Who said traditional could not be contemporary? Here are some sweets from across the country achieving just that
Chhena poda from Odisha
The Indian cheesecake, chhena poda, is a cheese dessert, literally meaning ‘burnt cheese’ in Odia. It is made of well-kneaded homemade fresh cheese, or chhena, sugar, cashewnuts and raisins, and is baked for several hours until it browns. Chhena poda is the only well-known Indian dessert whose flavour is predominantly derived from the caramelisation of sugar. With the rasgulla battle heavily in West Bengal’s favour, the Odisha Milk Federation is reportedly investing heavily in mass-producing and popularising this delicacy, determined not to let go of the state’s claim on this dish.
Awan bangwi from Tripura
A kind of rice cake, awan bangwi is made only in Tripura. It is made by mixing sticky rice, cashews and raisins. This mixture is then put in cones made of banana leaves and steamed. Many such cakes are made across the state and include plain bangwi, or even pork bangwi in which small pieces of pork and lard are added. A rice variety called Guria is used. The jhum variety of Guria is most sought after, as it has a sweet fragrance. Since no oil is used in most preparations, and some are made without sugar, they are absolutely guilt-free sweets.
Dabbroo from Himachal Pradesh
Dabbroos have similar ingredients as pancakes—wheat, ghee and milk—but are much thinner and crispier. Also, they are made using wholewheat instead of maida. This sweet preparation is popular in Kangra valley of Himachal Pradesh.
Pal poli from Tamil Nadu
A great comfort food, pal poli is a dish of maida rotis that are first deep-fried and then immersed in milk warmed with condensed milk and saffron. Garnished with nuts, this dish can be served both hot or cold.
Bal mithai from Uttarakhand
It is a chocolate-coloured fudge made by roasting evaporated milk cream with cane sugar and coated with white sugar balls. It can be found in every sweet shop in Uttarakhand and is especially popular in regions around Almora and the neighbouring Kumaon Hills.
Sael roti from Sikkim
Sikkim’s answer to the American pretzel, sael roti is actually a popular street food item. It is a sweet bread made from ground rice, banana and sugar, and is made during festivals, weddings and celebrations. These are also popular gifting items. The flavours can vary as per ingredients and could include cardamom or cloves. The ingredients are mixed well and shaped into a ring and deep-fried. Sael roti is cooked in bulk and can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days.
Shufta from Jammu & Kashmir
Made with dry fruits, sugar and saffron, shufta not only looks good, it tastes awesome as well. This traditional Kashmiri dessert is especially made during festivals and weddings. Various dry fruits are first soaked in water for sometime and then mixed with ghee, various spice powders like cardamom and pepper, and then coated with sugar syrup. This dessert is most preferred in the harsh winter months, as the dry fruits and spices provide warmth to the body.
Khapse from Arunachal Pradesh
Usually made during the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, khapse is a variety of sweet biscuits made from flour, butter, eggs and sugar. They are deep-fried and served in different shapes, sizes and twists. Khapse is made of Amaranth flour known as bungandmo in the native language. Amaranth is a very precious crop in the area, but over the years, its cultivation has become restricted to very few villages. Therefore, its economic value has increased several times. Traditionally, khapses are shaped into eight-shaped rolls and fried in mustard oil until crispy. They can be stored in well-aerated bamboo containers for up to a year.
Mava bati from Madhya Pradesh
Mava bati is made of mava, til (sesame), cardamom powder and ghee. It is a richer version of the gulab jamun and is stuffed with dry fruits and mava dipped in sugar syrup.
Pitha from Assam
Pithas are primarily made from a batter of rice flour or wheat flour, which is shaped and optionally filled with sweet or savoury ingredients. When filled, the pitha’s pouch is called a khol and the filling is called pur. They are made only on special occasions like Bihu. Assamese pithas are often made from bora saul, a special kind of glutinous rice; or xaali saul, sun-dried rice. Pithas can be baked, deep-fried, roasted or steamed. Sesame seeds, ground coconut, dried orange rind and jaggery are some of the fillings used.
Bebinca from Goa
Bebinca is Goa’s most popular dessert and resembles a layered cake. The traditional bebinca is made of 16 layers and is served warm with ice cream. The ingredients include plain flour, sugar, ghee, egg yolk, coconut milk and almond slivers to garnish. It can be carried easily and preserved for a long time. It is a must-have at any celebration, be it a birth, wedding, Christmas or Easter. Though painstaking to make, the final version is worth the effort.
Vettu cake from Kerala
Vettu cake is a popular snack to be had with tea in Kerala. In rural areas, one can find these cakes displayed in glass jars at tea shops. Basically fried sweetened dough, they are made with sugar, all-purpose flour, eggs and spices like cardamom and nutmeg. Duck eggs are used, as they have more fat content than chicken eggs. Each piece is shaped like a cross and has a slightly crispy outside with a fluffy texture inside.