Sunday, January 20, 2008

Some Desi Desserts

Some time back I listed a few savory dishes from Pakistani cuisine. I am adding to it and listing five desserts. Personally I don’t have a cultivated sweet tooth but these are all desi desserts I adore.

1. Gajar ka Halwa

Probably the most popular and certainly the most delicious of the sweet dishes of sub-continent origin.Because of its basic ingredients, milk, carrots, butter and sugar/gur, it can be assumed that it originates from Punjab. Although it is available throughout the year, it is considered a winters sweet dish. There is a shop in Gowal Mandi Lahore which gives you great gajar ka halwa. Couple of shops in Gujranwala are also famous for their halwa. In Rawalpindi/Islamabad  ‘Sweet Centre’ on Murree road is a winner. A small shop, Hamid Sweet House in Chah Sultan Rawalpindi has a superb gajar ka halwa. The best I had, however, was in Sargodha from ‘Gali wali Hatti’.The shop was located in a side-street in kacheri bazaar, Sargodha. Their halwa was full of wonderful carroty flavor and khoya with the spicy aroma of cardamom and cinnamon.

2. Dhood Jalebi

Jalebi is made from maida. It probably is one of the most liked sweet in sub-continent. Jalebi also has originated in Punjab. It is made by deep-frying maida batter shaped into a chaotic shape and soaked in sugar syrup.  Jalebi can be bright orange or yellow or white. Another version of it is "Emarti", which is red-orange in colour and sweeter in taste, and made from gram-flour. Emriti is more popular in Eastern Punjab. It tastes divine if taken with boiling milk. This concoction gives you instant energy, that’s why it is well-liked by Pahlwans and athletes in Punjab. Our PAF basketball players always demanded to have it after a tough match. Dhood-jalebi “allegedly” has some kind of aphrodisiac properties as well and is therefore quite often placed on bedsides on wedding nights. Where can you have the best dhood jalebi? Almost everywhere in Pakistan even in London and Manchester. My personal favorite was a small shop in Committee chowk Rawalpindi. The shop has been demolished however, a very sad end to one of my favourite places.

3. Ras Malai

Ras Mali has to be one of my favorite desserts. It is primarily sweetened dumplings of ricotta cheese. These cheesy dumplings are soaked in sweetened and thickened milk delicately flavored with cardamom. It is best served chilled, garnished with chandi ka warq and a dash of crushed dried fruit. This sweet dish is a gift of Orissa Eastern India. It has been adopted by Lahore and is available in every sweet shop there. Rahat bakers in Lahore Cantt are famous for their Rasmali. The best however might not be Lahori. It is from Raheed sweets in old Saddar Bazaar Rawalpindi. Rasmali they offer is fluffy, slightly brownish-colored and sweetened to perfection.They have opened up their branches in Islamabad and other affluent areas of Rawalpindi. But I still find the old shop to be more fulfilling and delicious. Nostalgia I suppose.

4. Bengali Rasgulla

Nothing can be so sinisterly delicious than Bengali Rasgullas, exotic dollops of cheese in syrup. Like Rasmalai, Rasgullas also have a Bengal and Orissa origin. I have heard about an entire village in Orissa specialising in Rasgullas and other sweet delicacies. Before 1971, there used to be many Bengali sweets shops in Pakistan. My father tells me about a Bengali sweet shop in Saddar Rawalpindi, which closed down in 1970 as the owners left for Bangladesh. The shop remained closed for almost 2 to 3 years waiting for the return of the owners. They didnt .....

5. Kulfa-Falooda

Falooda or faludeh was introduced in India by the Iranians/Parsis. It is a traditional serving to celebrate nauroz. Falooda is a concoction made of ice cream, milk, thin noodles known as cellophane noodles, and tukh malanga/basil seeds.

Khulfa or Kulfi is refreshing and rich blend of sugar and cream. Khulfa-falooda is definitely a Punjabi creation with unique flavours and interesting textures. It is a very popular dessert available almost round the year all over Pakistan. My personal favorite is from Hafiz Soda water and Falooda in Sargodha located in old bazaar just beside the entrance of a mosque. During the scorching Sargodha summers this was a treat. They served from a terracotta pot (matka) covered with scarlet cloth. The bowl of kulfa falooda they dished up had generous amount of kulfa, hefty scoop of hand made ice cream and noodles topped with tukh malanga. Each and every spoon was a pleasure and would always leave you craving for more.

Finally another winter sweet dish made in my home during December rains. Aatay ka halwa is a blend of wheat flour, asli ghee and sugar/gur. It is a difficult dish to prepare , requiring lot of time and effort but worth all the effort. It is not available anywhere, if you want to have it you are welcome to my place in Islamabad during winters.


  1. It never ceases to amaze me how the word "Bengali" gets attached to something that the Bengalis didn't even invent, but would go to any length to claim they did. Mustn't we then attach the name of the state to every sweet dish then? Or is it a concerted Bengali effort to claim something that isn't theirs?

    OTOH probably it is to distinguish the smaller Bengali version of the dish, from the tastier version which is reputed to be far tastier, but perishes so fast that it can be savoured only at the place of origin?

    I could never figure this out.

  2. Bangalis did invent rasgolla. It was invented by Nobin Chandra Das in Kolkata.

  3. Would you please post some recipes

  4. Nope, even I thought Bengalis invented rasgullas until one visit to Orissa changed my eyes. Don't believe everything the Bengalis say. They'll "amader Bangla..." almost anything.

    Rasgulla is a centuris old dish from Puri & Bhubaneshwar. The Salipur and Pahal rasgullas can shame standard K C Das fare any day. Bhubaneshwar probably has more rasgulla vendors than Kolkata, despite the difference in size.

  5. Of course Orissa invented rasgulla. Don't fall for the usual Bengali "amader" trick.