Coconut is a very important part of Bengali cooking and lifestyle in general. Bengalis are known for their chhana'r (cottage cheese) sandesh, but that is a much more recent phenomenon. Sweets made from coconut and jaggery have been around for thousands of years. If you look at the simplicity of a recipe like narkeler naru—made with just two ingredients and shaped by hand—you will quickly realise that this is something we have been eating for ages. There are so many more, fancier sweets in the Bengali cook's repertoire now, and yet is there anything that signifies Bijoya Dashami better than this humble lump of coconut and sugarcane jaggery? Why do we keep reaching for the jar of naru when there is no dearth of intricate and refined desserts? It is because the naru connects us to all the people who came before us, who lived, loved, and ate narus here in this fertile land that we call home.
- 500 g grated coconut
- 300 g soft aakhi gur (jaggery made from sugarcane)
- 100 g sugar (large crystals)
- Scrape the coconut using a narkol kuroni. Be careful not to scrape the woody, brown part.
- Add the grated coconut and jaggery to a kadai. Mix well using your hands. Then, turn on the heat.
- Stir frequently on medium-low heat. When not stirring, keep pan covered.
- This process is called 'pak dewa' in Bengali. This ensures that the sugar slowly caramelises to produce a sticky, binding syrup.
- Continue cooking until the mixture darkens and sugar caramelises. To test whether it's done, take a small portion of the filling, place it on your palm and try to shape it into a small ball. If the mixture does not bind, it means that it is not done yet.
- This process (pak) should take about 20 to 25 minutes. When the pak is nearly complete, add 25 g sugar. We're adding this last to ensure that the sugar crystals all don't melt, and provide crunch when you bite into a naru.
- Once the mixture is ready, you should be able to form a tight ball.
- Roll naru quickly (in tiny, ~12 g portions), while the mixture is still hot.