I always like taking a look at desserts from around the world, but I found India to be a real treasure trove of sweet after-dinner treats! There are 9 desserts in particular that everybody should try at least once in their lifetime! Indian people are so lucky to have these sweets in their culinary culture.
Kulfi (recipe) is often described as “traditional Indian Subcontinent ice cream” and comes in various flavours, such as malai, rose, mango, and pistachio. Unlike Western ice cream, kulfi is not whipped, resulting in a solid, dense frozen dessert similar to traditional custard-based ice cream. Due to its density, kulfi takes a longer time to melt than Western ice cream.
Sandesh (recipe) is a Bengali dessert created with milk and sugar. Some recipes of Sandesh call for the use of chhena (cheese) or paneer (which is made by curdling the milk and separating the whey from it) instead of milk itself. Some people in the region of Dhaka call it Pranahara (literally, heart ‘stealer’) which is a softer kind of sandesh, made with mawa and the essence of curd.
Kaju ki Barfi (recipe) is a very popular Indian subcontinent dessert. “Kaju” literally means cashew nuts and “Barfi” is a type of Indian sweet, usually in the form of lozenge. Barfi is often made by thickening milk with sugar and other ingredients (dry fruits and mild spices). It is then spread in a flat, shallow dish and cut into bite-sized pieces. These pieces are sometimes decorated with edible silver foil, but more usually desiccated coconut. Kaju ki barfi is one of the more expensive Indian sweets and is gifted extensively during special occasions and festivals in India.
Ras Malai (recipe) is a dessert eaten in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh . The name ras malai comes from two words in Hindi: ras, meaning “juice”, and malai, meaning “cream”. It has been described as “a rich cheesecake without a crust”.
Gulab Jamun (recipe) is made mainly from milk solids, traditionally from freshly curdled milk. In India, milk solids are prepared by heating milk over a low flame for a long time until most of the water content has evaporated. These milk solids are kneaded into a dough, sometimes with a pinch of flour, and then shaped into small balls and deep-fried. The balls are then soaked in a light sugary syrup flavoured with green cardamom and rose water.
Payasam (recipe) is a form of rice pudding and is an integral part of traditional South Indian meals. Payasam also makes extensive use of jaggery and coconut milk in place of sugar and milk. The most common types of payasam in Southern India, include Pal (milk) payasam, Javvarisi (sago/tapioca pearls) payasam, Semiya (vermicelli) payasam, and Paruppu (dhal) Payasam.
Shahi Tukda (recipe) is a bread pudding dessert of fried bread slices soaked in hot milk with spices, including saffron and cardamom. It is popular in Hyderabad and Mughal cuisine, served at weddings and parties. Shahi Tukda is often called “Double Roti” in local Indian dialect because it swells up to almost double its original size after baking. It is particularly prepared during the festive month of Ramadan and on Eid. The recipe uses bread, condensed milk, and dry fruits.
Gajar ka Halwa (recipe) is a sweet dessert pudding associated mainly with the North India and Pakistan. It is made by placing grated carrot in a pot containing a specific amount of water, milk and sugar and then cooking while stirring regularly. It is often served with a garnish of almonds and pistachios. The nuts and other items used are first sautéed in ghee, a South Asian clarified butter.
Lassi (recipe) is a traditional, savoury yogurt-based drink sometimes flavoured with ground and roasted cumin. Sweet lassi, however, contains sugar or fruits (notably mango), instead of spices. Salted mint lassi is highly favoured in West Bengal. Lassi is enjoyed chilled as a hot-weather refreshment, mostly taken with lunch.
And you thought India was all about curries? India has some of the nicest desserts in the world. It’s just a shame they are not more readily available outside of the sub-continent.