From our elders to the Cadbury diary milk ads, everyone has taught us one thing. Doing something sensational with your life? Have something sweet. What is weight  but a number? Its not our fault, our sweets are legendary, of course we have found/ invented/ exploited reasons  to have them. Going to Agra? Get Petha!  That’s how we are. Our desserts deserve tributes. So, here goes an attempt.

Let’s start with Kashmir. The dessert that is eaten all over the country that belongs to Kashmir is Phirni.

Phirni is made with suji, cream, milk and of course, saffron and dry fruits. It is basically, kheer but with suji.  A very personal choice, which is by the way delicious, is to have hot, hot phirni with poori for breakfast. Especially, when it’s cold outside. Phirni can be had cold as well and that’s another different experience that demands appreciation.

phirni - Indian sweets

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From something that mild, to something milder, we are now halting at Orissa for a while and meeting chenna poda. Chenna Poda – a mild and delicious dessert. Cheese is a very western concept for us and desserts and cheese come together for us only in cheesecakes. Only, we are actually overlooking chenna poda. Its is, quite literally roasted cheese dessert. Is it delicious? How can it not be? Its sweet, it’s got cheese and its Indian. It’s the complete package.

From there, Let’s take a tour of the south.

The sweets of Andhra and Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are so numerous in themselves, they require love and time to encapsulate in an article. Instead, we’ll just touch the fringes of the states and make do.

Karnataka boasts of Mysore Pak. The mouth melting, cloyingly sweet and dangerously ghee-ed sweet is to die for.  Note: Sri Venkateshwara Sweetmeat stall in Bangalore is a good place to get these.  Anand is another place that’s just as good.

Now coming to Andhra Pradesh, we have the wafer thin rice sheet, ghee and sugar filled dessert called “poota rekulu” or paper sweets. Rekulu, literally mean sheets. The sweet looks very delicate.  It requires a lot of effort to make it and the industry employs many. Particularly in the village of Atreyapuram, in East Godavari district. This very labor intensive procedure yields a delicacy, that is sold at very high prices.

puthareku_sugar

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In Telangana, it’s hard to miss the Hyderabadi influence on desserts. One dessert deserving mention among dozen others, is Khubani Ka Meetha. It is a very sweet, apricot dessert that is served at special occasions. A Hyderabadi celebration is incomplete without this. It is served with cream or ice cream, too.

In god’s own country, Kerala, the desserts weren’t left far behind in their divinity. The dessert from Kerala, called “Ada”, is a steamed dessert. Rice and jaggery with coconut are wrapped in a rice film of sorts and is steamed in a banana leaf.

Tamil Nadu has another version of the above mentioned dessert with similarities to Modak, the sweet dumpling. The ingredients are still, coconut, jiggery in rice flour pockets and the taste is distinctive. During Ganesh Chathurthi, these are found in abundance.

While we are at sweets, how can we not talk about Bengal?  Bengali sweets are delicate and to die for. Rasgulla, Raj bhog, cham cham are so well known, trying to explain them is futile. Instead, we’d like to talk about other Bengali sweets that deserve love.

The yummiest, creamiest, Mishti Doi, is what we will learn to love more now. It literally means “sweet  yoghurt”  Sweetened milk is fermented overnight in little clay pots, to make mishit doi.  A dash of elaichi in it, makes it irresistible. We won’t lie; we are digging the clay pots as well.

September 28, 2008 Desi Life Smita Chandra indian desserts. Maple Yogurt. Photo by ©Aaron Vincent Elkaim

September 28, 2008 Desi Life Smita Chandra indian desserts. Maple Yogurt.
Photo by ©Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Till now, we have seen milk and flour based sweets. The next entry, is a delicacy from Manipur that’s so, just so unique!  It is made with tomatoes. Ghee fried, ripe red tomatoes are dipped in elaichi flavored sugar syrup and from what we gather, and it’s loved. It’s called “Khamen Athoomba Ashinba”. Brag worthy dessert.

After that little shocker, lets talk about “Puran Poli” as known in Maharashtra or “Holige”, as known in Karnataka or “bobattu” in Andhra and Telangana. Yes, it’s loved a lot, apparently.  Maida is stuffed with chana dal or Toor dal, jaggery, coconut (optional), nuts (optional) and is made just like a roti on pan, but with lots of ghee. It is a mouth melting delicacy.

The list is endless and endlessly delicious. But, we have to stop somewhere in this journey of sweets 🙂

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