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The Fascinating History Behind Gujiya, a Holi Favourite That May Have Turkish Connection

In India, the festival of Holi and gujiyas [sweet dumplings] have gone hand in hand for ages. But some theories suggest that this Indian delicacy may have a Turkish connection. Learn more!

The Fascinating History Behind Gujiya, a Holi Favourite That May Have Turkish Connection

Several delicacies are prepared in the Indian kitchen during the festival of colours. But Holi is incomplete without savouring gujiya — one of the most loved traditional North Indian sweets

Dry fruits and sweet khoya (thickened milk solids) stuffing makes these dumplings crispy, flaky and delicious.

There are many theories that reflect what led to the origin of these dumplings.

One of them suggests there is a Turkish connection to the delicacy that has been relished by Indians for ages. The earliest mention of it dates back to the 13th century when a jaggery-honey mixture was covered with wheat flour and then, sun-dried.

So it is assumed that guijiya may have been derived from Turkey’s baklava — a layered buttery flaky dessert soaked in honey and sugar. This puff pastry is filled with tender pistachios stuffed between layers of dough.

Turkey’s baklava is a layered buttery flaky dessert soaked in honey and sugar.
Turkey’s baklava is a layered buttery flaky dessert soaked in honey and sugar (Image: Representational)

The Turks considered baklava a dessert for the wealthy, and the Sultan considered it a special gift.

Another theory suggests that gujiya could be a sweet replica of samosa, a fried spicy snack widely relished in the country today. These stuffed triangles or sambuca reached India through the Middle East.

Interestingly, when you look at the moon-shaped and deep-fried delicacy with its sweet stuffing of dry fruits, the above theories seem true. And so, it could be fair to say that the humble gujiya has traversed a long way through centuries and different countries before it became famous in the Indian kitchen.

Meanwhile, in India itself, several regional cuisines feature dishes similar to this Holi delicacy, but with different fillings.

In Bihar, it’s known as pedakiya, ghughra in Gujarat, karanji in Maharashtra, somas in Tamil Nadu, garijalu in Telangana, kajjikayalu in Andhra Pradesh, karjikayi or karigadubu in Karnataka.

Holi is incomplete without savouring gujiya.
Holi is incomplete without savouring gujiya. (Image: Representational)

If you too want to relish this sweet during Holi, here’s a tempting recipe of mawa gujiya that serves four persons.

Gujiya Recipe

Ingredients:

Khoya crumbled – 2/3 cup

Refined flour – 1 cup

Ghee – 3 teaspoons

Dried figs chopped – 1/2 cup

Seedless dates chopped – 1/2 cup

Cashewnuts chopped – 10

Almonds chopped – 10

Walnuts chopped – 10

Oil to deep fry

Gujiyas are deep-fried for five to six minutes till they turn golden brown.
Gujiyas are deep-fried for five to six minutes till they turn golden brown. (Image: Representational)

Method:

Step 1

To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl. Rub in the ghee with your fingertips till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Now, add one-fourth cup and one tablespoon of cold water and knead it into a stiff dough. Cover the dough with a damp muslin cloth and set aside for 15 minutes.

Step 2

To make the filling, heat a non-stick pan. Add the khoya and saute for 3 minutes or till the fat separates. Now, set aside the mixture to cool. Add the figs, dates, cashew nuts, almonds, and walnuts to the mixture.

Step 3

Divide the dough into twelve equal portions and shape it into circular balls. Flatten these balls using a rolling pin and board.

Step 4

Place one portion of the stuffing on one half of the flattened dough, lightly moisten the edges, and fold the other half over the stuffing. Press the edges to seal. Pinch the edges to make a design.

Step 5

Heat sufficient oil in a non-stick pan, and gently slide in a few gujiyas at a time. Deep-fry for five to six minutes till they turn golden brown.

Step 6

Take the deep-fried gujiyas out from the pan, and drain the extra oil on absorbent paper. Store them in an airtight container when completely cold.

Enjoy the scrumptious gujiyas, but try not to overeat…Happy Holi!

(Edited by Pranita Bhat)

Sources
The Story Behind Gujiya, A Popular Sweet Eaten On Holi: by Anuj Tiwari, Published on 17 March 2022.
Holi 2022: History Of Gujiya And Its Turkish Connection: by Aanchal Mathur, Published on 2 March 2023.
How to make Mawa Gujiya by Sanjeev Kapoor.

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