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The Unique Taste of Bengal’s Nolen Gur

Piu Sur

At 5 am in the morning all you could see was the array of slow moving trucks on National Highway 2. The moon hung low in the sky and the stars were steadily watching our movement. It is difficult to locate the place we were looking for in the dark. At first my friend and I overshot the place and had to go back to reach the small shacks beside the highway. In the dark all we saw was a glowing orange flame. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness we next saw some movement and went over. There was a small lamp inside the makeshift house covered with dry palm tree leaves. Two people bent over a huge rectangular tray stirring palm juice. It was cold and sankranti was approaching.

We had reached the very people who made Nolen Gur a specialty of Bengal during this time of the year. This gur makes specialties like payesh, patisapta and rosogollas. We waited patiently as the gur-makers completed their task and came over to offer some of the fresh palm juice they had collected.

Essentially farmers by profession these people during this time of the year collect palm juice from the nearby trees, boil it before the sun rises to prevent the juice from fermenting and then sell it as liquid gur or patali which is the solidified gur. As they explained their daily routine how pots was hung from a palm tree overnight which had a cut in it. As early as 3 am they went out to get back the pots of juice and brought them back to make this very special delicacy notun gur. We have always enjoyed the nolen gur in all its forms but this was the first time we were witness to how it was prepared and were lucky to have met the very people who make it. There were no added preservatives and it was a purely organic preparation.

The smell and taste was also unique and when added to payesh or mixed with grated coconut for preparing the patisapta, it was the yummiest of all. You can also have the liquid gur or the patali with hot soft rotis or with luchi or puri. The light flowing gur drips all around your finger and it is by instinct that you lick it off, not wanting a drop to escape. After all it is only during this time of year that we get this specialty which is available in sweet shops all over Bengal.

Most of the highway travelers, who were familiar with the gur-makers, stopped and purchased large quantities of it. When we had arrived here last evening, most of the nolen gur was already sold out. But today we were the first ones at the scene and bought enough to last us for a week, and were sure to come back for more soon. As the sun started to light up the sky we reached back home loaded with the goodies and pleased with our purchases. The difference it would make to our lunch and dinner sweet is yet another story.