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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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ledikeni is made by forming a mixture of chhana (fresh curd cheese) and flour into ping-pong–sized balls and stuffing them with cardamom-scented nakuldana (sugar granules). The balls are then fried and subsequently soaked in sugar syrup to yield a slightly crisp exterior and soft, juicy interior; the melted sugar filling bursts in your mouth as you bite into this sweet.

The various legends of ledikeni’s origin point to a confectioner’s tribute to a colonial ruler. Ashoke Kumar Mukhopadhyay, a connoisseur of sweets, recounts (1999) that the sweet was prepared by the well-known confectioner Bhim Nag to commemorate the birthday of Countess Charlotte Canning, popularly referred to as Lady Canning, wife of the Indian Viceroy Charles Canning. Christened after the confectioner, Bhimnag is a famous sweet shop in North Kolkata owned and managed by Nag’s family, whose roots can be traced to the Hooghly district. In another story, the shop is credited with the invention during Lady Canning’s visit to Calcutta (Kolkata’s earlier name) in 1856, before the Sepoy Mutiny. In a travelogue piece on sweetshops in Kolkata, Rimli Sengupta states that the sweet was created by Bhimnag to celebrate her visit. Though Lady Canning succumbed to malaria within five years of her arrival, her name has come to be associated with the popular sweet that continues to occupy a revered position in postcolonial Bengal.