Tonight the crescent moon will be riding the night sky and tomorrow will bring us to the New Moon of Mahalaya. Tomorrow along with hundreads of thousands of other Bengalis, my Ma will wake up at dawn to tune in on radio or television to hear Mahishashur Mardini Chandipath. Rooms and halls of households across West Bengal will be filled with the voice of the late Birendra Krishna Bhadra recounting the tale of Goddess Durga‘s demolition of Evil and her descent to Earth – a ritual that must be completed before the celebration of Durga Pujo begins. In a matter of five days and six nights Bengal’s air will rumble with the excitement of its natives’ restless spirit – for they have waited all year in anticipation of the four days of rituals that inspire festive merriment.
As a young girl I would lay awake in bed and listen to the wafting chants – somehow falling back asleep before it ended – while Ma would dutifully stay close by the radio until it finished. Later during the day Ma would distribute the customary gift of new clothing to those who are near and dear to her and produce home-made sweet treats for everyone to indulge in. She would make sure to have the house and pantry ready for the following festive days.
There isn’t going to be a radio program tomorrow morning heralding Durga Pujo for me to wake up to. I could tune in on YouTube to listen to the Mahalaya Chandipat … but that wouldn’t be me. A part of me wants to create memories of rituals for my Little One just like my Ma did. Sometimes I fear I am not doing much to teach her about my roots. Then I wonder about the results of trying too hard. While being perplexed about this decision I remembered all the time Ma would spend single-handedly making traditional Bengali sweets that took her hours to prepare. I could do that. I would be pleased to have a little girl eagerly expect her Mommy’s special sweet treats during the Durga Pujo festival. When she is all grown up I would be happy if she ritualized the making of malpoa for Mahalaya to celebrate the advent of Durga Pujo.
Malpoa pronounced mal-POH-ah in Bengali, commonly known as Malpua, is an Indian sweet that closely resembles a pancake. They are eggless and are deep fried. The traditional malpoa is served soaked in sugar syrup but I have altered the process to keep them from getting soggy. I prefer malpoa soft in the centre, crunchy on the sides, and less sweet. There are many variations of the traditional malpoa where mashed bananas, pineapples, or even jackfruit is used to flavour the batter. I prefer the traditional recipe and how my mother makes them. These sweet treats can be a perfect breakfast idea to celebrate any occasion.
- Khoya Kheer: 1/4 cup or Evaporated Milk: 1 can
- Flour: 3/4 cup
- Whole Milk: 1 1/4 cup
- Sugar: 2 cups + 2 tbsp
- Baking Powder: 1/2 tsp
- Fennel: 1/4 tsp
- Cardamom: 4
- Water: 4 cups
- Oil: for shallow frying (I mix oil and ghee or clarified butter which gives it a better taste)
- If you don’t have khoya kheer, heat 1 can of evaporated milk uncovered on the lowest heat setting on stove and stir every 5 mins until it is reduced to 1/4 of a cup and very thick. This can take about 45 mins to an hour. *It can easily burn on the bottom so make sure to stir without fail.
- When done cool completely. *This can be done ahead and stored in the fridge for unto two to three days.
- Heat water and 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan with 4 crushed cardamoms. When the mixture boils, turn down heat and boil for another 5 mins. Set aside to cool.
- Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
- Mixkhoya kheer or the reduced evaporated milk with the whole milk and sugar. Stir to combine. Incorporate the flour mixture and stir vigorously. Make sure the mixture is not lumpy.
- Have sugar syrup ready and close by the frying station.
- Heat oil in a shallow frying pan. When oil is medium hot pour batter with a ladle ( about 1/4 cup) on the oil. When the pancakes have turned a light brown flip carefully and cook the other side. *To get a soft centre and crunchy sides the batter needs to be poured when oil is quite hot and flipped shortly to cook the other side.
- Take malpoa out of oil when done, drain on paper towel for a few seconds and immediately dip in sugar syrup. Traditional malpoas are soaked in this syrup for a few minutes before being taken out. *I prefer mine to be very lightly sweetened so I could have the option of adding more syrup later if fancied.
- I reserve the extra syrup which the malpoas have been dipped previously to serve later.
- Serve malpoa warm or at room temperature with or without additional syrup.