(Photo by rashmi1979/Flickr)

Fresh cheese balls in syrup. These require skill and patience, but for those who have been introduced to the delights of this Bengali specialty, they are well worth the trouble taken.

Makes 12 balls.


2 litres/4 pints/8 cups milk
1 teaspoon tartaric acid dissolved in 125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup hot water
2 teaspoons fine semolina pinch bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
750 g/1 1/2 lb/3 cups sugar
1.5 litres/3 pints/6 cups water
10 cardamom pods, bruised
2 tablespoons rose water or few drops rose essence
few blanched pistachio kernels


Make the fresh cheese (panir), allowing curds to firm for 15 minutes before straining through muslin and draining for 30 minutes. (If milk does not curdle readily, add a little more tartaric acid, dissolved in water.) When whey has stopped dripping from the curds and before the curds get too dry, turn them into a bowl (or onto a marble slab or other smooth, cool surface) and knead hard for 5 minutes. Add semolina and bicarbonate of soda and knead again until the palm of your hand feels greasy. Divide into 10 or 12 equal portions and mould each into a ball.

Make a syrup with the sugar, water and cardamom pods, in a saucepan which is about 23 cm (9 in) across. Stir until the sugar dissolves and boil hard for 5 minutes. Pour 1 cup of this syrup into a bowl and reserve. Add enough water to the pan with the syrup to give a depth of about 5 cm (2 in) and bring to a fast boil. Gently put the cheese balls in, leaving enough room for them to expand (they will almost double in size). Boil fast for 15-20 minutes, then lift out on slotted spoon and transfer to the reserved syrup. Repeat with more balls until they are all done. Flavour with rose water and leave to soak overnight for at least 4 hours. Do not serve rasgullas chilled as they will lose their spongy texture. Heat gently, just to slightly warm them. When serving, decorate with slivers of unsalted pistachio nuts.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)