Shandesh is a dessert popular in Bangladesh. The shandesh is a creamy cheese fudge, that is then flavored with cardamom, pistachio, and saffron to make an amazing Bangladeshi delicacy!
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Okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking. “Cheese….fudge? Is that even good?” The answer to your question is yes; yes it is.
When I first started looking at recipes for the Shandesh, I wasn’t sure what was happening. I knew that the recipe said I was making cheese fudge and yet… there was no cheese in the recipe? I saw milk and lemon juice and sometimes ghee, but never any cheese.
Then it hit me. I was making my own cheese.
*Cue brain explosion*
Making the Cheese
I was nervous to make cheese (also called chena). But actually, the making of the chena was pretty darn easy. One tip I have for you is the make SURE that you knead the chena enough after it finishes hanging in the cheesecloth.
I made this recipe a few times. When my friend Allison and I tried to make the shandesh, we were sheepish. We kneaded the chena for a few minutes and didn’t put much elbow grease into it. Because of this, the shandesh was grainy and crumbly and had a super nashty texture when we ate it. We agreed that the flavor was right but the texture was just…. Strange.
Once Again… The Importance of Kneading
So then, as is typical when I mess up a recipe the first time, I took to Youtube. I watched a few amazing Bangladeshi women make the shandesh recipe until I realized my mistake. The next time I tried to make the cheese fudge, I kneaded the CRAP outta that chena. There was so much elbow grease going into this thing you woulda thought it was a shiny new porsche.
As I kneaded the chena, it lost its crumbly texture and adopted something similar to that cream cheese. The chena formed into one large clump, and was easily pliable. This is how you know it’s ready!
Shandesh Flavors and Substitutes
I chose to flavor this recipe with cardamom and top the shandesh with saffron and a pistachio. Feel free to flavor this with whatever you’d like, though. Rosewater, mango, and chocolate are all flavors that I’d love to try one day!
Did you like this dessert recipe? If so, you should also check out this recipe for Semolina Sweet Meat from Afghanistan or these Shortbread Cookies with Jam Filling from Algeria. If you make the shandesh recipe, don’t forget to take a photo and tag @TheForeignFork or hashtag #TheForeignFork.
Shandesh (Cheese Fudge from Bangladesh)
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- whole, shelled pistachios
- threads of saffron
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- a cheesecloth
- In a large pot, boil the milk on the stove, stirring continuously to keep it from burning.
- When the milk boils, take the pot off of the heat, and add 1/3 cup water. Let the mixture cool for 4 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice a little at a time. The milk will start to curdle. let the mixture rest for about 5 minutes to give the milk time to curdle fully. You will see the whey begin to separate.
- Line a strainer with a cheesecloth and pour the mixture into the strainer (we will now call the remainder in the cheesecloth the “chena”). Use cold water to thoroughly rinse the chena so that it does not taste of lemon.
- Wrap the cheesecloth up and squeeze out all extra liquid. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang the chena for about one hour, until all of the liquid is gone (I hung it from my faucet).
- After an hour, remove the chena and begin to knead it thoroughly with your hands until it becomes soft and smooth (about 5-6 minutes).
- Add the powdered sugar and continue kneading the chena.
- Put a nonstick pan on low heat. Put the kneaded chena mixture in the pan. Cook until the mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan (about 3-4 minutes). If you cook it for longer, it will begin to be grainy again.
- Transfer to a plate and let it cool for about 15 minutes. Add the cardamom and mix.
- Form into small balls. Top the balls with the pistachios and saffron and enjoy! Keep cooled.