Subho Bijoya Greetings with Coconut Sweets/Narkol Naru/Narkel Naru


I am late.
No make it terribly late.
I humbly hang my head in shame and offer a profuse apology.
I know I am a terrible Bengali. 
You know why?
Because it's almost one and a half months since Durga Pujo and I haven't even wished anyone Subho Bijoya.
Had I still been in school, I am sure I would have been sent to stand in one corner facing the wall or made to write 'I will not repeat this mistake again' for thousand times. Good thing I am no longer in school. I was never much good at writing those same lines over and over again.
In case you are wondering what this fuss is all about...we Hindu Bengalis have our biggest religious festival in autumn. Like  many religious festivals it is the fight between the good and the evil with the good winning. The good in this case is Mother Goddess whom we call Durga. She is an all powerful Goddess who is created when all the Gods got together and gave her all their strength, their wiliest fighting skills and their strongest weapons. Of course the Gods did not simply create a potent Goddess without an agenda. The scheme  was to kill this wicked character Ashura. Now why could the Gods not kill this villainous Ashura themselves? Because cunning Ashura in past had sought a blessing from a gullible God that he could not be killed by a God. So Ashura thought he was indestructible and was merrily creating havoc! Of course the silly evil thought that Goddesses were ninnies and did not seek protection from them. And look what happened to him. But hold on I am jumping my guns....
So what does this all powerful Goddess look like? She has three eyes, ten arms, yes all ten of them, each hand holding a weapon, she rides a lion and fights like a terror. And in the end, after an intense fight she does kill off Ashura, much to the delight of the  crowds of Gods cheering from the sidelines.
Of course those were the days before women's lib so this Goddess had to be married off. She could not be allowed to roam around with all those dangerous weapons on her own. So in due course a groom, an appropriately strong God is found (now this God is an interesting character himself, he is always high on dope and drinks!) and they are married off in a grand ceremony . They then happily settle down to holy domesticity in Kailash, the mountainous abode of Hindus Gods and Goddesses. In continued bliss they have four children, two daughters and two sons. Each child a God or a Goddess in his/her own right. Of the two daughters Lakshmi, is the Goddess of Wealth while Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge and of the two sons, Ganesh, the elephant headed God is in charge of Wisdom, while the playboy Kartik is the God of  War.
Every autumn Goddess Durga comes down to the Earth, which is considered to be her parent's house with her four children, cleansing the earth of demons and evil spirits.
The festival goes on for four days at the end of which it is considered that the Goddess and her children have returned to their heavenly abode. Bengalis mourn her return to Kailash and start planning her next trip down to earth.
The Hindu Bengalis' religious, social, emotional, festive calendar revolves around those four autumn days. Kolkata, the Bengali heartland goes into an overdrive of frenzy as the countdown to  the festivities begin.  But the Pujo story is a long, almost a never ending one. Let's stop here today and get back to Bijoya. It is a greeting like Merry Christmas, only thing is we wish each other after the festival is over and not during it. The idea is to wish each other with a pronam/pranam (Indian/Bengali way of seeking blessings by touching the feet of elders) and kola-kuli,  men embracing each other and of course distribution of sweets. Yes sweets, loads and loads of home-made yummy treats and a few savoury ones as well. This greeting and the sweets are exchanged immediately after the festival gets over and goes on roughly for a month till Diwali, the festival of lights. During this time Bengalis visit each other's homes to exchange Bijoya greetings and stuff themselves silly. Since a trickle of guests are expected during this time, housewives usually prepare large quantities of sweet and savoury snacks in anticipation.


I may be fashionably err horribly late but the sweet I have up my sleeves for you is an all time favourite, wildly popular and super easy to make. It is a sweet Bengalis choose over many others if they are offered a platter of sweets. It's a sweet which inevitably reminds Bengalis of childhood, home, Durga Pujo and triggers heavy doses of nostalgia. It may look humble but one tiny ball  is quite a flavour bomb. 



Narkol Naru:
Ingredients:
i.2 whole fresh coconuts desiccated and grated. I have been told that you can get the frozen version of this. Never used it, you can, if you want to jump the most time consuming step.
ii.2 cups of cane sugar
iii.1 black cardamom, roughly powdered, keep the skin, shred it into small pieces
iv.1/2 a tea spoon of ghee
v.1 cup of condensed milk (optional), if adding this, please reduce the sugar according to taste

Method:
1. Grate the coconut, the most difficult part in this recipe
2. Grease a heavy bottomed pan with the ghee, then on very low heat add the grated coconut to the pan. Keep stirring for 10 mins or so, the coconut will turn slightly brown and smell cooked.
3. Add the sugar and the cardamom powder and skins. The sugar will slowly dissolved and form a sticky paste with the coconut. Keep stirring in between, you may be tempted to turn the heat up, please do not, the idea is that this sweet has to look as white and pristine as possible. If you turn up the heat, the sugar will caramelise and the coconut will turn brown. You have to roughly cook it for 15 to 20 minutes till all the moisture evaporate and the mixture is extremely sticky.
4. Add the condensed milk, give it a good stir, leave on low heat for 5 minutes and then switch off the heat.
5. To roll the balls/ladoo/naru, wait for 10 minutes for the mixture to cool down a little, grease you palms with a little ghee/oil and take about one table spoon of the mixture and form into little balls with your palms. Before starting this procedure, please check the temperature of the mixture. If it is too hot, please wait for some more time. The balls form easily when the mixture is semi hot.
Now was it not easy?
There is another version made with jaggery, that looks dark brown.  But the white one is my favourite version, plus it is also difficult to source good quality jaggery here, so I made this version.
This stays for a really long time in air tight containers.



32 comments :

  1. I am soo poor in all Hindu stories..enjoyed reading it..BTW who r the four children ? I know Ganesha and Karthikeyan but dont know other 2..This is the cute little ladoos u gave us that day right ?? It was a great treat .. thankk u for that...
    Loved ur pics :)

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    1. I am also not too good with them, just know a few popular ones :-)

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  2. As always a soooppper read..... and what's more, even tho' i don't have a sweet tooth.... the only mishti i've ever preferred was/is the Narkol Naaru.... and u've nailed it.... ;-)... so Durga Puja & Naarkol Naaru makes this double whammy, of sorts.... Muah, u actually make my otherwise dour day!!!!

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    1. Thanks, yes Narkol Naru can melt even the pricey-est of taste buds :-)

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  3. Delicious coconut ladoos and I loved reading all about Durga Pooja..

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  4. Oh Suchi, how I loved reading about your religious festival in autumn. So very interesting. The coconut recipe is also so intriguing. I imagine it must taste so delicious. Thank you so very much for sharing, Suchi...

    P.S. I just updated my post today to include a recipe from India. It is for Kaju. Thank you so much for asking:)

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed reading it Louise :-)

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  5. I love these Suchi, look amazing and delicious!!

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  6. Very delicious (and unusual for me)...Love all ingredients!

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  7. Looks like another exciting and very interesting festival ! Yeah , we Asians love to celebrate and what better way to do it than cooking/making treats ?! I know Diwali but never heard of Durga Pujo until now :) Love those coconut balls , of course , with ghee and condensed milk in it , it must tastes divine :D

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  8. Thanks for sharing the background of your festival! And these amazing coconut treats look like a most delicious way to celebrate!

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  9. I loved reading your post! and I wish I had these in front of me, they sound wonderful!

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  10. the memories make the nakul naro even sweeter.

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  11. It is better late than never :p

    Your coconut sweets looks very festive and cheerful for celebrations :)

    Zoe

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  12. wow...wat a fantastic post...love all d info n cliks

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  13. So yummy and lucky me, freshly grated coconut is sold in the freezer aisle here so that makes it a very easy treat for me.

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  14. Hi Suchi, love this coconut delight, look really inviting. Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures.

    Best regards.

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