We are Indians! Unity in Diversity is what we flaunt with imminent pride. Over the ages our culinary skill sets have inspired renowned chefs from all corners of the world to visit India and in turn revisit their own culinary assets. The era of Mughals, the British Raj everyone in time have contributed their own share of recipes. Thus, as with our healthy cultural mix, when it comes to kitchen we do sport equal amount if diversity. Be it with our Starters or Main Course, we have loads to offer. But the deserts, yes as the world already acknowledges are simply yum. In India sweets aren’t just deserts but they play different roles. We offer sweets to our Gods, any auspicious event is initiated with the arrival of sweets in a tray. Sweets that come in different shades, shapes and sizes. We share sweets when we mean to share our success or when we are happy. Then again near and dear ones offer us sweets to cheer us up when we are feeling a little down.
The Indian Subcontinent sweet wagon comprises of the various festivals and traditional events that have come to popularity over the years. These celebrations are mostly seasonal. Be it the Northern Hilly Region or the Coasts of Kanyakumari, Sweets have been flaunted by all. This leads to the fact that most Indian Sweets are concocted out of very basic and easily available ingredients. Apart from a few recipes which demand the addition of healthy color for garnishing, most Indian Sweets are free from chemical substances and even in most cases preservatives. Mithai as it is referred to by the people here happens to have a short life span and are always served fresh.
Lets just have a look around at the biogeographical distribution of sweets across the various parts of India, starting off with the capital region.
North Indian Sweets
The crowd here prefer sweets made out of Ghee which is made out of simmering butter. Buffalos are bred in abundance here and mostly sweets are prepared from buffalo milk. Milk from a buffalo is known to be thicker than what we get from Cow. Thus superior quality Mava and Khoa ( the key ingredients of Indian Sweets ) are extracted out of this milk. Northern region of India proudly presents a selection of sweets Mava Mithai , Sohan Halwa , Imarti , Sohan Papdi / Pateesa , Ras Malai , Kaju Barfi , Motichuur Ladoo , Kheer , Kalakand and Gulab Jamun amongst others.
When it comes to regions adjacent to Bay of Bengal, Sweets are consumed in abundance and the most renowned offering here is Rosogolla ( often pronounced as Rasgulla ). Bengali Sweets comprise a major section of Indian Sweets and are commonly termed as Mishti. Apart from this there are some lip-smacking delicious offerings. Malpua, Amriti, Mihidana, Sitabhog, Chhena Gaja, Chhena Poda, Kancha Golla, Lyangcha, Narkel er Naru, Pati Shapta, Pithe, Rabri, Ladoo, Sandesh, Roso Malai, Golap Jaam, Simui er Payes, Shorpuria and Shorbhaja are some of the original Indian Sweets available in Bengal.
Sweets from the Western Ghats
Here at the western region of India, each state offers a range of sweets coming along with their own set of garnishments. These sweets have significant difference from sweets found in the North and East. Going by the popular names, Shrikhand, Kaju Katli, Ladoo, Surati Ghari, Modak, Bhakhra (deep fried sweet dough), Karanji, Dal Ni Pori (sweetened lentils stuffed in a light pastry) Puran Poli, Khaproli, Gulab Jamun , Ras Malai and Khaman na Lavda (Dumplings stuffed with sweetened coconut).
South Indian Sweet Delicacy
Much like in Bengal, South Indian Sweets flaunt a vivid selection. Not only they are different in their names or shapes but sweets here comprise of a variety of ingredients. Some of the most popular South Indian Sweets are Adhirasam, Arisellu, Bandar ladoo, Coconut Barfi, Dharwad Pedha, Double ka Meetha, Jaangiri, Mysore Pak, Pootharekulu, Sheer Korma, Unni appam, Neyyapam, and Rava ladoo.
We will get on to details of these recipes based on their popularity. For now, I have tried to list out the Top 10 most popular Indian Sweets which one should not miss on their visit to the country. The methodology behind this analysis has been to sort out recipes which exist in multiple landscapes with different names clearly signifying its existence and popularity across diverse cultural grounds.
10 Most Popular Indian Sweets
Rasgulla or Roso Golla – Milky Balls that melts in your mouth!!
Rasgulla or Roso Golla is the most famous sweet throughout Eastern India. The name origins from the shape of the sweet which is round (Gol) and one gets a spongy feel even when holding it. While having it, one small munch will give you a juicy smooth feeling. The most common recipe to Rasgulla comprises Flour, Sooji, Sugar and Milk. On special occasions grated almonds and elaichis are used to add taste and aroma.
This delicacy can be found in different parts of India but when it comes to specialization. Roso Golla from Balaram Mullick and Radharamn Mullick , K.C. Das in Kolkata has earned a name for itself. Pahala in Odisha is often refered to as the Rasgulla district. Rasgulla in Odisha isn’t the same spongy variant. Bikalananda Kar Rasgulla which happens to be famous here are more sweeter, the syrup is a little granular and thicker in form. A larger amount of sugar in the making gives them longevity. Rasgullas can be found in Noida at The Rasgulla Shop and in Bikaner we are having Chhotu Motu Joshi Sweet Shop. At Hyderabad you will find G Pulla Reddy Sweets presenting some of the finger licking Rasgullas.
Jalebi / Jilapi / Jangiri – Crispy, juicy sweet
This sweet is one of the most popular of all Indian sweets and is treated as the primary choice when it comes to any special occasion be it a wedding, birthday or a cultural fest. Making a Jalebi can be very simple, all it needs is Flour and Curd made into a uniform concentrated paste (not watery) and sugar syrup to dip it into.
Jalebis amongst a selection of Indian sweets are best served hot. Each bite taken produces a crunchy sound and munching on it eventually releases the sweet syrup encapsulated within, thus giving you a serene experience. Jalebis are often served hot with a combination of either vanilla Ice Cream that adds to the Creamy feel or mild cool Rabri, Kheer.
Jalebi / Jilapi / jangiri as the different names suggest are available all across the country. It is one of the most common Indian Sweet that one can keep a note of. We have shops who have dedicated themselves in the manufacture of some of the best Jalebis and the interesting fact is that they only sell Jalebis. Old Famous Jalebi Wala in Chandni Chowk, Delhi boasts of serving some of the best Jalebis in the country. Oozing with Ghee, this Jalebis are a must taste if you are up for a little time amidst the crowd. When it comes to Kolkata, Jilepi as it is known here is a common breakfast item clubbed with a loaf. Tewari Sweets at Burra Bazar offers pure ghee Jilepi which is finger licking good. The tech hub of the country also loves to taste Jalebis and Shri Ram sweet corner in BTM, Bangalore is where you can find nice and good Jalebis. You can also find Jumbo Jalebis of 250 Gram each at Maturam sweets in Gohana (Haryana).
Mysore Pak – The sweet that melts your heart!
Just as the name suggests Mysore Pak happens to be from Mysore. This unlike others in this section is a melt-in-the-mouth Indian sweet. This is made from Besan/ Chickpea flour/ Kadala mavu abundant Ghee, Oil and Sugar.
Mysore Pak is one of those Indian Sweets which can give you an addiction. The sweet when procured from the right shops and when it is fresh baked is so soft that you put it in your mouth and ummmm it melts with a burst of ghee. The aroma is so strong that when the sweet is kept in a room and you enter it, you know what’s in store. Mysore Pak though has a less famous twin which is porous and a little hard to melt. Mostly people prefer the former to the later.
Some of the best Mysore Paks are available with Sri Krishna Sweets and then Shri Venkateshwara Sweetmeat Stall, Majestic, Bangalore
Shahi Tukda / Double ka Meetha
This on happens to be a Mughlai Desert and is very popular in the land of Nizams and Southern regions of India. If you are looking for one of those rich Indian Sweets then Shahi Tukda is definitely your choice. It comprises of deep-fried bread, ghee and grated as well as crushed nuts.
This happens to be one of the most amazing Indian Sweets that you can come across. Reason being its ingredients. Its just simple bread, deep fried in Ghee and when you have it I bet you cant even guess whats on the platter. I mean think plain bread a white porous loaf, almost tasteless and then walahh comes in the Shahi Tukda, magnificently garnished and served with a feel of royalty.
Shahi Tukda can be found in abundance in Hyderabad be it Pista House or Paradise , give it a try and you will be loving it.
Modak / Neyyapam – Traditional sweet to stimulate taste buds!
Modak is one of those sweets offered to the lords. Modak usually becomes the most popular Indian Sweet during the Ganesh Chaturthi. This delicacy is made out from Rice Flour, Jaggery, Grated Coconut, Cardamom, Poppy Seeds and Ghee.
Sweet Dumplings as they are also known as Modaks are meant to simulate your taste buds in more than a way. The outer covering makes you munch on it and then the inner fillings pop out with a juicy creamy feel.
Modaks are famous in the Western part of India but then in Kolkata we have Felu Modak Sweet Shop which happens to be more than 150 year old. Modakam, near to Sidhivinayak Temple, Prabhadevi Mumbai is a good place to try out.
Ladoo – All time favorite Indian Sweet!
If you have been to India you will know that though Ladoo might not be the most appreciated of all the Indian Sweets but it definitely has earned a name for itself. Ladoos are made out of different ingredients be it Besan, Sooji, Coconut, and then Sugar Ghee Cardamom and Almonds are common to all recipes.
Ladoos don’t need any explanation on the taste and feel because they are awesome. You can find ladoos all across the country. Be it any Indian Sweet shop Ladoos are there in store. Ladoos named after the sweet in Bangalore is a good catch. While Kamdhenu and Balaram Mullick and Radharamn Mullick serve pure ghee Ladoos in Kolkata.
Kaju Barfee / Kaju Katli – Tastes rich and yummy!
Kaju Barfee or Kaju Katli is a very popular sweet and usually preferred at parties and celebrations. Auspicious ceremonies such as Pujas and Weddings also find utility for this dry fruit delicacy. This Indian Sweet consists of pure Kaju or Cashew Nuts, Ghee, Sugar and Cardamom.
Kaju Barfeee is a dry fry bar mostly shaped as diamond and boasts a reasonably long shelf life. There’s not much to speak of its taste as things go pretty elementary here, its cashew oozing ghee and once you munch on this stuff, well you just keep on munching. Bikanerwala and Haldirams are some of the biggest manufacturers when it comes to this Indian Sweet.
Adhirasam – The not so sweet, yet makes you crave for more!
Adhirasam is a popular South Indian Sweet coming from the Tamil Cuisine. This sweet finds its place in the Diwali festival. It usually takes time to prepare and the ingredients used are Raw Rice Jaggery Sesame Seeds Dry Ginger Powder Elaichi Powder Ghee and Sugar.
Adhirasam is more of a household sweet and are best served after a few hours of preparation. It gives a crisp feel and the thick jiggery often touches your tongue giving you a mild sweet sensation. The best Adhirasams are made out from some of the households in South India.
Kalakand – Richness of Milk and Ghee makes them awesome!
This Indian Sweet comes from Northern part of the country and is a sibling to Mysore Pak. This usually consists of Pure Cottage Cheese, concentrated and sweetened milk laced in Ghee and springled with elaichi dust for aroma.
Kalakands are essentially Milk Cakes baked out of pure milk. The concentrated milk produces a granular sensation and if laced with ghee and cardamom gives you an auspicious aroma. G Pulla Reddy in Hyderabad. Guptas , Kamdhenu, Ganguram in Kolkata make some of this lovely Indian Sweet delicacy.
Sheer Khurma / Meethi Sewai / Simui er Payes – Taste that lingers!
This delicacy finds its place in the Holy Ramadan festival when this is found in abundance along with Haleem. The preparation is simple and it needs full cream milk , vermicelli , milkmaid , sugar , cashew , raisin , almond , cardamom , ghee and chopped pista.
Sheer Khurma or Meethi Sewai again is a house hold desert and the greatest recipes to it remain family secret. During Ramadan you can visit some of your friends place to have your fair share of experience which trust me you will love as the taste will linger for hours of having the dish. In Bengal though Simui er payes is a common desert and often served cold after a brunch at a family get together.
These are just a few of the Indian Sweets which are not to be missed by any food lover. No matter if you don’t like sweets, taste any one of these at the right place and you are sure going to become fan of Indian Sweets.