In Bangladesh, everyone knows chom chom. There, the little football-shaped sweet is dessert royalty, as widespread and widely loved as croissants in France or baklava in Turkey. Eating it is like sinking your teeth into a dense, syrupy sponge. Incredibly it tastes just like dulce de leche but milkier and spiced with saffron and coconut. “Some sweets are very specific to one place but you will find these all over Bangladesh,” says Mohammad Abid. He runs Dhaka Delight along with his wife Ayesha and another Australian-Bengali couple.
The sweet shop and bakery offshoot from Khushboo, Sydney’s most popular Bengali restaurant, is one of the only places in Sydney to find traditional Bengali sweets. For many Bengalis, this is an essential part of the week. “Sweets and biscuits are usually had with tea or coffee. Guests bring them for their hosts, biscuits you have in the late afternoon before dinner.” On any afternoon at Dhaka Delight, the place is heaving. At the counter, there’s a bustle to get orders in and outside there’s crowds of people chatting and drinking tannin-heavy and sweet Bengali tea.
For those who don’t have much experience with Bengali culture and food, the Dhaka Delight display will seem indecipherable. There’s three sections to consider. The first is a hawker-like stall, serving patishapta (coconut cream-filled crepes), and one of Bangladesh’s most popular street foods, jhal muri (a crunchy and spicy salad made with crispy chickpeas, puffed rice and fresh vegetables).
Next there’s a bakery display with a spread unlike anywhere else in Sydney. You’ll see sweet shortbread style biscuits; salty biscuits; fried seed-covered flatbreads, some sweet and some buttery; and syrupy semolina dumplings.
The last section is where you’ll find chom chom and a dizzying array of other milk- and paneer-based sweets, some of which are barely sweet at all, while others are intensely candy-like. “Bangladeshi sweets can look the same as Indian sweets but there's a huge difference. Ours are more soft and syrupy.” Abid recommends doi (a fermented, sweet yoghurt pudding), a sweet vermicelli noodle pudding, rash malai (paneer dumpling swimming in rice pudding and dusted in pistachio) and nikuti (a deep-fried paneer, ghee and cardamom dumpling).
Abid says he and his partner travelled all over Bangladesh to find the best sweet shops and bakeries. At each one they asked for their recipes to take back to Australia. “Because we’re in Australia and not Bangladesh they gave it to us. They're very hard recipes. It's very intricate – it's all about your hands, your mind and your stove. It's like a baby, you can't just leave it and it will be ready in two hours. It takes nine months to perfect.”
44 Haldon Street, Lakemba
Mon to Sun 8am–12am