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Vikram

the importance of being earthen

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The subject of nimmish, the milk froth sweet, in a recent thread, made me think about the importance of earthenware in general for Indian milk sweets.

Its all too common these days to find sweets that are traditionally served in those throwaway earthenware cups, like Bengali mishti dhoi (sweet curd) or Muslim phirni (rice pudding), being served in plastic tubs.

Apart from aesthetics, it seems to me that the stuff in plastic never tastes the same and I wonder if the earthenware could be considered to be part of the cooking process.

Does the earthenware leach away some of the water content in the milk based sweet, leaving what remains even denser and creamier? It certainly seems that way everytime I manage to get my hands on mishti dhoi or phirni in the authentic earthenware cups.

And if this is the case, is it possible at all to duplicate or compensate for it, if you don't happen to have a potter in your backyard, turning out piles of throwaway earthen cups? '

Vikram

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And how about the magic that it renders to good Kulfi? The shikoras (I think that is what they are called) made of terracota make the kulfi sublime.

I agree, there is a certain magic to the dishes made in these earthenware pots.

I crave Mishto Doi and Kulfi made in them most every summer day in NYC. :sad:

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Any unglazed pottery will draw water out of what it is holding so you are probably right in that it makes the sweet creamier. The rougher the clay the more water it will draw.


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Any unglazed pottery will draw water out of what it is holding so you are probably right in that it makes the sweet creamier.  The rougher the clay the more water it will draw.

The earthenware used is always rough. Makes sense now.

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Especially for Mishti Doi (yum!), the earthenware (called "bhand" in Bengali) serves two purposes I can think of:

(a) Slowly leeches moisture out of the doi. And since the cup is not sealed on top (its usually covered with a piece of tissue-like paper tied around the top), there is evaporation from the top surface as well. As a result, a thick creamy crust forms on the top, around the edges. Some people don't like this thicker part, but when I was a kid, licking off this thick creamy top part from Mishti Doi was one of the best parts of eating Mishti Doi.

(b) It also works as a poor man's refrigerator. The slow evaporation helps keep the doi cool. Same principle works when they store drinking water in earthenware jugs (called "kunjo" or "kolshi" in Bengali).

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As a result, a thick creamy crust forms on the top, around the edges. Some people don't like this thicker part, but when I was a kid, licking off this thick creamy top part from Mishti Doi was one of the best parts of eating Mishti Doi.

I love the creamy thick part. Amazing taste.... Makes me want to fly back to Delhi for doi.

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