It has been a little over a year since the current owners of this Bengali sweet shop took the reins on a long-standing sugar store. Mothers and daughters select their saccharine vice, fingers pressed up against the pane of glass, as they sift through their options as if in an ice cream parlour.
Store owner Ali Miah fills up red and gold gift boxes, brimming with a carefully orchestrated ensemble of ‘mithai’ (Indian for sweets) to be offered to friends, graduating students, as wedding gifts or simply to have sitting at arms reach, or similarly dangerous proximities from the sofa.
He seems to know everyone who streams past, as is a common theme in Euston, an always vibrant and culturally diverse area. Having grown up around the corner, people pop in and out, more like friends than customers. Miah does not hesitate to let them off a few quid here and there if they are short, knowing that they’ll be in for their next batch in the coming weeks and repay the difference.A couple of tables rest on black-and-white tiles, contrasting the hot pink of the shop’s exterior. The chilled vibe creates a buzzing community hub. Although customers tend to be Bengali regulars, of which there is always a steady flow, considering that 22% of the West Euston population is from this region.
Miah tells us that “we get everyone, from those who know exactly what they want to those who are curious to try Indian sweets.” It seemed the ideal place to nibble on some of Bengal’s tastiest treats, which are often more intense and sweeter than Western sugary offerings. It’s a hard life – we know.
Some of our sugary highlights…
Burfis are bite-sized chunks of white chocolate with a fudge-like texture. Derived from the word ‘barf’, Persian for ice or snow on account of its appearance, they have an uncanny resemblance to chunks of cheddar cheese. The simple treat contains condensed milk, almond, sugar and ghee (clarified butter). A moreish sweet, it feels like a spongy, intensified Milky Bar. There are hundreds of varieties of burfis, cut and rolled in different shapes with different flavourings (cashew, mango and coconut to name a few); and some come topped with a thin layer of edible silver.
We aren’t quite done with the burfis yet. The pistachio flavoured relative is deep lime green, slightly less smooth and a tad too chalky to resemble fudge. It feels like a low calorie, green tea-infused alternative to the tanked up Milky Bar it shares it’s burfi status with.
These rose-water infused sweets are highly saturated, sugar-coated dough balls. They somehow manage to retain a doughy texture under a deep-fried crunch, which is then met with a gush of sugar-syrup with every spongy bite. A napkin is recommended. Deriving from the Persian word for “rose”, gulab jamun are popular in South Asian as well as in various Caribbean countries. They can be served whole, or sliced in two and filled with a pistachio custard cream to give the look of a condensed, compressed éclair.
Floating inconspicuously in a tub of cardamom flavoured sugar-syrup lies a handful of palm-sized dumplings. Rossogulla have been regarded as the poster boy of Bengali sweets since time immemorial and are popular with all Indian diaspora. These cushiony dumplings are made of chena (curd cheese) and semolina. The ample air bubbles are lightly penetrated with syrup which creates a melt in the mouth texture. This gives the impression of biting into a sweet soaked sponge – which, happily, is big enough to share.