Nothing complements Indian festivals and auspicious occasions quite like indulgent Indian sweetmeats (get ready for the drool-fest!)
With Hindus the world over gearing up for the ‘Festival of Lights’ this month, one of the most significant festivals in Indian culture, friends and family eagerly look forward to relishing a range of home-cooked Indian meals and specialties.
Ask any Malaysian Hindu what their most cherished Deepavali memory is and one’s response tends to be freshly made thosai (Indian crepe made of urad dal or black gram, and rice) or idli (steamed Indian rice cake) with chicken (or mutton) curry on Deepavali morning – downed with a steaming serving of teh tarik or kopi kaw. Though these aren’t particularly unique to Deepavali, indulging in them on the morning of the auspicious celebration is indeed an entirely ‘unique’ experience.
And making the celebration that much sweeter – especially for those with an impossible sweet tooth – are irresistible Indian sweetmeats that simply melt in your mouth (while maybe giving you diabetes – so watch it!). You’ve seen them at Indian festivals, parties, weddings, but have no clue what they’re called, right? Fret not. Let’s get you schooled on some of the favourites!
Crunchy, flavoursome and delicious – not to mention, addictive. Ah yes … Murukku, the ever popular savoury Indian snack that has become a mainstay in possibly every Malaysian’s favourite snack list. The word ‘murukku’ is derived from the Tamil language, which loosely means “to twist”. It is made by combining rice flour, urad dal (black gram) flour, butter and salt, with a dash of ajwain (carom) seeds – responsible for its unmistakable aroma and flavour – and deep-fried till golden-brown.
Mildly sweet and fragile, Achu Murukku’s flower shape is attained using a mould, which is ‘achu’ in the Tamil language. The mould is made of thin metal sheet shaped like a ‘rose’, with a long, thin handle attached to it. Preparing this snack is a labour of love – it takes lots of patience and focus to make even-coloured (golden), thin and crunchy Achu Murukku. Ingredients consist of rice and wheat flour, sugar, coconut milk and oil for deep frying.
This one needs no introduction, a staple at weddings and other special events. We’ve all seen Laddus, enjoyed them, and then vowed to burn all those extra calories whilst shamelessly reaching for another one. These little spheres are essentially made from gram flour, ghee (clarified butter), sugar and a dash of crushed dried cardamom; extras such as chopped nuts or raisins are optional.
A truly traditional South Indian treat – especially among the Tamils – Nei Urundai (or ghee balls) are simply indulgent and they melt in your mouth (when made perfectly). It’s made from a combination of mung bean flour, ground dried cardamom and fine sugar, bound by ghee, and rolled into small balls. Chopped raisins and roasted cashew nuts add texture to the fragile, crumbly delight.
Hailing from the state of Karnataka in Southern India, Mysore Pak has an interesting origin story. Apparently, it began its journey to ‘sweetmeat stardom’ centuries ago by being an experimental dessert for the King of Mysore. All it takes is half an hour, and humble ingredients: gram flour, ghee and sugar syrup – and voila! You’ve got a golden mouth-watering treat with a fudge-like texture.
Glossy with an almost translucent texture and an irresistibly vibrant orange hue, the Bombay Halwa (also known as Karachi Halwa) will reel you in like a moth to a flame! A super rich festive sweet, Bombay Halwa is pretty easy to make – all you need are corn flour, sugar, cardamom powder, a touch of food colouring, water, and of course, ghee, the hero of the delicacy.
Chittu Urundai is one of those traditional treats that is hard to come by these days, almost forgotten. Made with roasted ground mung bean, grated and roasted coconut, and jaggery (or dark brown sugar), they’re deep fried till golden brown. Its mild sweetness and distinct flavours of spice (through a mix of dry ginger, cardamom, coriander seeds and cumin) are wonderfully complemented by a crunchy exterior.
Originating from the southern parts of India, Adhirasam is a regular at Indian homes during auspicious celebrations. In fact, it’s so popular with Malaysians that the Malays have a whole other name for it: denderam. Made with ground rice, dark brown sugar, dried ginger and cardamom powder, the dough is set aside to rest for a few hours before shaping them into flat “donuts” and deep-frying them. Denderam, however, is a simpler version – no spices are used.
Striking in its coiled flower shape and vibrant orange-reddish hue, Jhangiri is sometimes confused with Jalebi. Though they may look similar, the difference between the two is the type of flour used – Jhangiri is made using urad dal, while wheat flour is used for Jalebi. Smooth batter is deep-fried by drawing spiral loops directly into the hot oil. Once cooked, they’re transferred into the sugar syrup to soak.
Oh this one’s sure to raise your blood sugar levels – BUT, if you’re only going to take pleasure in ONE tiny treat this Deepavali, Gulab Jamun should be it. This sinful devil is quite easy to prepare, and uses simple ingredients, such as dried/powdered milk, plain flour, semolina and milk, and deep fried. They are then soaked in thick sugar syrup infused with cardamom. Simply divine!
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