So you think you're a foodie? Get acquainted with these iconic Indian sweets...
We love to indulge in a slice of cake or a quick cupcake fix every now and then but there’s nothing like indulging in Indian sweets – and we’re taking Deepavali season as our excuse to give in to temptation. With all those vibrant colours and complex flavours, Indian sweets – or mithai – are synonymous with celebrations and all things positive.
But proceed with caution: these goodies can be really sweet, especially if you’re uninitiated. Still, we say you haven’t really lived in Singapore until you’ve experienced the real deal in Little India. We keep going back to Moghul Sweet Shop at Little India Arcade and Komala Villas just a few steps away. But if you’re down for a gourmet twist, hit up Michelin-starred Song of India or Punjab’s Grill for next-level festival boxes.
See if you can resist: the sweets that make us feel like kids again are right this way…
The laddoo (or laddu) is the quintessential poster boy for Indian sweets. Going to a wedding or religious Indian ceremony? You know this will be waiting for you. Plump with ghee, flour and sugar, these sweet treats are made from tiny drops of chickpea flour mix. It’s then fried in ghee and soaked in sugar syrup. Sounds easy, but it takes special skill to mould the mixture into those iconic spheres (and you have to do it while it’s hot!). Much respect.
There are only two ingredients in this: milk and sugar. The magic is in the way it’s made. First, the milk simmers till it reaches a paste-like consistency, then sugar is added in the mix. Once it becomes a semi-solid, it is cooled and ready to be devoured. But really, you don’t have to break your back in the kitchen – just pop by Little India to get this ivory white treat.
We call it the Indian doughnut, but trust us, it is not as diabetically sweet as the aforementioned confections. Made from rice flour and jaggery (cane sugar), this treat is deep-fried, so it’s nice and crisp on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.
Patisa soan papdi
Light and flaky with sugar strands peeling off at the corners, soan papdi’s texture is as smooth as cotton candy and literally melts in your mouth. It’s so popular that it was sold out at the sweet shop so we decided to go for the patisa soan papdi, a less flaky version that’s still on par with its sister.
Fair warning: this is not for the faint-hearted. Hailing from Mysore in the south-western Indian state of Karnataka, this sugary confection contains just three ingredients – sugar, gram flour and slabs of ghee. Consider it an Indian version of fudge: it’s soft, dense and a melt-in-your-mouth kind of fantastic. There’s another version that uses less ghee, but you know what we’d rather pick. As much as we love to indulge in this every now and then, it’s best to share unless you want a 24-hour sugar rush.
If you’re a sucker for sugar, you will adore these brown beauties. Made from milk fats, they’re deep fried and then drenched in a saccharine syrup infused with rose water. Expect a heady sugar rush after as little as two bites.
Probably the most refined looking out of the lot, burfi catches the eye with its pretty silver coating. It’s purely for vanity though: this edible silver leaf is mainly used for occasions like weddings and has no effect on the taste. Perfectly cut into diamondss, this dense and milky sweet tastes as good as it looks. Plain burfi is usually made of solidified condensed milk and sugar with a hint of cardamom, but you can also find cashew nuts, pistachios, coconut or almond varieties.
Kesari is said to have originated from many regions down the south of the subcontinent, and with a South Indian background myself, this dish has very much been present throughout my childhood. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons why it’s still my first choice. And don’t you think the bright orange colouring’s super tempting? The semolina is what gives this block of sweet goodness texture along with staples like sugar, ghee (surprise surprise), water and milk. I like mine with cashew nuts and topped with a sprinkle of saffron.
This confection is (almost) sickeningly sweet and sticky. It gets its muruku-like pretzel shape by plopping the fermented batter in a spiral motion into a pool of hot oil, then the crisp snack is dunked in a saffron sugar syrup for that iconic orange glow.