According to well-known journalist Vir Sanghvi:
"You can take the craze of Diwali in Delhi, Christmas in London, Summer Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Valentine's day in Paris and then add it to the month-long madness of Olympic Games or the World Cup and cram all that into a span of five days and you still wouldn't know what you are missing if you haven't been in Kolkata during Durga Puja."
That's exactly how Durga Puja is. And when the festival comes to an end with the ritualistic immersion of the Goddess, we feel sad as a community. Dashami (the final day) has come and gone and if you're in Kolkata you're probably still feeling a bit dejected. Some of you have left the city, some of you are back at the office grind, some of you are worried that you may never see that cute girl/boy you struck up a conversation with at Maddox Square. The time of unrestrained joy is over. Friends are busy again, the city is sober, the sounds of dhaaks and the 70s' R. D. Burman songs have died down and traditions will be abandoned until next Sharat.
But nothing to fear. Our hedonistic ancestors had this figured out. There is a reason why Dashami is followed by another month of ritualistic naru and nimki eating. It is a cure for communal healing from post-puja depression. Narkel naruhas this uplifting effect—it soothes, coddles and makes you feel like all is okay in the world. Therefore, on Dashami mornings in Bengal, Bengalis undertake this elaborate project of grating coconuts, making kheer (milk solids), grinding cardamoms, churning coconut and jaggery/sugar, and finally rolling them into round shapes to be served to every guest for another month.
This Bengali home in New York is no different, except I buy grated and frozen coconut, and I always use sugar because 1) you don't get fresh jaggery here, 2) my husband is not very fond of it anyway. So I make my grandma's special kheer er narkel narus—super-easy to prepare and delicious. Hope you like the recipe enough to leave a comment!
Serves: 10-12; cooking time: 15 mins
2 cups grated coconut*
1 cup khoya/mawa or milk solids
⅔ cup sugar
½ tsp cardamom powder**
- Mix all the ingredients in a cast iron skillet or a heavy bottomed pan (as shown in the image above).
- Heat the pan over medium heat.
- Stir continuously until the sugar and kheer are completely melted and the mixture starts forming a lump and sticks to the spatula. Takes about 8-10 minutes.
- Turn off heat and let cool slightly.
- While the mixture is still warm, take a little bit and roll it between your palms to form round shapes.
- Transfer to a plate that has been slightly greased.
- Store the narkel narus in an airtight container. They'll keep for about a month.
* I use either freshly or frozen grated coconut. Dessicated coconut does not work so well for this recipe.
** You can make your own cardamom powder by grinding 5-8 cardamom pods in a food processor and then sieving to separate the shells.