Wednesday, February 8

Kolkata’s sweet tooth aches for more nolen gur

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Winter is the time when Bengalis’ love for sweets goes up a notch since it’s the season of nolen gur. From sandesh to rosogolla and now, several quirky dishes like nolen gur cocktails, puddings and even chicken starters, date palm juice delicacies are finding a special place in the city’s fine dining menus.However, procuring the date palm juice is a bit of a problem this year. The reason is the late onset of winter. As a result, the supply of nolen gur is inadequate even in the second week of December. Nowadays, it’s also tough to get many skilled gur-collectors (siulis as they are locally called) who will climb up the trees to extract the sap. While many sweet shops and restaurants are still managing to serve the delicacies, some have been left stumped.
Suprovat Guin, owner of one of the popular sweet shops of north Kolkata, Naba Krishna Guin, says that sale of nolen gur sweets at his shop has been affected badly due to the shortage of supply. “We make a variety of sweets with nolen gur. But due to the scanty supply of nolen gur this season, we are facing a lot of problems. The quality of nolen gur that’s available now is not good at all. The consistency is not thick. Even the colour varies. When we use it in our sweets, we aren’t getting the perfect aroma that’s the USP of pure nolen gur,” he informs.

Suprovat is keen on waiting till December 20. That’s when good quality nolen gur will be available in the market, he says. “Many shops are using patali gur now as a substitute for nolen gur. But with our reputation, we cannot compromise on the quality. So, we are not using patali gur. I am in touch with the suppliers in Nadia and Bashirhat. These are the places where good quality nolen gur is available. I have been told that the supply will be better after December 20. So I am hoping that around Christmas time, sale of our nolen gur special sweets will also increase,” he adds.

Indrajit Mukherjee, executive sous chef, Hotel Hindustan International, also feels that the situation may start looking up just ahead of Christmas since the temperature is expected to dip drastically around that time. “We are planning a nolen gur festival from December 26 onwards. While we have slowly started making arrangements for it from now on, our nolen gur suppliers inform us that they will be delivering a few kilograms less than the regular 10-15 kg that they supply. This is due to the low production of nolen gur this season,” said Indrajit.

Also, one major concern for the chefs these days is that a lot of companies have started producing nolen gur essence. This, of course, varies from the pure date palm juice. The essence smells just like nolen gur but varies in texture. Adds Indrajit, “Unlike the impure variety, pure Nolen gur will never freeze even if you keep it in the refrigerator for hours together. So, we need to be very careful and always check the supply we get multiple times before using it for any delicacy. I have friends in Purulia and Bankura, who inform me in advance about when we can get the supply of pure nolen gur.”

Sambit Banick, executive chef and owner of the restaurant Spice Kraft, also has plans of organising a nolen gur festival. However, if the supply shortage persists, he is planning to procure the date palm juice directly from Joynagar. “Last year too, there was a shortage in supply of nolen gur. I am starting my festival from December 23. I expect the temperature to dip around that time. That’s when we will get the best quality nolen gur. But if the production is not up to the mark, I will head straight to Joynagar to get my stock.”

December is also the time for weddings. It is a month of homecoming for many too. Get-togethers at restaurants are common. Especially in case of weddings, both the venue and menu are decided months in advance. Most Bengali weddings in winter have at least one nolen gur sweet dish in the menu. But due to the shortage in supply, the dessert menu now has to be tweaked around a bit. Says Suman Chakraborty, F&B director, Holiday Inn Kolkata Airport, “We are suffering a lot due to the shortage of nolen gur supply.” Most of their guests — those who have booked our banquet for different occasions including weddings — had planned their menu sometime in May or June. During that time, the hotel had promised to serve nolen gur sandesh and rosogolla in the menu. “But in the current scenario, we are unable to keep that promise. Many of our guests are either cancelling the bookings or are being left very disappointed since they have to remove the nolen gur delicacies from the menu,” Suman points out.

He too is hoping that the situation will improve around Christmas. “But if you think about the larger perspective of the problem, somewhere or the other, we humans are responsible for the destruction of nature. That triggers problems like these. Be it deforestation, global warming or the issue of climate change, Mother Nature is suffering due to our ill-practices. Indirectly, we are also bearing the brunt,” Suman concluded.

Source: Times of India

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