these treats acquire their signature sweet and floral fragrance
The diverse and vibrant array of Indian sweets is what the country is known for.
While favourites like Gulab Jamun and Jalebi have rightfully earned their place in the spotlight, the treasure trove of Indian sweets goes far beyond the familiar.
In this culinary journey, we invite you to explore the lesser-known gems that adorn the dessert landscape of India.
From the intricate artistry of regional specialities to the lesser-explored corners of traditional kitchens, these 10 Indian sweets promise a delightful revelation for your tastebuds.
Join us as we unravel the flavours, stories and cultural significance behind these hidden delights, inviting you to savour the lesser-known, yet equally enchanting, world of Indian sweets.
Popular in Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu, Elaneer Payasam is a simple version of the popular Kheer.
Elaneer translates to tender coconut in Tamil.
This Indian sweet is incredibly tasty, given that it is made from coconut pulp and condensed milk.
Full-fat milk is cooked and reduced before condensed milk is added, giving it a rich texture.
Coconut flesh is blended into a puree along with coconut water. This is then added to the milk mixture, resulting in a sweet, creamy dessert.
The addition of finely chopped coconut pieces gives this dessert some crunch.
Elaneer Payasam is very popular at South Indian weddings and despite coconut being found in abundance in South India, this sweet remains quite obscure compared to other dishes.
Patoleo are commonly prepared on the western coast of India.
They are stuffed turmeric leaf wraps.
The stuffing is typically made from freshly shredded coconut, rice flour paste and palm jaggery.
Spices like cardamom powder, nutmeg and dried fruits may be added to flavour the stuffing.
After the stuffing is wrapped in turmeric leaves, they are steamed.
When steamed, these treats acquire their signature sweet and floral fragrance, making them more delectable.
Patoleo is usually made between July and September when the markets in Goa are abundant with fresh turmeric leaves.
Sel Roti is a traditional Nepalese sweet fried dough made from rice flour.
This ring-shaped dessert starts with a batter being prepared by adding water, sugar and ghee to roughly ground rice flour.
Spices such as cardamom and cloves are optional ingredients.
After the batter is rested for a few hours, it is deep-fried. The dough is poured in ring shapes and fried until golden on both sides.
Sel Roti is popular throughout Nepal and among the Indian Gorkha community.
This Indian sweet is typically sent as special gifts to family members living away from home.
Malaiyo is a signature Indian sweet in Varanasi and it refers to a type of white cloud or milk foam served in small earthen bowls garnished with almonds and pistachios.
This winter treat has an appeal due to the texture of its foam, which melts in your mouth.
Malaiyo is not a mass-produced dessert. In Varanasi, just a handful of producers are skilled enough.
Although individual recipes are kept secret, the general production is the same.
After boiling milk in large iron pans, vendors leave it out overnight.
As the morning sun begins to warm up the ground, dew drops start forming on the liquid’s surface.
This begins the foaming process.
It is then up to vendors to turn it into the delicious froth. They blend in sugar, saffron and cardamom then whisk it until most of the milk has become a lighter-than-air foam.
Dehrori is a traditional dessert from Chhattisgarh that is commonly prepared during festivals like Holi and Diwali.
It consists of rice and curd dumplings that are deep-fried in ghee.
It is sweetened with sugar syrup and topped with roasted nuts before being served.
During Central India’s dry summers, this dessert is usually eaten with buttermilk.
Dehrori is believed to regulate body temperature, which is why it is so popular during hot weather.
Raskadam is a delightful Indian sweet that combines the richness of Rasgulla and the decadence of Gulab Jamun.
This fusion sweet features a creamy texture with a lump in the middle.
It is made from khoya and curdled milk.
While the outside is made up of khoya crumbles and beads of sugar, the interior is made up of rasgullas.
Although it is a speciality in Bangladesh, Raskadam is very popular among India’s Bengali community.
It is usually prepared during festivals.
Chhena Poda is a classic dessert from Odisha that literally means burnt cheese.
It involves curdling fresh milk to obtain chhena, which is then mixed with sugar, semolina and ghee.
The mixture is flavoured with cardamom for a fragrant touch. Sometimes, chopped nuts and raisins are added to enhance the taste.
What makes Chhena Poda unique is its roasting technique.
Traditionally, it is roasted in an earthenware pot or on a bed of hot charcoal, imparting a distinctive smoky flavour to the dessert.
This roasting process gives the dish its characteristic caramelised outer layer, creating a delightful contrast with the soft, spongy interior.
It is a harmonious blend of sweetness from the caramelisation, the richness of chhena and the subtle warmth of cardamom. The smoky essence from the roasting process further enhances its taste.
Also known as Junny in some regions, Kharvas originates from Maharashtra.
The primary ingredient is colostrum milk, the milk produced by a cow or buffalo in the first few days after giving birth.
Other key ingredients include jaggery or sugar for sweetness, cardamom for flavour and sometimes a hint of nutmeg or saffron for additional aromatic notes.
Kharvas has a delicate, custard-like texture that melts in the mouth.
The use of colostrum milk imparts a rich and creamy quality to the dessert, while the sweetness from jaggery or sugar adds a subtle, natural sweetness.
The cardamom provides a fragrant and slightly spicy note, creating a well-balanced flavour profile.
Parwal ki Mithai
Parwal, or pointed bottle gourd, is mostly used for savoury dishes.
But the sweet delicacy is fairly common in Bihar and around Northern India.
It is especially popular during weddings and festivals.
Parwal is stuffed with khoya and nuts. Chopped nuts are garnished on top for added texture.
The addition of green food colouring makes this Indian sweet pleasing to the eye.
Sarbhaja is an iconic sweet from West Bengal, especially in Krishnanagar.
Made from khoya and chhena, these ingredients form the base of the sweet, providing a creamy and cheesy texture.
Sugar is used for sweetness and sometimes semolina or refined flour is added to give the sweet its characteristic flakiness. Ghee is used for frying, imparting a rich and buttery flavour.
What sets Sarbhaja apart is its unique flaky layers.
The preparation involves creating multiple layers within the sweet, similar to the process used in making puff pastry.
The result is a dessert with a crispy, golden-brown exterior that reveals delicate layers when bitten into.
The combination of khoa, chhena and sugar results in a dessert with a sweet and milky flavour.
The aroma is enhanced by the frying process, giving the sweet a tantalising fragrance.
As we conclude our exploration into the realm of lesser-known Indian sweets, it becomes evident that the world of Indian desserts is an ever-expanding tapestry of flavours, textures and cultural richness.
The 10 hidden treasures we’ve unveiled offer a glimpse into the diverse and intricate heritage of Indian sweets, transcending the boundaries of mainstream confections.
From the earthy undertones of Chhena Poda to the layered perfection of Sarbhaja, each sweet tells a story, not just of culinary expertise, but of the regions, communities, and celebrations that have shaped these delectable creations.
As you embark on your own culinary journey through the lesser-known, remember that the heart of Indian sweets lies not only in their taste but in the traditions, history and craftsmanship that define them.