The Game of Sweets
Arusuvai Unavu is how the traditional balanced diet is called, which comprises six tastes. One of these basic tastes is Sweetness that has many different sources.
Be it beginning a new project, relationship or any new effort, we always start with a sweet. Even asking for good news is subtly asked as ‘When will you give us sweet?’ because it is associated with the celebration of emotions.
Sweets have been a part of the prasad offered to God in ancient India, Mesopotamia, and other known well-established civilizations. Records show that Sugarcane was grown, refined, and crystallized even before 500 BC and was traded to Macedonia and China later. The custom of ending a meal with a dessert has been a part of many parts of the world for a long-time including German, Persian and European cuisines.
Desserts vs Sweets
Desserts in general are considered synonymous with the sweet course eaten at the end of a traditional Indian meal, but actually includes biscuits, cakes, cookies, custards, ice creams, sweet soups or even a fruit salad.
However, the Indian desserts or sweets are usually made of sugar, palm sugar, jaggery, etc and there are specific sweets assigned for each festival which is based on the climatic conditions, crop rotations and the preparation differs according to seasons and geographic locations.
Most of the sweets are prepared instantly and served while there is a list of traditional sweets which are stored even for months. More than a taste pleaser, the sweets are loaded with iron, minerals, and fat to serve as a wholesome meal/snack by itself.
Traditional Indian Sweets
The array of sweets available in our traditional cuisine varies in size, shape, texture, and even taste (depending on the ingredients and the process). Another distinctive feature of Indian sweets is the addition of spices and condiments for the flavour balance.
Some popular sweets from the Indian cuisine are Athirasam, Payasam/Phirni/Kheer, Sakkara Pongal, Laddoo, Ghevar, Halwa, Jalebi, Kheer, Rasgulla, Malpua, Nankhatai, Petha, Kozhukkattai/Modak, Ila Ada, Kesari, Poornam, Poli, Mysore Pak, Kummayam, Pachadi, Okkarai, and the list goes on and on…
It is definitely a tough choice to pick from this exquisite list of delicacies and to win over the Game of Sweets, it is wise to take, one sweet at a time!
If you are looking for some quick feast on sweets, Gulab Jamun and Semiya Payasam do come in handy even if you are just a beginner cook.
Those sinful little fried balls with an enticing shade between gold and brown are irresistible! The perfectly fried crust with a grainy crumb, is extremely soft inside and melts in your mouth.
Some believe it was accidentally concocted by Shah Jahan’s royal chef, which some say it originated from an arabic fritter, Luqmat al-quaadhi. However, it became famous during the Mughal era and was named Gulab jamun which means gul (flower), ab (water) and jamun (an indian fruit which looks similar).
There are many regional variants of Gulab Jamun. They are called pantua in west bengal. The dry jamuns are very famous in Kumbakonam and are a must-try if you visit the place. The other variants are kala jamun, lamba jamun and sooji jamun. Some like their gulab jamuns served hot with the sugar syrup while some like them cold with rabdi. Either ways, gulab jamun is definitely a culinary gem.
You can’t envisage a celebration ending without a warm bowl of payasam. It is an imperative part of Indian marriages. It is called kheer in North India which came from ksheer, the sanskrit word for milk. In Southern India it is called payasam or payasa. A variant of payasam is ada pradhaman made in kerala and phirni. ‘Semiya payasam’ definitely adorns the graceful queen among all the other variants of payasam. It is made of vermicelli slow-cooked in milk and garnished with roasted cashews, with the mild taste of kesar and elaichi that enhance the flavour.
Sweet-up your life
A good meal gets better with a sweet that adorns the taste buds and also aids digestion. If you are one who loves our traditional sweets, it is probably time to dig out your grandmom’s cooking secrets and make them for yourself. After all, I had way too much sweet today, said no one ever.