There is a “magic” ingredient in making one of the finest and most popular Indian desserts—the rice kheer—and the ingredient is jaggery. The jaggery or gur is used in different ways in different states in India. Some use this in curries and dals (Indian lentil soups). More commonly, it is used in making a variety of Indian sweets. This is associated with festivity and auspiciousness in India.
Patali gur (one superior form of jaggery) is the deep-brown jaggery obtained from boiling the liquid obtained from date palms. Patali has much greater moisture and softness levels than its cousin, the cane jaggery. The patali gur is mainly found in states of West Bengal and Orissa. Worthwhile to say, in West Bengal, no festival, marriage ceremony or birthday party is complete without this dessert!
Last year, my sister-in-law lovingly sent me the best patali gur from West Bengal, guessing that Hong Kong will probably not have this authentic Indian constituent. Well, she was right.
If you don’t get this ingredient in the Indian stores in your country, don’t be disheartened. An alternative is to use natural brown sugar, like turbinado or demerara sugar, which will also impart brown colour to the dish. But, honestly, the flavour would be “divine” only with this Indian product.
I am glad to share this venerable Bengali recipe, passed over many generations in India. The rice typically used in this is the small-grained fragrant rice, used as an offering to lord Ganesha during the festival called Ganesh Chaturthi. This rice is called gobindabhog chaal in Bengal. The rice should be washed properly and soaked in just enough water for ½ hour (½ cup rice in 1 cup water). The consistency of this kheer should be runny: not too thick.
Jaggery-Sweetened Rice Kheer
- Small-grained fragrant rice: ½ cup
- Milk: 1.5 litres
- Jaggery: ½ cup
- Bay leaves: 2
- Green cardamoms, split: 2
- Cashewnuts, broken into half: 12
- Raisins: ¼ cup
- Ghee/oil: 1 tsp
Method of Preparation:
First, shallow-fry the cashewnuts and the raisins in ghee/oil separately, till light brown. Remove and keep them aside.
In a skillet, pour the milk, bay leaves and green cardamoms. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring from time to time.
Add the drained rice, immersed in 1 cup water for ½ hour. Add the fried cashewnuts and raisins.
Cook for 1 hour on low flame, stirring occasionally. After 1 hour, the rice will get nicely cooked in milk.
Switch off the gas and wait for 5 min.
Then add the jaggery. Mix well. (Adding the jaggery to hot milk is not preferred, since it leads to curdling of the milk.) Serve cold.