Traditional sweets hold special significance in Indian culture. Sweetmeats are often exchanged as a way of expressing joy, love and gratitude at celebrations. And the Hindu Festival of Lights, or Deepavali, is no exception. Not only is the festival a visual and culinary feast, it is also celebrated with fireworks and new clothes, signifying the triumph of good over evil.
Last weekend, I headed to Little India to hunt down some gifts. I may have a sweet tooth, but even I was dazzled by the array of amazing sweets available. Want to know which ones caught my eye?
A confectionery stall selling Indian traditional sweets along Serangoon Road.
Indian sweets have a reputation of well…being extremely sweet. The usual suspects (aka ingredients) include milk, ghee, flour, sugar, fragrant and sweet spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, with decorations of saffron, coconut and silver leaf. These spices bring an added richness and depth of flavour to the sweets!
If your appetite has been piqued, here are some must-haves this coming Deepavali!
• Karanji can be easily mistaken for a curry puff! True to its dark-brown colour, this pastry is filled with a coarse brown sugar made from palm sap and coconut.
• Jaleebi are bright-orange swirls of goodness – deep fried flour with ghee soaked in sugar syrup, and sticky in texture. Look out for the syrup which oozes out as you take a bite 🙂
Indian fudge-like sweet: Barfi comes in many flavours such as pistachio barfi (left). The ‘original’ version comes wrapped in a silver/gold leaf (right).
• Barfi means ‘snow’ in Hindi. This sweet got its name from the colour white, and is mainly made of condensed milk and sugar. Barfi is usually cut into different shapes and is served alongside fresh fruits.
Popular across the globe: Ladoo (left) and Gulab Jamun (right) are nectarous Indian desserts
• Ladoo, a ball-shaped sweet filled with ghee (clarified butter), is prepared for festivals and joyous occasions such as betrothals. It is also commonly presented as door gifts at weddings. Ladoos are in fact so popular that in South India, a chubby kid is endearingly called “Ladoo!”
• Gulab jamun (also referred to as Indian donuts) are popular as dessert and are commonly made in Indian households. A common sight in restaurants in Little India, one can dip the spongy fried donut into sugary syrup.
Like barfi, halwa comes in a variety of flavours as well as colours, ranging from yellow to dark red.
• Halwa is a soft, chewy and translucent delicacy, with an undertaste of spice, and scented mildly with rosewater. Unlike barfi, you can easily find halwa that is not overly sweet, another reason why halwa is a personal favourite.
A quick whip up!
If you are keen to make your own sweet, here’s another consideration. I have always loved the kesari (meaning saffron) pudding made by my long-time neighbour Mrs Vani every year. She has generously agreed to share her ‘easy-to-do’ kesari recipe, so we are all in for a treat!
1 cup of Baba’s Kesari Mix /semoli
¾ cup sugar or as required
2 cups of water
2 pinches of saffron or yellow colouring
¼ cup halved cashew nuts
4 cardamoms for flavouring
½ cup raisins (optional)
1. Crush cardamoms to a semi-fine powder in a mortar-pestle and keep aside.
2. Fry the cashews in the ghee and keep aside.
3. Put the water to boil.
4. Slowly add the Kesari mix, sugar, cashews and cardamoms
5. Stir constantly to avoid lumps until mixture thickens.
6. Transfer mixture to a tray to let it cool. Done!
7. Garnish with raisins or more cashews. Serve hot or cold!
So, here’s wishing all a sweet Deepavali! I cannot wait to tuck in to these delights. If you are also feasting, do send us photos of the treats which you have enjoyed at email@example.com!
By Mufidah Tasneem
Oct 21, 2014