India is not only a culturally vibrant country but is also famous globally for its invariably incredible cuisine. Ask an Indian about their favourite delicacies, and no one will deny that Mithai (the Indian name for sweets) is their favourite. Indian sweets are varied like the shades of a rainbow. From laddoo to Rosogolla, jalebi to peda, Cham Cham to gulab jamun, kheer to Phirni – everything has a basic symmetry however intrinsically removed from each other. The uniqueness of Indian sweets is prominent in terms of texture, taste, and cooking process. The very word ‘Mithai’ has its genesis in the Urdu language and today has become a part of the Indian culinary vocab. Talking about the popular Indian sweets, one would get tired of the list – Gulab Jamun, Barfi, Kalakand, Halwa, Rabri, Mishti Doi, and whatnot.
Most Indian sweets have a central recipe pillar that revolves around the combination of flour, milk, sugar, and dry fruits. Chena or cottage cheese and Khoya or semi-solid milk form are used for luxurious sweets. The flavouring in Indian sweets is quite mild and is mostly through cardamom, rose water, or saffron. Indian sweets are mostly semi-solid, soaked in milk or sugar syrup. Indian sweets are not very hard unless we are discussing fried sweets like Jalebi. The beauty of Indian mithai is just like Indian cuisine. One can always find beautiful local variations of the same sweet that differs slightly from each other in terms of taste and the making process. A box loaded with Indian sweets is always considered a delectable gift exchanged during festive seasons.
Let us have a closer look at the colourful and lip-smacking world of Indian Mithai.
The extremely popular sweet name of the Eastern region—the iconic status symbol of West Bengal—this sweet holds a hallmark of heritage in its lush soft ball of white. Perfectly described as pure white cottage cheese balls boiled in a lip-smacking sugar syrup, Rosogolla is the way to every Bengali’s heart. It is equally popular in Orissa. A simple yet fantastic dessert with not many flavours but loads of love and care.
Quite similar to Rasgulla or Rosogolla, this North Indian sweets name is an Indian sweet staple. From the buffet counters at birthday parties to the shining star of luxurious desert counters, Gulab Jamun is the all-time go-to dish. It is wickedly irresistible. The balls are made of chena, flour, and condensed milk, then fried in ghee, flavoured with rose or cardamom, and ultimately soaked in sweet sugar syrup. Kerala has its unique version of Gulab Jamun called the Unni appam.
Kheer and Phirni are Indian delicacies mostly consumed on very auspicious occasions. Both the dishes involve slow-cooking rice and sugar in whole milk—a very simple, yet comfortable and appealing dish. Phirni is cooked with ground rice for a smoother texture while kheer is cooked with whole rice. The South Indian version of this sweets name is Payasam and in West Bengal, it is called Payesh which also comes in another variety with the addition of ‘Nolen Gur’ in the winter.
This dessert is predominantly found across the length and breadth of West Bengal, and it is another Bengali sweet delicacy that has turned the rest of India into its ardent admirer. It is a classic Bengali dessert quite similar to Rabri. Doi or curd is fermented milk and Bengalis have a habit of adding sweeteners in possibly everything; so, that is how Misti doi is born. It is thickened sweet curd and is one of the oldest desserts in India.
The Indian sweets name itinerary is practically incomplete without a sumptuous amount of Laddoo in it. From Ganesh Chaturthi prasadam to the staple at every festival, one can’t ignore laddoos while being in India. The most fascinating part is the incredible number of variations to this sweet. Laddoos are of several types in India, including the Motichur ki laddoo, nariyal ki laddoo, besan ki laddoo, and the whole wheat laddoo (popular in Punjab and its neighbouring states for fighting the intense winter chills). Laddoo is the dessert item with the highest production rate in India.
The twisted curls of Jalebi will make you fall for it. One of the most popular Indian fried sweets that you must be watchful while consuming for they have high calorific value apiece is a must-try. A batter of refined flour and sugar, subsequently deep fried in ghee or oil and then soaked in sugar syrup that will have a tinge of saffron. Jalebi did not originate in India because it has its roots in the Middle East. The deep coils have now however become one of India’s most sumptuous desserts.
One of the common go-to Indian desserts that are also quite a handy option for health-conscious dessert lovers is the Kaju Barfi. When you are craving a bite of sweetness but the fitness freak in you is a calorie counter too, go for Barfis. The name Barfi hails from the Persian word Baraf which means snow. But when it comes to India, all we have in our mind is a large plate of luxurious Kaju Barfi (cashew nuts barfi) or Pista Barfi, which is quite popular across India and mostly eaten on all occasions. This silver-warped Barfi is our all-time love.
Since India is a melting pot of cultures, the taste and nature of sweets keep on changing as we move from north to south or east to west. One of the most popular South Indian desserts is the Mysore Pak. As is evident from the name, the dessert is a native item from Mysore in Karnataka. This sweet is a mix of chickpea flour and refined sugar slow-cooked for a long time and then given its shape.
Peda is an Indian take on milk fudge. Milk and sugar are thickened together to form a semi-solid dairy mass. Peda originated in the hometown of Lord Krishna, the Holy Mathura. The most famous version of the sweet is Kesar Peda which is saffron-infused milk fudge.
If you have a sweet tooth, India is the ultimate place to satisfy your cravings. While in this country, one can hardly keep a check on calories while taking a walk in the neighbourhoods that are famous for food with all kinds of tempting aromas wafting around, you must indulge in some to complete your India experience. Moreover, many of these desserts are actually not that expensive. From simple to exotic, Indian sweets are always the showstoppers during a food fest whether at parties or festivals. So, do indulge in some and satisfy your heart and stomach with the best.