Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gokul Pithe -- sweet delight for past Sankranti


Note: This post was drafted in January just after Sankranti. I never got around posting it. I am doing it now because it is a precious recipe with wonderful results.

"What are you making?", asked my 7 year old. It was cold outside and hinted of snow. She was housebound and hovered around the kitchen.

"Pithey", I said, not wanting to go into details at that moment. Pithey was not my strong point and I needed all the concentration I could muster.

"Whaat, a back, how can you make a back ?", she was bewildered.

She was familiar with the only meaning of pithe in the bengali language, which meant the back of the human body. She had no clue about the sweeter meaning of the word, a dessert that is strongly associated with the harvest festival and made on Sankranti or Poush parbon.

My fault totally. I rarely ever made pithe. And then again you did not make a pithe at any random time of the year. It had to be in mid-January on and around the day of Sankranti, when rural Bengal celebrates Poush Parbon, the harvesting festival.

My thama, my Dad's mother was not a very enthusiastic cook and did not encourage devoting time on making or eating pithe on Poush Parbon. She made a great Paayesh and notun gur er paayesh was the only sweet that got cooked on Sankranti.

I was never too fond of pithe or paayesh and remember sankranti as days of excruciating cold in the plains where winter was usually mild. The cold winds from the north would rustle through the glossy leaves of the jackfruit tree in the garden and in absence of central heating, the only warmth would come from the mid-day sun. To soak up its warmth we would sit on the terrace, our freshly washed hair strewn across our back, the golden sun streaming down on us.

The few winters that we spent at my Dida's home in Kolkata, Poush Sankranti shone with its fervor. My Dida, a petite frame, with silver hair and betel-juice stained mouth was a cook who loved her job. She celebrated with food every small and big festival listed in the bengali almanac. Poush Sankranti in her home was a 3 day affair with sweet and savory pithes of all kind imaginable. The first batch of ashkey pithey she would store in an earthenware container as an symbolic offering to gods and later immerse it in the river. Then there would be puli pithe, gokul pithe, ranga alu'r pithe, nonta pithe and pati sapta. My grandfather would beckon to all and sundry to come and take a taste of the wonderful sweets and my poor, harried grandma would rush about grating, grinding, stuffing and frying. And that is how I like to remember her, busy around the kitchen, folding betel leaves to make a paan in between her umpteen chores and always ready with a story for us.


Once on my own, I had enough excuses to not mark Sankranti on my calendar with a red dot. After the eating orgy all through December, I had no wish to grate, grind, stuff and fry in January. This was going to be a month of sparse salads with low fat olive oil dressings.

But this Sankranti, it was different. We were going to have a different sort of party this year, a pithe party. Yes, I have an enthusiastic bunch of friends.

Goaded by all the peer pressure I gave in and started calling across oceans to get the perfect Gokul Pithe. My Ma-in-law makes the best gokul pithe to date and she was the one I needed. She gave me detailed instructions over the phone, sans any measurement of course.This time though I needed measures and did not want to risk an entire batch of pithe so I sought help over the internet and got some support here.

The gokul pithe turned out to be absolutely delicious. D had his own wise opinions and even dared to say that his Mom's were better. But really do we even believe him ? Anything with a khoya + coconut stuffing, deep fried and then soaked in sugary syrup has "delish" wriiten in its genes, irrespective of whose Mother or Mother's neighbor made it.

They were also easy to make even in large number. Even though Sankranti is 11 months away, this can be served as a delicious dessert for any occasion, so roll up your sleeves and try some. Believe me these are sinfully easy.


Gokul Pithe

Make the Stuffing

Grated Coconut(I used frozen pack) ~ 2 cups
Khoya ~ 12oz almost 2 cups. Note: Ideally home made khoya/kheer is best but store bought khoya works fine.
Sugar ~ 1 cup

Heat a Kadhai.

Add coconut and sugar and lower the heat.

Mix the grated coconut with the sugar slightly pressing with your fingers till sugar melts and mixes with the coconut. Note: You can add add some cardamom powder. I didn't.


Now add the Khoya. Keep stirring till mixture becomes light brown and sticky. It should easily come off from the sides by now. At this point take a little of the mix and see if you can fashion a flat disc out of it. If it is too sticky you may have to cook a bit more, else you are good.


Take a little of the mix, roll a small ball between your palms and then flatten between your palms to make a disc about 1" in diameter and thickness of a 1 Rupee coin. Make equal sized discs. I made about 30.

Make the Batter

In a wide mouthed bowl add
2 Cups of AP Flour
1 tsp of Ghee
1/4 tsp of Baking Soda
Mix lightly

Now add 1 cup of Whole Milk + 1 Cup of water. Mix scraping the sides to form a batter. You will need about 1 more cup of water but add this gradually till you get a batter thick enough like a pakodi batter.

To the batter I added a generous pinch of saffron


Make the Syrup

3 cups of water
4&1/2 cups of sugar
to boil till you get a syrup of one string consistency
Add a few drops of Kewra or Rose water to the syrup to get a sweet smell


Heat enough oil for deep frying in a skillet.

Dip the discs in the batter so that they are well coated. Now fry them in the hot oil like a fritter. Remove with a slotted spoon when both sides are golden brown. Dunk in the syrup and remove when they become little soft.

In one version of Gokul Pithe you can make the sugar syrup thicker and then coat the fried pithe with the syrup instead of soaking them in it.


  1. wow!!!yummy sweet...nice presentation! bookmarked it..

  2. thanks for sharing this traditional recipe...

  3. Yum! Yum! Yum! Thanks for sharing...

  4. Sandeepa,
    tumaar Post ta sounds very calmed and poised , kono taratari te post kora hoyeche mone hoyena , and loved the detailed narration part..khob bhalo laglo.. in my paternal home poush-paban was never a three day ritual grandmom and Ma used to prepare only payesh, Ranga aloor pithe and patishapta just for a day of course..all other pithe and puley were very rare..but things changed after marriage as my Ma-in-law is expert in making all kinds of pithe and puley..I am still learning though:)..yoursd looks delicious specially the light and shadow picture of gokul pithe..lovely ..hugs and smiles

  5. whoa!! This sounds just amazing!! I have heard of Pithe but this is just so mouth watering..bookmarked!!

  6. Wowee that is sinful indeed and reminds me of gulab jamun made in my grandma's house.

    Dida == maternal grandmother, thama == paternal grandmother, alright.

  7. Pithe sounds delish! The pic has come out real nice. As usual love your descriptions of home and nostalgia. Glad you posted this draft! :)

  8. wow, they look so delicious. Love them, I remember eating them at our bong friends' in this season. Perfect for cold.

  9. Irresistible sweet, marvellous..

  10. "I was never too fond of pithe or paayesh and remember sankranti as days of excruciating cold in the plains where winter was usually mild. The cold winds from the north would rustle through the glossy leaves of the jackfruit tree in the garden and in absence of central heating, the only warmth would come from the mid-day sun. To soak up its warmth we would sit on the terrace, our freshly washed hair strewn across our back, the golden sun streaming down on us." - With this para, you've taken me back into raving nostalgia, never mind that I didn't have the same experiences!

  11. Wow - batter fried AND soaked in sugar syrup - thats real mishti heaven! and I love the idea of pithe party - must have been fab!

  12. I can't believe she is 7-year-old already! My parents always make the pithe payesh, I am lazy here. But I did make payesh this year. The pithe looks delish.

  13. Looks yummylicious, but too much work for lazybones like me!ir

  14. Love those pithe soaked in sugar syrup. Looks somewhat like Mal puas minus the coconut. Lovely read.

  15. Wow, never had this before.. Def try kore dekhte hobe.. Lovely pictures..

  16. yummy - I used to make them once but had forgotten how to make them . Abaar banabo :)Otherwise kemon achho - mail koro

  17. So why is it called the same word as the back? coz it causes an unnatural growth in the backside? It sounds sinful :).
    How have you been Sandeepa? Been a while since I stopped by this space. Hope the "not so" new year is treating you well :)

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  19. Beautifully written...."the only warmth would come from the mid-day sun. To soak up its warmth we would sit on the terrace, our freshly washed hair strewn across our back, the golden sun streaming down on us."

    I'll skip the frying and make just the barfi, yum :)

  20. Rekha

    It is indeed yumm


    yes, I needed to remember this recipe too



    ha, ha, anekdin age likhechi ar anekdin dhore likhechi bole bodh hoy. Gokul Pithe khete amar darun lage.




    We love this one, really delicious

  21. Indo

    Your ammayi's gulab jamun was more hard work with the home made khoya-kheer. I cheated.

    Glad you liked it :)

    Yes, most bengali homes make pithe, pati-sapta on Sankranti


    Thank You :)


    What was your experience ?


    Yes, it was a very good idea, the "pithe party"

  22. Mandira

    Yeah, time does fly:-) Hey, you are now a mom of a toddler :D


    ha, ha same here. Why do you think I said this was my first time ;-)


    I make malpuas without stuffing. These might be like kheer stuffed malpuas some people make.



    Mallika Di

    How are you ? Glad to see you after such a long time. Mail korbo.


    Honestly, no idea !!!!


    No, no, no way. You have to do the whole thing :-D The burfi is good but this is yummmmmmm

  23. LOL about the meaning of Pithe. I think I can eat the coco and khova mix right away without the frying part! Probably it might try without frying :)
    Very warm post Sandeepa!

  24. Pithe maane 'back' er kotha shune khub haaslam...bhishon cute laglo..and abt the pithe..m drooling now!

  25. first time in your blog and it looks awsm :) I liked the pithey you made .. i am not at all good at that, should be ashamed to call my bengali :)

  26. Looks divine. Love the sunlight in your pictures.

  27. Great pics and an interesting 'dessert' .. will try it out soon and report back .. the comment from your 7 year old about pitha is reminiscent of my own niece who at about that age said in somber tones that while there was a virtual deluge of a rain, there was an unholy absence of cats or dogs - I had asked if it had rained cats and dogs! :-)

    You may want to consider updating your home page where it is declared that outside of Kolkata there is very little in the way of varied food and only Bongs are true blue foodies! Wrong!! I was very pleased with the Delhi food scene this past year.. down to the wonderful Vietnamese cuisine .. and every ounce of MY Punjabi blood screams FOOD!! :-D

  28. my mum always makes these for holi, they were famous in the whole colony we stayed in and ppl wd drop in to taste these.. i have never made these ever, but the taste is so heavenly.. slurrrp.. maybe i can try making them this holi! I didnt even know it was a bong dish, we simply call it mom's pua :))

  29. Richa

    Oh, this one definitely is a very very Bong dosh. I think you are confusing it with malpua which is a little different. No stuffing there usually. If there is a stuffing then no soaking.

  30. hi sandeepa. gokul pithe is yummy. i remember devouring the delicious pithes at my dadu's place. they used to make it with only khoya and no coconut. i tried gokul pithe and kheer patishaapta this sankranti. my family and friends goaded over the pieces, but it was nowhere near the taste of those made by dida, i felt.

  31. no not malpua, mom made these..i rem very clearly. she wouldn't soak them, but dip and take them out of the syrup.i have to try ths this holi!

  32. Paromita

    I cannot tell you how your comment has saddened and at the same time touched me.I really don't know what to say.
    Hugs to you and if you want write to me any time

  33. hi....I just love your blog. I am a south Indian, married to a Bengali for the last 20 years. I have used the recipes from your blog to satiate the appetie of my true bong husband and also have been praised by my in-laws for my ability to churn out Bengali dishes with true flair. Little do they know, that it is all due to the recipes that i find here. Thanks a lot. Am going to try pithey this weekend. Will get back to you and let you know how it turned out.

  34. cool, i made them and tasted awesome.

  35. It was a very easy... Will surely make with your version... Indeed before sankranti it was a great help as gokul pithe is titir favourite.


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