Äre you getting lazy on your “Sweets Of Bengal” series”? Somebody asked me- shyly, coyly. And I was looking for a space to hide my face. I couldn’t deny the fact fully. Us, Bengalis are known to be sweet- well, Sweet tooth among many other things. Jokes apart, the sheer variety of the Sweets Of Bengal is very very rare to find in India, at least. so, in this sweets of Bengal series, I am trying to document sweets from different districts of Bengal. This winter, post covid, I’ve determined to go on rides at least once or twice every month and enjoy some me-time. And this blogpost is about one such place- Shaktigarh- the lyangcha town of Bengal.
It’s a neat 1.5-hour ride. drive from my place on the bike and there’s something strange about this place. Shaktigarh has almost 20-30 lyangcha shops on both sides of Delhi road and each shop has appointed a few resources. the only job of these poor guys is to wave/shout and try to attract people for a snack at their place. Every place has some standard items for sale apart from Lyangcha- Kachori Chola Dal for breakfast (say till around 1 PM) and then some lovely singhara/ samosa during the afternoon and evening. Some mihidana, sitabhog, monda and kaju sandesh are kept there. But all said and done, the showstopper is lyangcha and every damn shop claims to serve the best variety of Lyangcha- all fried in ghee and some pictures of some filmstar/ celebrity enjoying the same.
I won’t say, they’re bad stuff. No, they’re decent and pretty much value for money. Taste-wise, we get better stuff in Kolkata, but whatever. But let me tell you something. Somehow on my multiple visits, I couldn’t find much difference in a lyangcha, from one shop to another. And I somehow have a strong notion, inside my mind, that there is a master production unit somewhere preparing a huge huge quantity of this item and selling it to all the shops in this area.
The price of lyangcha ranges from 5/7/10 Rs per piece and on prior order, they can churn out large-sized ones, as well
But all said and done? What is lyangcha?
Lyangcha is a cylindrical shaped fried sweet, made of chhena or mashed cottage cheese. Chhena is mashed with white flour and kheer and then deep-fried in a mixture of ghee and refined oil. Yes, I know that only ghee could have made it better- but you need to check the pricing as well. The taste if more towards the Pantua, but this is more subtle and lacks the punch of black cardamom.
The origin of lyangcha is quite blurred. There are three fables- one says, one king from Burdwan was looking for some new and interesting sweets. And the same was prepared by some karigar there, who was cripple. And the dish was suh tasty, that it was named after him … Cripple in Bengali= lyangra= Lyangcha.
The second story tells almost the same thing, but here, one British officer asked for the same. One gentleman named Khudiram Dutta from Shaktigarh invented this beauty and later on, started his firt shop- Lyangcha Mahal. But sadly, there are some 5 shops by the same name here and each trying to claim the authenticity.
Now, there’s a third story as well and that’s more interesting. I read this in the book by my friend Souvik Raj. Some British lady enjoyed a sweet and told about that to the Maharaja of Burdwan. She couldn;t remember the name and said that this gentleman is crippled. The maharaj of Krishnanagar sent that karigar to Burdwan and that sweet from Nadia, is now the pride of Shaktigarh- Lyangcha.
But let me tell you, all these stories are fables and let’s enjoy them, rather than check and fight for authenticity.
And then Azaad Hind Dhaba, Gopalpur
So, let’s come to the interesting place on the way to Shaktigarh- the Azaad Hind Dhaba. Now, I’ve realized something from my highway driving experience. And that, the main criteria for a Good Dhaba is, apart from food, a good (at least decent) toilet. And Azaad Hind Dhaba scores high in that. It’s around 45 min-1 hour drive from Second Hoogly Bridge toll plaza and you can check the location here on Google map.
About Azaad Hind Dhaba
It has a pretty decent interior, consisting of three sections- AC/ non-AC and an open-aired one. The parking place is huge and quite well managed. One can get to see some damn sexy superbikes on a lazy Sunday morning ride here. The AC section has an oval glass wall and I personally love that. THEY DO NOT SERVE BEER OR SPIRITS HERE.
About the food
My order at Azaad Hind Dhaba is normally pretty simple. I go for their Tandoori Aloo Parantha (and sheepishly ask the waiter for some extra butter to be smeared), Mutton Keema Matar, and Masala Omelet. The food is rich and damn tasty. Especially the combo of Aloo Paratha and Keema Matar is to die for. The masala omelet, for some strange reason, has some tomato slices neatly put on top of them, and chat masala is sprinkled on it.
Overall, good food, decent pricing, and a nicely managed parking place- all the checkpoints of a good highway joint ticked at Azaad Hind Dhaba. For someone coming for a ride/ drive to Shaktigarh, I’d personally suggest to go for the lyangcha first and then come to Azaad Hind Dhaba. An hour or two of relaxation and then the ride back.
Well, if you’re coming this way, or have tried these places- do let me know and suggest other places, which I can try for the Sweets Of Bengal.
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