India offers a varied range of food from traditional to a fusion of Chinese, Continental and other world cuisines. Bengalis, who belong to an eastern state of India, are open to changes and their cuisine has evolved over the years. However, having said this, some things in life never change and some foods never lose their originality. The Grandma’s age-old recipes are carried forward through generations and although we might have adopted an easier approach towards the culinary execution, we have done that without messing with the basics of the recipes.
Today, I will share one such recipe which my mother has gotten from her mother and has been trying to replicate in the best possible ways. Although the brick/mud stoves (chullahs) have been replaced by the gas oven and the heavy metal wok by the non-stick pans, the ingredients are the same and so is the method of preparation. The Bengali Sweet Pancake Roll (Patishapta) is a delicious dessert, and the fact that we do not eat it often makes it even more delectable. It is a ritual to prepare it in the winter months of the Bengali year, when the chills and the holiday sentiments are at their best. Patishapta, in all its auspiciousness and cherished family time, adds to the fond memories. It gives me immense pleasure today to share the original recipe with you here.
Patishapta (also, pithe) is the most popular among all the sweet dishes that the Bengalis prepare traditionally at home. It is actually a rice flour crepe with coconut and sugar/ jaggery filling.
Preparation time: 10min
Cooking time: 30 mins
Makes 10 Patisapta
So, what is required?
Rice flour: This can be prepared at home by grinding the finest of rice grains or can be bought from the local market. Traditionally, home made rice powder would make the best kind of the crepes. My mother insists that the rice grains should be soaked, dried and then ground to get Grandma's authentic taste.
Refined flour: This can be bought from the market but has to be of the finest quality to get the best result.
Sugar/ Date palm Jaggery: Even though date palm jaggery is the ideal choice, sugar works well too. You can also mix equal proportions of sugar and jaggery to prepare the filling. The date palm jaggery, that we get only in the winter months, adds an unbeatable earthy flavour to the dish.
Grated coconut: We need the best quality of coconuts to produce a sparkling white grated coconut. My mom does it at home with a coconut grinder.
Condensed milk/ mild solids: Condensed milk or mild solids add to the creamy richness and softness of the dish.
Milk: Milk, common to most Bengali desserts, is invariably a must for this recipe.
Clarified butter/ white oil: Clarified butter was the original choice. However, nowadays people are using white refined oil just to cut down on the calorie intake. Using white oil hardly makes any difference if the other ingredients are mixed in the correct proportion.
Preparing the batter
Mix 2 cups of rice powder, ½ cup of refined flour, 4 cups of milk and 1 cup sugar/1 cup jaggery. The batter, not too thick nor too watery, should be of the consistency of a pancake.
Preparing the filling
Heat 1 cup of sugar/ jaggery and allow it to liquefy. Add 1 cup grated coconut and mix it by stirring continuously so that it doesn’t form lumps. Stir till the grated coconut gets sticky. Add 1 cup condensed milk/ milk solids and stir till the whole filling gets thicker, smoother and richer.
Preparing the crepes
Brush a small amount of oil on the frying pan, spread it evenly all over and place on a slow heat. When the pan is heated moderately, take a big serving spoon of the batter and put it on the middle of the pan. Spread it evenly in the pan to make a round shape, do it quick before the batter sets. Place the filling lengthwise at the center of the crepe. Fold the crepe from both sides and wait till it turns light golden brown.
The Patishapta can be eaten while still hot or after cooling down. Both taste equally good. In olden days, it was prepared in bulk and was stored and served along with many other delicacies during the winter months of the Bengali New year. My mother, following the footsteps of my grandma, ensures the auspicious sentiment and prepares it with great care, patience and love. And you could feel it with each single bite.
She, also, makes a healthier version for my father and me where she uses a very little oil, less sugar and fat-free milk. It works for me, I can hardly tell the difference.
How much healthy is it?
Coming to the calorie, it does have a high calorie count. The fact that the sugar takes up much of the count, can be minimised by using saccharine. Nonetheless, this makes a great, sumptuous snack for the children and adults alike. Even the adults can indulge in a few of the rolls, since we do not get to eat this often. My mother serves it with home made condensed milk (kheer), liquid jaggery and it looks absolutely gorgeous.
The first roll never comes out well. So do not get disheartened. You will get better with the second or the third roll.
The heat has to be moderate. High flame could burn the batter and spoil it. Some, like me, love slightly burnt taste. In order to get there, cook the batter for a longer time with the heat still moderate.
Pour the milk with constant stirring to avoid lump formation, the batter should be smooth and freely flowing (add excess milk if required)
Some add cardamom powder in the batter. Personally, I think cardamom overpowers the earthy flavour. But if you are someone who loves the cardamom flavour, you can add it.
You can go wild with the serving if not with the original recipe.
Lastly, be patient. The recipe is simple but requires great care and love, something the Bengalis are known for.