WCBE

The Fight Over Ownership Of An Indian Dessert Comes To A Bittersweet End

Nov 21, 2017
Originally published on November 20, 2017 11:07 pm

Kebabs, tikka masala, biryani, naan – these Indian dishes are well-known worldwide. But, you may soon see a new Indian dessert joining their ranks at your favorite Indian shops and restaurant.

Rosogolla, a round confection made with cottage cheese and sugar syrup, is a relatively cheap popular sweet treat in India, says Madhumita Saha, an opinion writer for World Is One News (WION).

"It's as good as baklava," she says.

It's so good, in fact, that two neighboring states in East India fought over where the dessert came from - West Bengal or Odisha. Last year, Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) applied for a geographical indication, or a GI tag, to have ownership rights over rosogolla. But Saha's home state of West Bengal, also called Bengal, won out.

"It's more of a cultural battle that got fought, and Bengal absolutely put its foot down winning it," she says.

Because Bengal was awarded the GI tag, the designation means that wherever rosogolla is made the Bengali way, the state has to be recognized.

"So it's just like a French wine. You have to mention where it comes from. Or the California wines," Saha says. "You can prepare it, you can manufacture it, you can sell it. But if you are making the type of rosogollas, Bengal rosogollas, you have to say it's Bengal rosogollas."

Saha says she hopes the tag will help make Bengal rosogolla internationally famous. And the fight over the GI tag could put the dish in a certain global spotlight that doesn't hurt, either.

"Through this GI battle, it gets some amount of global publicity, and it gets to be featured in some of the best restaurants of New York City or in San Francisco, in Paris and in London. I'll be happy to see that happen. Otherwise, OK. I enjoyed the fight."

But, the fight may not be over just yet. WION reports that the Odisha government is planning to apply for a GI tag for "Odishara Rasagola" in January.

NPR Digital News intern Isabel Dobrin produced this story for the Web.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Chicken tandoori, tikka masala, biryani, naan - these Indian dishes are well-known and well-loved worldwide. But you may see a new Indian dessert called rosogolla in your favorite Indian shops and restaurants soon.

MADHUMITA SAHA: Rosogolla, in it's basic, is cottage cheese and sugar syrup.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Madhumita Saha. She's from the state of Bengal, India, and an opinion writer for Wionews. She loves rosogolla, which she grew up eating.

SAHA: So this is the beauty of the desert - that you can consume it every day because it's not expensive and also during celebrations. It's an amazing sweet. It's as good as baklava.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's so good, in fact, that two neighboring states in East India actually fought over where the desert comes from - Bengal or Orissa. Last year, Orissa applied for a geographical indication, or a GI tag, to have ownership rights over rosogolla.

SAHA: It's more of a cultural battle that got fought. And Bengal absolutely put its foot down winning it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's right. India recently awarded Bengal the GI tag for rosogolla. That tag means that whenever rosogolla is made the Bengal way, Bengal has to be recognized.

SAHA: So it's just like the French wine. You have to mention where it comes from - or the California wines. You can prepare it. You can manufacture it. You can sell it. But if you are making the type of rosogollas - Bengal rosogollas, you have to say it's Bengal rosogolla.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's actually really hard to make. Madhumita has tried.

SAHA: No, actually, I'm a very good cook. But as I said, it's so basic. And that's why it's very difficult to make. The one time I tried, it actually disintegrated. So my cottage cheese - that means - was not prepared the right way.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Even though she wasn't successful at making rosogolla, Madhumita hopes the tag will help make the Bengal rosogolla internationally famous.

SAHA: As a Bengali, if you ask me, I really want to see rosogolla getting a global acknowledgement. So through this GI battle, it gets some amount of global publicity. And it gets to be featured in some of the best restaurants of New York City or in San Francisco, in Paris and in London. I'll be happy to see that happen. Otherwise, OK, I enjoyed the fight.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW BIRD'S "ETHIO INVENTION NO. 1")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Madhumita Saha via Skype from New Delhi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW BIRD'S "ETHIO INVENTION NO. 1") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.