In my trips to India I have learned Indians love their sweets… they have great sweet treats for special occasions and for the everyday. I was only familiar with carrot burfi, something my friend Rosani taught me how to make. But sweets and desserts in India are very regional, and in my three trips to India, I have yet to encounter a carrot burfi.
Let’s go from the mundane to the special… but then again, mundane vs. special is all a matter of taste and perspective.
Something I learned to eat in my first trip to India was rasgulla. I ate a LOT of these… These are small balls made from milk and served with sweet syrup. They’re spongy, chewy and sweet but not overwhelmingly sweet. We saw many versions of ragulla during our trip – some are pale but some are browned, as if they were fried before they were immersed in the sweet syrup. Some people loved them to top vanilla ice cream. I preferred them on their own… I was also told these can be bought in a tin at any regular supermarket to be brought home – a nice memento from your Indian trip.
Something we saw quite frequently on our buffets was Halvas – this particular one was Suji Ka Halwa, made with semolina flour. I loved these because they’re like a dry-out cream of wheat with sugar and spices. We had several versions that included lentils and other legumes… but they tasted really good and not savory at all. I searched some recipes on the internet and I am sure my friend Tania and I will be making a few versions of these soon at the Yoga center.
Mangoes are abundant in India… when you want a nice boxed juice to cool off, mango is the flavor of choice in India. Writing this I realized you don’t see them fresh in the streets to be sold. Hum… something to explore if I ever visit some other time. And with as much mango juice you see in the streets, this was the first time we ran across a mango sweet treat – aamras. We had this in Indore – a puree of mango to be eaten alone or, like I did, on top of vanilla ice cream. This is something we can certainly replicate in any western kitchen… no?
We were fortunate enough to celebrate a few special occasions while in India – Annie Mariel’s birthday and the engagement of a young couple in Varanasi our tour guide was friends with the bride’s side. The staff at our hotel treated Annie Mariel with Gajar Ka Halva, apparently the India version of a birthday cake. This is made with carrots and nuts and it was delicious… I had it with chai masala tea on the side and the piece given to us was so big, some of it made it home to Puerto Rico.
For the engagement, we were given as a memento Soan Papdi – a flaky dessert with almonds and pistachios. It looks flaky and when you put a bite in your mouth it just dissolves. Really good…
Hope this gives you a nice glimpse into the vast world of Indian sweets… and when you visit India or just go to a Indian neighborhood you will be adventurous enough to try some of their sweet treats. Namaste!!