Life is short. Eat dessert first. – said Julia Child; and in a country where some regions indulge in sweets even for breakfast, we can’t seem to agree more! Even before the meal is set at weddings or parties, eyes invariably drift towards the dessert section. The list of Indian sweets is incredibly creative and inventive. The ghee laden goodies from the West, the deep fried delicacies from the North, cottage cheese special desserts from the East and the variety of kheers from the South – every region has its own pride.
This unabating appetite for sweets is what tempts us to celebrate Indulgence Day more often. And while it gets bigger and better each time, this list of unique desserts only asserts that there’s a lot left to unleash. Check these rare sweets from across India – we promise to bring to you at least some of them soon.
1. Kharwas: This dish, more popular in Maharashtra and Goa, is a rarity since kharwas is made from the lactating milk of a cow while it has given birth to a calf. The simplest of ingredients are mixed to bring out distinct flavours. Known as colostrum milk, it is mixed with sugar or jaggery and flavoured with cardamom powder and saffron at times. Prepared by steaming just like a dhokla, kharwas exhibits similar texture to that of a pudding.
2. Poppy Seeds Halwa: Obtained from the opium poppy, these seeds are harvested largely across Rajasthan and used as an ingredient in many foods across the country. This dessert, however, has poppy seeds as the main ingredient – soaked overnight and then ground to a fine paste. Sauteed in a generous portion of ghee, the paste is cooked with milk and sugar, flavoured with aromatic sweet spices and topped with lots of dry fruits. For all those who haven’t yet tried this, eat a bowlful and expect to get slightly high!
3. Elaneer Payasam: Elaneer is the South Indian name for tender coconut. This payasam or kheer is a no-cooking-needed dessert and only requires to blend the right amount of ingredients used. The most interesting part of this dessert is the skilful mix of coconut water, malai and thick coconut milk. You will be amazed at the subtle flavours this dish offers. Finished off with a topping of dry fruits, this sweet will linger in your memory long after you have tasted it!
4. Putarekulu: This rare dessert is nothing below the mark of delightful and is found in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The delicate method of preparing this is equally wonderful. Made from filo dough, Putarekulu are thin rolls from very fine paper like sheets that are almost translucent. These fine foils are clubbed together with powdered sugar or jaggery powder and ghee, then folded carefully to form rolls. When you bite into this, there is a light crunch – a blissful indulgence indeed!
5. Naap Naang: Nagaland is known for the interesting cuisine it offers and this delicacy stands out in particular for its colour, texture and taste. A simple dessert with not more than 3 to 4 ingredients, what makes Naap Naang special is that it is made from black rice. A texture similar to milk pudding, naap naang has a beautiful purple colour to it which comes from the rice. A must try on your next trip to Nagaland!
6. Nishasta Halwa: An interesting ingredient of this sweet from Himachal, is the starch-powder acquired from wheat or corn crops which is known as nishasta. This halwa involves cooking this powder in flavoured sugar syrup to get a thick, lumpy texture. To make this more interesting, the halwa is drizzled with lime juice for a sweet-tangy flavour and of course, topped with dry fruits. The whole process and the list of ingredients stirs enough curiosity to try this sweet, doesn’t it?
7. Mithi Dabalah: Sindhis have a great chemistry with food and probably some of the most sumptuous dishes come from their cuisine. Mithi Dabalah is one such sweet and was traditionally made with left-over loafs. Bread slices are deep fried in oil or ghee and brought to a crispy perfection, golden-brown in colour. These slices are dipped in a flavoured sugar syrup and topped with dry fruits. A modern-version of this sweet is similar to shahi tukda where it is topped with rabri. But we would stick to the authentic recipe for this one!
8. Maa Vilakku: A unique dessert from South India, this one has a pre-consumption ritual. Vilakku essentially means a lamp and maa vilakku is rice flour lamp! It can be consumed only after an offering is made to the Gods. The ingredients are simple wherein a smooth, soft dough is made from rice flour mixed with jaggery and is flavoured with cardamom powder. The dough is then shaped into diyas and lit with pure ghee. Once the lights blow off, it is fit to be consumed as a prasad. Don’t miss out on the blackened part closest to the burning wick – the most delicious bit!
9. Parwal Ki Mithai: This sweet dish hails from Bihar and is a rather delicious take on the not-so-likeable parwal. Pointed gourd is slit lengthwise and de-seeded then dipped in sugar syrup which gives it a beautiful, jelly like look! A delectable, crunchy stuffing of khoya sauteed in ghee and mixed with lots of dry fruits acts as the perfect cherry on top.