We are country of babbling billion. Of all organs, we use our mouth the most: we are either talking or eating. We speak different tongues, and our tongues have different taste buds. Indian life revolves around food; especially, Indians are never too full for some mithai! Every state, every town, every village has its own specialty, and its own favorite halwais too.
Though there is no exact figures, but still what we know is mind boggling. The quantity of mithai sold in just two cities- Delhi and Mumbai is five times the total sale of chocolates in the entire country. Khoya worth crores of rupees is consumed daily in the making of sweets like pedha and barfi. Laddoos worth crores of rupees are sold every day in the country. An article by The Hindu brought out a research done which states that sweets constitute 52.88% of everyday diet. They were worried, and even went ahead and called festivals like Diwali and Durga Puja as a ‘Celebration of Calorific Values’.
Her are the three best and most popular sweets of Indian population.
Hot and crispy Jalebis: No, we are not talking of the new ‘devotee band’ which calls itself ‘Jalebi’ — we wonder why. We are talking about deep fried flour batter, as convoluted a shape as the mind it came from, drenched with sugar syrup. Every town, every village in India wakes up to the sweet aroma of sizzling jalebis. The cute chubby halwais open their sweet shops sometimes even before dawn. They will sit cross-legged on a plinth outside their shop, in front of a huge kadhi sizzling with ghee or cheap vegetable oil. We have grown up watching him draw curly patterns on the surface of the ghee with a cloth filled with batter and shaped like a cone. With a wink of an eye, as if by magic, these will turn into mouth watering squiggly jalebis.
Inspired by unbeatable success of jalebis over the ages, Shombit Sengupta, an India born Frenchman, has written a book on brand management called Jalebi Management. Jalebi Management answers one single question: If Americans can produce cookies and dough nuts in their home and market these products as mega brands across the world, then why can’t jalebi, a delicacy appreciated in all the sectors of the society, be transformed into a world class brand?
Jalebi worth Rs 3-5 lakhs is sold every morning in places like Delhi, Kanpur, and Agra, where the delicacy is a popular breakfast. In Delhi, Chandni Chowk jalebis are to die for. We, in India, eat jalebis by kilos. At home, at school, during breakfast or lunch, jalebis are an all time favorite. Amriti is the fatter cousin of jalebi, but not nearly as popular. We cannot even take a wild guess at how many tons of jalebis are made and consumed everyday in and outside India.
Hot GJ’s: Next on favorite’s list is hot GJ’s. Yes, garma-garam Gulab Jamuns’. Gulab Jamun or Rose Balls as they are incorrectly translated to, are essentially khoya dough balls, often including double cream and a little flour in a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom, rosewater or saffron. It is usually made with “essence of rose”, but in the past rose petals were used. Diwali or Durga Puja or Baisakhi or weddings cannot be celebrated without the GJs.
Rasgullas or Rosogollas as our Bong friends call it: We had planned to call out the third favorite as ‘reader’s choice’, but we can see that some of our bong friends may not be too delighted by that option. After all Bengalis have been know to be great connoisseur of sweetmeats.
Rosogolla has been believed to be born in Bagbazar in Nabin Chandra Das’s small sweetshop in Kolkatta in 1868. He discovered that Sondesh, though was very popular was causing some discomfort while eating due to its dryness. This led him to his ecstatic creation- rosogollas. His son KC Das has been credited for their poularity. There have been times when Rosogolla has been called ‘national sweet of India’.
However, Oriyans disagree here since they believe that Rasagolla was invented in Orissa and has been a traditional sweet dish since centuries. The recipe spread from Orissa to Bengal. Arguably, the best rasagollas in Orissa are made by the Kar brothers, the descendants of a local confectioner, Bikalananda Kar, in the town of Salepur, near Cuttack.
Nevertheless, Rasgullas are popular all over India now. It is prepared by kneading chhena (casein) lightened with a small amount of semolina, and rolling them into small balls. These are then boiled in light sugar syrup until the syrup permeates the balls.
Enough of sweet talk. I need to go to the gym now, and lose some pounds.