The Chom Chom, or Cham Cham, is a very popular Bengali sweet dish. Milk is curdled to and strained to make fresh cottage cheese, and that is further kneaded until soft and shaped into cylinders. These cottage cheese batons are then dropped into a flavoured sugar syrup and boiled for about 15 minutes. The cheese batons become soft, spongy and airy, soaking up all the goodness of the syrup. This is then served with milk cream, also called ‘malai’. If you find that milk is unexpectedly curdled and you don’t know what to do, this is a great dish to make from it!
Although the preparation process is quite similar to the process of making Rosogulla and Rasmalai, the way Chom Chom is served is different. While Rosogulla is served with sugar syrup, Chom Chom is served with a malai , or cream, made from milk, and decorated with pistachios and desiccated coconut. The shape of Chom Chom is also different from the shape of Rasmalai. There are numerous ways this sweet is made – some people make the chom chom itself saffron flavoured and then serve without sugar syrup; others keep the outer covering white and then give it a khoya-based stuffing flavoured with saffron, pistachios, rose, etc, and serve it chilled. Every Bengali household probably has a traditional way of making it – and this recipe here is the version that is my favourite 🙂
The Rosogullas used to make this Chom Chom are boiled in a sugar syrup that is flavoured with Rose syrup. I use the Room Afza brand. Depending on how strong you want the rose flavor and colour on your Chom Chom, alter the quantity of rose syrup you use. The subtle fragrance and taste of rose along with the pale pink coloured, spongy Rosogullas is lovely against the creamy white malai. You will love this flavor combination! Alternatively, you can use saffron in the sugar syrup if you want yellow/light orange coloured Chom Chom with a saffron flavor.
To make Chena
- Full cream milk – 1 litre
- Lemon juice / vinegar – 2 to 3 tsp
To make Malai
- Ghee – 1 tsp
- Milk – 1/2 cup
- Milk powder – 1/2 cup
- Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
- Thick Fresh cream – 1 tbsp (optional)
To make the Sugar Syrup
- Sugar – 1.5 cups
- Water – 6 cups
- Rooh Afza or Rose Syrup – 4 tbsp
- Crushed Pistachio – 1 tsp
- Desiccated coconut – 1 tbsp
Making the fresh cottage cheese
- Take a litre of milk and bring it to a boil.
- Then, bring your flame down to low and squeeze the lemon (if you are using vinegar, then one teaspoon at a time). The milk will slowly break and curdle to form milk solids.
- You will see the milk split into pale green water (whey) and milk solids.
- Set up a big vessel and a colander on top of each other. Line this setup with a clean and dry muslin cloth.When milk has split fully, drain the milk solids using the cloth. (Taste your chena. Run a glass of tap water through this if needed, just to wash out any lemon/vinegar taste. I did not require to do it).
- Tie this up and set this in the fridge to drain for about 2-3 hours.
- When you remove the cloth, you will find the cheese has drained completely. Set aside.
Making the Cham Cham
- Take the chena in a wide bowl. Crumble with your hands.
- Now knead the chena with your hands until you see it come together. This will take about 7-8 minutes.
- The chena dough will be really smooth and non-sticky at the end of 8 minutes.
- Make lemon sized balls from this dough. Don’t make them too big, as these will puff up and double in size when cooked.
- Shape it into a cylinder using your hands.
- Finish shaping up the entire batch. I used about 1.5 litres of milk and got about 12 good sized pieces.
(sorry about the weird lighting in the pics!)
Cooking the Cham Cham
- Take the sugar and water in a wide pan. This pan needs to be wide and deep.
- Add the rose syrup to this and bring to a boil. Boil for 7-8 minutes while stirring continuously to dissolve the sugar.
- Add your chena one by one. Add only 4-5 at a time, depending on the size of the vessel you are using. DO NOT overcrowd the pan.
- After 6 minutes, you can see that the chena has puffed up and expanded. Now slowly flip the chena delicately so that they absorb the syrup and colour evenly. Remember, they are very soft at this stage and can easily break.
- Close the pan with a lid and simmer on medium flame for another 6-7 minutes.
- Now your chena is fully cooked. Switch off the stove and allow this to rest (lid closed) for 20 minutes. This is so that the chena absorbs enough sugar syrup to sweeten. The retained heat will further cook it through.
Making the Malai (quick way using milk powder)
There are two ways to do this – one using the quick method below, and the other via the traditional method. I was pressed for time, and this quick method is what I used. It hardly takes 2-3 minutes and tastes great.
Using milk powder:
- Add milk and ghee to the pan. Bring to a boil.
- Add milk powder to this and vigorously stir so that no lumps are formed.
- Stir well and add cardamom powder to this.
- Add a tbsp of fresh cream (optional), stir and switch off the stove.
(I did not add sugar because my milk powder is sweetened, and that sweetness was enough)
- Boil the full cream milk. When cream layer forms on top, remove it with a spoon to another vessel.
- Keep repeating this process until you have collected enough cream, and milk is reduced to a thicker consistency. This will take at least 20 minutes on medium-low flame. Switch off the stove when done.
- Finally mix the reduced milk and cream.
- Add 2 tbsp of sugar and cardamom powder. Mix well.
Finally, pour the malai over the Cham Cham and garnish with crushed pistachio and desiccated coconut. Serve chilled.
TIPS & TWEAKS
- While making cylinders from the Chenna, squeeze the Chenna nicely in your hand/palm. This helps to compact the milk solids nicely and prevent them from disintegrating while cooking in syrup.
- Do NOT overcrowd the pan with the Chenna, cook in batches of 4-5 each time. Since the Chenna is soft, if you overcrowd the pan, the Chenna will knock against each other and break while cooking.
- The colour of the sugar syrup might look really dark, but it will only leave a pale pink colour and subtle rose flavor in your Cham Cham. If you want deeper colour, add the rose syrup to your Chenna while kneading the cheese.
- Similarly, you could also add saffron while kneading the cheese.
- For making the malai, you could also use khoya in place of the milk powder.
- Feel free to add milk in teaspoons, to dilute the malai if it gets too thick.
- While making malai, keep the flame on low throughout, and keep stirring continuously, or the bottom of the vessel will catch and burn.
- Add sugar (about 4 tsp) to your malai, if using unsweetened milk powder.