and Sons, a legacy that has been upping its game ever since its inception. Think about a shoktigorer lyangcha (an elliptical gulab jamun, to be precise), a mihidana'r ladoo or the incomparable mishti doi, and you'll get it here. Generating business worth tens of thousands, these humble mishti'r dokan(s) (or simply referred to as sweet shops) continue to dish out riveting options day-in and day-out with the grit and grace of royalty. Should you find yourself here, take a moment to pause, breathe and savour the delectables that they hand-out in organic shaal-pata katoris (organic containers made with dried sal leaves).
An added tip would be to visit this place in the wee hours of the day, if you find yourself enjoying freshly fried radhaballavis (a type of kachori) with a side of the spiciest aloo dum you can think of.
As the nogor-bashis (people of the city) just begin to cope with the long wait till the next festive season and eventually land softly on sheetkal or the much-awaited winters, sweet-makers here gear up to stock up on their resources of nolen-gur (date jaggery, a winter specialty) which will be found in surplus in most of the desserts they'll be offering!
This excerpt is nothing short of an honest endeavour to bring to light one of Kolkata's better-kept secrets hidden perfectly in plain sight. From discovering their genesis to tasting the authenticity in every sweet treat available here, I hope this exploration was just as special for you as it was memorable for me!
Shreyasee who has always remained a foodie has now embarked upon the journey of channelling her love for the same through her writing. An ardent theatre-lover, she's always on the look-out for new avenues to express her creative self. Apart from writing and working on social media, she also never misses an opportunity to crack a joke, every now and then.