• Kolkata’s love for pithe-puli prevails amid Covid surge
    Times of India | 14 January 2022
  • It’s Poush Sankranti — that time of the year when the nip in the air makes you want to gorge on all the traditional post-harvest delights you’ve grown up relishing. And going by what Kolkata’s home chefs, restaurants and sweet shops told us, even the third Covid wave hasn’t been able to hit the demand for the sweet delights. More so because most people are not in a state of mind to go through the process of making their favourite Sankranti sweets at home and hence, are ordering in.

    Delivery orders, especially from the elderly, are flowing in

    Chef Bibi Sarkar and daughter Bijoyini Joyee Sarkar started making various pithe and puli for home delivery orders since last year. “A lot of sentiments are associated with this festival in Bengal. But given the current situation, making Sankranti sweets at home is a challenge. So, we’ve been receiving a lot of orders from NRI Bengalis who want to treat their parents back home on this day. In these trying times, this gesture is all they can share from abroad,” Bijoyini said.

    Restaurants and delivery-only outlets are also being flooded with orders for the traditional Sankranti sweets. “We’ve been receiving very good flow of orders this year. We are trying to keep the home variants of pithe in mind when catering to our customers. People are not in the right mindframe to cook at home and many are also affected by Covid. The bulk of the orders are coming from the elderly this time,” said chef Dalia De.

    A delish family tradition

    Ranga aloor roshopuli is a family tradition, which my mother-in-law started. I took over in 2017 after she

    suffered a stroke. It’s made using a variety of seasonal produces, like sweet potatoes, coconut and jaggery, and tastes delicious. We make it for family members and friends every year.

    — Madhushree Basu Roy, food blogger and home chef

    Pithes and sweets you can get home delivered

    n Kheerer patishapta

    n Narkoler patishapta

    n Moong shamali

    n Doodh puli

    n Gokul pithe

    n Ranga aloor pithe

    n Moa

    n Narkel chapa

    n Kheerer tokti

    n Doulla pithe

    n Ranga aloor roshopuli

    n Rosh bora

    Celebrating the sweet-tooth

    Like every year, this time too, kheerer and narkoler pithe are the popular items. But home chefs are also trying to innovate to offer something extra to customers. “I have been making narkol chapa and kheerer tokti for some time now. I get a lot of orders of these items. So, looking at the situation this year, where many households may not be in a position to prepare these sweet dishes, I started taking orders for pithe puli as well. My specialities are moong shamali, doodh puli and patishapta. I’ve also catered to orders from the US and Kenya earlier," said home chef Bhaswati Ghoshal.

    This inflow of orders has given a Hong Kong and Kolkata-based culinary curator, Argha Sen an idea to start delivering pithe pulis to homes in Kolkata. “We started last year during the pandemic and have continued this year too. Ours is a premium culinary brand and it’s good to see people refusing to forgo the tradition altogether and holding onto it even in these trying times,” he said.

    Orders galore at sweetshops

    Sudip Mullick, the co-founder of a famous south Kolkata sweetshop chain, said the sale of pithe and puli has gone up. “People are not coming to our shops to buy but the trend is to get it home delivered via food delivery apps. Our orders increased every day ahead of Poush Sankranti and that’s definitely a good sign. There is no way we can say that why people are ordering in, but it seems like it’s because of the current situation. People are reluctant to step out and many are not in a condition to make pithe at home now,” he said.

    They have come up with 21 types of pithe and puli this season and among these, patishapta, gokul pithe, doodh

    puli and ranga aloor puli are the most ordered items.

    Suprabhat Dey, the owner of a north Kolkata sweetshop, said almost all localities in north Kolkata have been declared containment zones. “And most of our regular customers belong to these areas. In this situation neither are they coming out, nor are food delivery apps allowed in. Despite that, we’re registering good demand for patishapta and moa. We have seen that some people avoid food delivery apps during the Poush Sankranti because they believe that the sweets are transported in boxes which are also used to deliver non-veg items. So, many customers directly visit our shop. However, there is one app that delivers only sweets and we are getting good orders through them,” he shared.

    The sweetmakers of the shop have made five items for the Poush Sankranti and among these doodh puli and patishapta are the most popular.
  • Link to this news (Times of India)