Rajasthan, a place rich with stories of the brave kings and beautiful queens, of ghoomars and borlas, of satis and johars, of deserts and mirages. Mesmerizing folk tales that take you back in time. With roots buried somewhere deep down, my tryst with the scorching lands of this magnificent state began when I was 4. While I have never stayed in the state, something in my Karma keeps bringing me back and tied to Rajasthan. Now I am married to a Rajasthani and thus have a lifelong relationship with this place.
This is the first part of my Rajasthan Dairies series where I will share stories and memories that I have collected over the years. Stories about the rich food, culture, traditions, history and some folk tales. I begin my story with my love for Rajasthan’s mouth watering sweets. While the state is synonymous for some popular ones, different cities have their own specialties. Every time my mother-in-law comes visiting she knows what we would love to see coming out of her bags. So much so that friends and colleagues have started keeping track of her visits. God help me if I happen to go to Jaipur and return empty handed (read without a box-full of sweets)!!! So, here’s a list of some of my favourites –
1. Ghewar – These are mesh-like disc shaped sweets made with all purpose flour and drenched with sugar syrup…slurrrp! My earliest memories of this sugar soaked delicacy is associated with the big round box it comes in, something like those hat boxes you see in Hollywood movies! A friend of my dad’s knew my weakness for these and would bring it with him every time he visited us from Jaipur. Associated with the festival of Teej, which is celebrated in the month of August, these mouth watering sweets can be savoured as it is or with sweet rabdi or malai.
2. Churma – Popularly paired with the traditional Rajasthani dish of Dal-Bati, Churma is coarsely ground wheat crushed & cooked with ghee and sugar. It is flavoured by adding roasted and crushed dry fruits, kesar (saffron), rose petals etc.
3. Mawa Kachori – This sinful sweet is a meal in itself. It is a deep fried kachori (or wheat flour disks) stuffed with sweet mawa (milk cheese) mixed with dry fruits, nuts and soaked in sugar syrup. Loaded with calories, this sugary delight is a specialty of Jodhpur. the uniqueness of this sweet lies in its multiple textures. Bite into the crispy outer layer and savour the juicy soft filling mixed with nuts.
4. Gunjhiyaan – Specially prepared around the festival Holi, a gunjhiyaan is similar to a mawa kachori. What distinguishes this sweet is its momo-like shape. After deep frying and dipping in sugar syrup it is rolled in grated coconut to give it a distinct flavour.
5. Mohanthal / Dilkhushar – Mohanthal, or Dilkhushar as it is sometimes called, is a sweet barfi made from gram flour. It is prepared in large quantities on special occasions like weddings and is an all times favourite among all. Its one of those sweets that you cannot eat just one. The name Dilkhushar means ‘something that makes your heart happy’. 🙂
6. Malpua – These are fried pancakes, again dipped in sugar syrup and garnished with finely chopped nuts. Malpuas are also prepared during weddings, especially winter weddings, and are served hot. One can have them as is or with rabri to give it different texture and offset the extremely sweet taste of sugar syrup.
7. Monng dal halwa – Last on my list of favourites is Moong dal halwa which is prepared from split yellow moong dal. Making this delicacy is a tedious process involving overnight soaking of the moong dal and grinding it into a paste. Then it is slow cooked with mawa and oodles of ghee and sugar until golden brown. My mom made them e very year on Diwali and now no Diwali is complete for me without a generous dose of this mouth watering sweet.
While these are some of the more popular ones, Rajasthani cuisine has many more sweet treasures to delight your sweet tooth. Every household has its own traditional sweets and no meal is complete without a sweet. An interesting tid-bit about Rajasthani sweets is that these are not called ‘desserts’ which is supposed to be had at the end of a meal. They are had before, during and after the meal. So next time you are planning a trip to this majestic land indulge in its sweet delights and don’t worry about gaining some extra kilos.