The majority of Indians will admit to having a sweet tooth. Can you blame them? The tantalising array of desserts on offer can be too much to resist. Indian desserts are traditionally made with a variety of ingredients – from fruits to vegetables to legumes. Most desserts are predominantly made with milk or milk-based products such as ghee and cottage cheese. They are normally made with plenty of sugar and sometimes flavoured with coconut.
Every dessert has a specific taste and can often take a long time to prepare. They come in various shapes, flavours, colours and sizes, and are often presented during festive ceremonies and special occasions as they signify prosperity and happiness. The main sweet dishes that are offered during Diwali include rice kheer, carrot halwa, chilled curd idlis, besan ka ladooo and royal vermicelli kheer. Durga Puja, Holi and Baisakhi are other Hindu festivals where desserts play a major role. Indian sweets have not only taken over the Hindu society, they have also been enthralling other religious festivals (such as Id ul Fitr and Id ul Zuha), and marriage ceremonies.
The use of ingredients varies from region to region. There is a long history of Indian desserts, and many of the most popular ones are common throughout South Asia, while others are specific to certain regions and ethnicities. In all regions, they are an integral part of Indian cuisine. Most Indian sweets are also thought to aid digestion as they are normally consumed after heavy meals.
Here are some examples of some of the best:
The Bengalis from Eastern India are renowned for these spongy, soft balls of cottage cheese soaked in cool sugar syrup which melt in your mouth.
These are dumplings made from ricotta or cottage cheese. They are then soaked in thickened, sweetened milk, subtly flavoured with cardamom. They are normally served chilled and garnished with thin slices of dried fruit.
These consist of dumplings made with reduced milk, soaked in rose-infused sugar syrup. These are served at room temperature and topped with a scoop of ice cream.
These are locally referred to as “pleasure boats” and are another example of a famous Bengali sweet.
This is made with full-fat cream milk yoghurt, often topped with chopped nuts.
Many Indian restaurants in London specialise in delicious, homemade desserts. Masala Zone’s sweet treats, for example, include kulfis (Indian ice cream), rasmalai (milk patties in a creamy milk and saffron sauce), and falooda (an indulgent Indian sundae).