For centuries, mithais or sweets have been an integral part of a traditional Indian diet. Its origin can be traced back to at least 500 BCE, a time when both raw sugar or jaggery and refined sugar were being produced. Ayurveda even suggests eating sweets before starting a meal, as it activates taste buds and takes the longest to digest.
Be it a celebration with lustrous ladoos, festive kaju katlis, and delicious sandesh, a bowl of sweet chutney or comforting payasam, desserts are intrinsically hemmed into our lives. With its distinct texture, taste, flavours and richness, our culinary portfolio boasts an array of unique sweet dishes.
Here is a list of 10 unique desserts you must try:
A unique and delicious dessert from Nagaland, Nap Naang is a pudding prepared from glutinous or sticky black rice which gives it a distinct nutty aftertaste and a deep purple hue. A kheer of sorts, this is cooked in milk and flavoured with nuts. Mildly sweet, this creamy dessert is also rich in fibre and complex carbohydrates making it a rare guilt-free delicacy for the health-conscious.
Parwal Ki Mithai
Bihar’s pride and joy, the unusual surprise of a vegetable like pointed gourd or parwal as a sweet makes this such a special dessert. Made with sweet khoya-based filling stuffed inside pointed gourds, the delectable sweetmeat is a perfect example of a sweet and savoury dessert — a must-have for especially those who prefer mildly sweet desserts.
Although it looks similar to the modern doughnut, Adhirasams date back to the 16th century. Known by various names across the country, like sirsa in Chhattisgarh, anarsa in Marathi and arisa pitha in Odia, Adhirasam is a pastry made from rice flour, jaggery, butter and pepper and comes in the shape of a vada. Especially famous in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, historical references trace it back to Vijayanagara emperor Krishnadevaraya’s time.
Originated in a small village of Atreyapuram of Andhra Pradesh, Pootharekulu is a wafer-like sweet made with transparent rice paper that is prepared with a particular kind of rice batter called jaya biyyam. A tedious process, it involves thin films or rice papers which are then coated in sugar and ghee and stuffed with dry fruits and gur or jaggery.
Another gem from the Southern part of India, Elaneer Payasam is known for its subtle and distinct flavour that is unlike anything you’ve tasted before. Made with tender coconut pulp mixed with condensed milk, this quick version of kheer is a brilliant addition to your daily meals.
Although roshogolla and sandesh’s charm is unbeatable in Bengal, this lesser-known gem called Shorbhaja promises every bite filled with rich and decadent wonder. Now prepared only in a handful of sweetshops in West Bengal, especially in the interior parts of the state, this delicacy is made with condensed milk mixed with leftover sandesh that has been deep-fried in oil or ghee.
Scrumptious dumplings made of rice and curd, which are then deep-fried in ghee and sweetened with chashni or sugar syrup, Dehroris are primarily made in Chhattisgarh during any prominent festival. Often served with a glass of buttermilk, this sweet is often advised as a way to regulate body temperature, especially during the arid summers experienced in the region.
At a glance, pitha looks like a simple rice flour dumpling or cake, but it is indeed a pocket of sweet surprise. Made predominantly in the eastern states of India, especially West Bengal and Assam, it is prepared with a sweet stuffing of jaggery, preferably nolen gur, khus khus or poppy seeds, khoya, sesame seeds and coconut. A monsoon and winter delicacy, in Bengal it is often prepared to celebrate Makar Sankranti festival, while in Assam it is a crucial food during the Bihu festival.
While Bebinca is one of the most popular desserts from Goa, this unique Goan delicacy is no less and a must-try for any sweet tooth. Aromatic and full of flavours, Patoleo is a steamed sweet that is cooked by spreading rice paste over a turmeric leaf. The batter once spread over the leaf is then stuffed with Goan coconut jaggery, freshly grated coconut and cinnamon powder. Monsoons are the best time to try this traditional dessert.
A traditional dessert prepared in northeast India, especially Manipur, Madhurjan Thongba are essentially deep-fried gram flour or besan dumplings dropped in a thick base of sweet condensed milk flavoured with bay leaves and cardamom. One can serve it with a topping of crushed nuts or freshly grated coconut.
Edited by Yoshita Rao