The sweet addiction that we Bengali’s have is simply unmatchable. Every occasion sees a sweet of varied taste and texture. So come winter and Bengali’s go bonkers over Nolen gur (date palm jiggery). Reminiscing my kindergarten days, my earliest memories go back when baba used to say “aaj breakfast e porota and jhola gur” (today’s breakfast will be paratha and nolen gur). The glow in his eyes said it all and I was barely touched by this excitement.
But today when I have started doing my own pop-ups that too exclusive Bengali meal, I get to feel the taste of his excitement. Nolen Gur the quintessentially delicious addiction in its liquid form is almost like a tradition for Bengali’s to have in winter. Winter is incomplete otherwise. Made from the of sap of date palm that has been collected overnight in a small earthen pot and made to made to simmer on wooden logs for hours Nolen Gur gets its lovely golden hue from here. The aroma the wafts around is intoxicating. Packed in earthen pots it comes to the market. Not to forget that the age, height, and thickness of the tree fibre affect the quality of the sap.
The X-factor about this gur is that it can only be prepared during winter and hence ‘Nolen/ Notun Gur’ or New Jaggery. Moreover, the Shelf value is short lived so it had to be consumed before summer as the heat it turns rancid. (however sweet shops across has found ways to preserve it for long)
Every season I make sure I get my stock of Nolen gur both the solid and the jhola one so that for few months the cravings are sorted. This googey slippery gur which tastes heavenly has seen making its debut in many new age dishes. Last year in my kitchen I experimented by adding nolen gur to my apple upside-down cake and give that twist and replacing the sugar. Be it the Kachagolla, Roshogolla, Patishapta or Payesh Nolen gur is the star in ingredient in winter. And the all-time favourite nolen gurer Sandesh comes in two variety – kada paak (hard outer texture) and norom paak (soft texture).
The sap of the silver date or wild date palm gives it the Jhola gur its subtle stickiness. It’s only in the east that the sap is made into Nolen gur while in most places it’s fermented to make liquor. Gur-connoisseur swears by its taste and aroma. Even Sukumar Ray’s in his poem “ Bhalo re Bhalo” has mentioned that “Sobar chaite bhalo/Pauruti aar jhola gur” (best of all is liquid gur eaten with bread). Need I say more what Nolen gur is too Bengali’s. Relish it till the season lasts.