Special Sweets and Desserts of Rajasthan
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If you are visiting the deserts of Rajasthan then surely cannot miss out on most of the desserts served here! Putting it simply, the people don’t really consider desserts to be something that you eat post a meal. If it is sweet, then you can very be assured that you are going to savor it at any time of the day. Before we go into the details of all the lip-smacking desserts and sweet varieties available, there are some facts that you should know.
Any region has specialty sweets that are based on not only the culture of the place but also the climatic conditions. Being an arid and dry place, the desserts here are rather heavy on clarified butter and dried fruits. The reason for this is simple - it sustains a longer period. The dry climate allows these desserts to remain crisp and delicious for a much longer time. Also, since they are preservable in nature, they were initially used as a source for food and nutrition during long desert travels. The locals would carry these sweets in small muslin wrapped cloth with them during the long and hot journeys. Also, it may sound strange for the calorie conscious but you do need more of fats in dried weather conditions to ensure that your skin and hair remains soft and supple, while getting apt nourishment.
One of the most popular desserts of Rajasthan has to be the traditional laddoo especially the boondi laddoos which are very popular in the main city areas. Basically it involves frying of minuscule white flour balls in ghee that are then soaked in sugar syrup. After this, they are laden with some more clarified butter and rolled with a choice of dried fruits. They are then sold per piece or kilo. If there is a wedding in sight, then the size of the laddoos changes too. Instead of small pieces you will see gigantic pieces that are specially made for the wedding season. And you cannot dream of having one alone.
There are different versions of the laddoos made here. For instance the bondi ones are served to Lord Ganesha. On the other hand there are some made from gram flour, which has been toasted well. This is usually served to the Lord Hanuman is more of an everyday delicacy rather than specialty sweet. Apart from this, you can also get laddoos made of milk, wheat flour and an array of other local ingredients. But be prepared that while they are high on taste, they are going to high on calories too.
Churma is a specialty sweet that is made using whole wheat flour. It is a deep fried whole wheat laddoo mixed with ghee and gur or jaggery. Churma is served to Lord Hanuman or Balaji. In fact, any auspicious occasion in the house calls for making this special recipe that is not only easy but lighter on the palette as compared to most of the desserts available here.
Katli or Barfi
Dried fruits of different kinds are available in plenty here along with khoya or mawa, which are the base of making most desserts in Rajasthan. Katli or Barfi is another staple dessert that should be a part of any lavish meal or when you entertain guests. This is one of the sweets that really stays on for weeks if stored in the right containers. Katli or Barfi is again made in different shapes and style. It is like a diamond shape usually seen in the pack of cards. Of course, there are so many variations of this sweet too, in Rajasthan alone. One of the most common kinds of Katli or Barfi is the ones made from almonds and cashew nuts. And making this is no easy task, especially for the almond ones. All the almonds have to be peeled and then soaked for making this dish. The task involves hours of manual labour. Only the best of the almonds are used here because one bitter almond can ruin kilos of hard work. So the tasting process is also rather thorough. The process of making Katli or Barfi using either cashew or almonds is relatively same. Lots of ghee is used to toast the khoya, which is then mixed with almond or cashew plates. They are then spread out in huge aluminum trays and allowed to set. A layer of edible silver paper also known as barak is then spread over it.
The Katli or Barfi is a staple at weddings. In fact in Rajasthan there are contests held at weddings on who can consume the most of these katlis. Eating about 2-3 kg is actually normal for professionals who are especially called to take part in these competitions. The groom and bride’s side feed each other this delicate and intricate sweet as a symbol of love and respect. These days you can get a lot more contemporary versions of the dish like fruit based Katli or Barfi or something made with kesar or even ice-cream Katli or Barfi. But no matter in what form, this is a dessert that you really cannot miss out here.
Ooh this one is something that will surely get you drooling for more and is one of the exclusive items of the state. Feni is nothing but noodle-like strands of maida or white flour, which have been fried and then assembled in a round shape with thousands of strands. Some versions are also used making wheat and barely to add to the nutrition factor, especially when it involved traveling for days. Feni is easily available in most of the sweet shops here and is usually prepared during the Sakaranti period, which is around the middle of January. However, these days you can easily lay your hands on the sweet any time of the year.
Now there are many ways to eat this wholesome dish and all of them are rater messy so be prepared to wash your hands after the meal. One of the first methods is to take sugar free feni, which is rather crisp in texture and is served fresh with hot sugar syrup all over it. So it is basically a pancake like thing, only you don’t have to eat it with a spoon or fork. And this is one of the yummiest versions of eating the same. The second option is to have the feni with milk. It is a traditional breakfast type that many people love eating here. Some nuts are added for nutritional value and the feni used here is usually made from wheat instead of white flour. Many stores also sell feni that is softer in texture and has been already soaked in the sugar syrup. This is more like a dry and sweet dish, which can be ready to eat and is usually exported outside the state. But no matter how you eat it, be ready for getting some messy hands.
The debate for the jalebi can go on for centuries on who started the concept and where it came from. But nobody really cares when you eat the sweet dish. Saffron laden jalebi is one of the specialties of Rajasthan that no one can miss. It is usually a cold weather favorite and is served with hot milk during the season. So it is a complete meal on its own. Of course, there is no time to eat this sweet as long as it is served hot and fresh. The Jalebi is made using a long process and needs skillful hands to create the final product. It involves using fermented bater, which is made from white flour and some curd along with a dash of soda. It is then left to ferment overnight or at least for a few hours.
Once the batter rises, it is then placed into huge cones. Hot oil or ghee is used for frying the same. The shape of the jalebi is very much like the pinwheel. The thinner the jalebi the taster is the finished product. Hot oil should be the right temperature and the batter should be fried till golden for best results. Once the frying is complete the crispy jalebi is taken out from one pan and tossed into another wok, which contains sugar and saffron syrup. It is the saffron here that adds to the color of the jalebi. And when you bite into with sugar dipping all over your hands, you just want to finish it off so that you can get the next piece.
When you are talking about the hot weather of Rajasthan, one of the sweet dishes that you really cannot rule out is the kulfi, which is made using ice. Now there is no restriction on eating this dessert any time of the day or even the year. So don’t get shocked when you see the people of Rajasthan digging into the kulfi even during the winters. It is usually made using cream, with some dried khoya or mawa and lots of ice.
Kulfi is served on stick and even in bowls. You will find lots of street vendors selling kulfi all year through, but the rich way of having the dessert is with falooda. This is basically kind of a noodle like sweet semolina base that is served with the kulfi. The most popular kulfi served with the dessert would be the saffron or kesar based ones. But of course, you can eat almost anything with the falooda. The kulfi is served in plate with falooda that is soaked in rose syrup or any other kind of sugar based syrup. The combination is simply divine. You can try different variations of the kulfi these days like rose, fruit based, chocolate based, etc.
Seera or Halwa
Another home specialty of Rajasthan is halwa or seera. Now there is no doubt that you an easily get it in the sweet shops, but one of the best ways of having the halwa would be from a granny’s hand or at one of the local households. No matter how good the sweet shop is the halwa somehow always tastes better when made from the hands of a mother. There are variations of the halwa available here too and the most commonly and popular ones include moong dal and the atta halwa. Moong dal is the yellow lentils that don’t have any peel. For the atta halwa, there is a special, thicker variation of the wheat flour used that adds to the taste.
Be prepared that both of the versions do include a lot of ghee, else there will be no taste. In fact, the ghee helps in preserving the halwa or seera for a longer period of time. Not only are they made for auspicious occasions but you can easily find people digging into halwa with puri for breakfast. After all legumes and wheat flour is healthy right! For the moong dal halwa, the lentils are soaked for a couple of hours and then pureed. But the ideal way of doing so is to ensure that it remains grainy rather than a fine paste. The thick wheat flour used for the atta halwa too adds to the texture. The process is usually same for both kinds. Ghee is melted in a pan and then either wheat flour or the moong daal is added. It is then roasted to the right color before adding some powdered sugar along with some almonds or even pistachios. The trick is to keep shaking and stirring the vessel well. Tastes best when served hot. It is specially served to guests and made on auspicious occasions and even served in weddings.
Creamy and delicious rabri is a specialty of Rajasthan. It is made using a special process that involves creaming of the butter along with some mawa and special techniques that add to the flavor. The rabbi is either eaten on its own or served with jalebi or even fruits. During the mango season you can find variations of the rabbi like the mango rabri or even the custard apple and chikoo variations. This is one sweet dish that really doesn’t stay for a longer period and so it is best to consume it within a day. If not it has to be refrigerated. In earlier times, it used to be made just during the winters but not it is easily available all year round.
Another specialty that is made around the time of sakranti or the winter months is ghevar. It is like a big pie, only lighter and much tastier in palette. The technique for making ghevar is rather complex and it is made only in specialty shops. You will be amazed looking at the pie like structure, which seems heavy but when you pick a piece, it is fluffy and crunchy at the same time. The ghevar is made traditionally using kesar or saffron along with pistachios. It is sent to the homes of the daughter on the occasion of sakranti. The sending of this sweet is considered as a goodwill gesture between the two families and a symbol of love. Classic ghevar is made using traditional techniques of cream, milk and white flour. However, these days you do get variations like ghevar made with jaggery and also ghevar with made fresh cream. The saffron colored specialty is not available all year round.
So if you are visiting the state, do make sure that you indulge in one of these specialties.