Americans love their apple pie, Italians love their gelato and Indians love their Mithai. Mithai is a colorful sweet confection that comes in all colors, flavors, textures, shapes, and sizes. India is known for its over the top rich culinary cuisine. It is also home to extraordinary desserts. Just like pastry shops or gelato shops, there are entire shops dedicated to selling these scrumptious goodies. You can also find these sweet goodies at your local Patel Brothers store.
What is Mithai?
Mithai is an Indian sweet confection primarily made from ingredients such as flour, milk, sugar, nuts, and ghee. Before the commercial era, countless hours were spent at home preparing these sweet treats. Aside from being served as dessert, mithai is traditionally served as a form of greeting, celebration, and gift giving. Mithai is a part of every Indian celebration. Mithai is commonly passed out in religious celebrations and given out as birth, engagement, and wedding announcements. It’s also a must have at Indian weddings. If you happen to attend an Indian wedding, you will find mithai being fed to the bride and groom by their family and being passed along to guests. Mithai is an important part of Indian culture and is found everywhere in India with different regional variations.
The next time you go to an Indian sweet shop, you will no longer be overwhelmed by looking at all of the delicious options and spending time figuring out what ingredients each has as the list below will serve as a guide. Let’s go over five must have mithai that you will find in every mithai shop:
1. Gulab Jamun
Perhaps, the most desired mithai in a mithai box, Gulab Jamun is a brown colored melt in your mouth mithai. This deep fried ball shaped mithai is made from milk solids, flour and sugar. Once deep fried and brown, it is soaked in a sticky syrup that consists of sugar, cardamom, saffron and rosewater for a few hours. Gulab Jamuns are typically served warm.
Having a live jalebi station for weddings and parties has now become the new trend as nothing beats eating fresh jalebis off the stove. Orange in color and often referred to as Indian funnel cake. This pretzel shaped mithai is made by frying dough batter. Once fried, jalebi is soaked in a sticky syrup that consists of water, sugar, cardamom and saffron. Jalebi is crunchy from the outside and juicy from the inside. It can be served warm or cold. Jalebi with milk is a popular breakfast item in North India.
Receiving a box of ladoos from friends or family is usually an indication of happy news. There are multiple variations of this sphere shaped mithai. Yellow in color, besan ladoo is made by roasting besan (gram flour) in ghee, sugar and nuts and made into balls. Ingredients similar to besan ladoo, motichoor ladoo is prepared by deep frying tiny droplets of gram flour and mixing it into a sugar syrup and then shaping into round balls. White in color, coconut ladoo is made from desiccated coconut, condensed milk, ghee and nuts. Check out our foolproof coconut ladoo recipe.
The interesting name is derived from a Persian word “barf” which means snow/ice. Barfi is described as soft milk based fudge. This triangle or diamond shaped mithai is made from milk powder, condensed milk, sugar, and nuts and topped off with edible silver leaf. Some barfi flavors include pistachio, mango, chocolate, and kaju (cashews).
5. Gajar ka halwa
A quintessential winter delight and the ultimate comfort mithai, gajar ka halwa originated in Punjab. Bright orange in color, this indian pudding is made by slow cooking grated carrots in ghee, milk, sugar and cardamom.
Mithai has gained massive popularity recently, as chef extraordinaires around the world have put their creativity to the test and have come up with Indian fusion desserts like gulab jamun cheesecake, motichoor cream cheese cups and barfi cheesecake jars. Rich and decadent, each mithai has its own identity. Be sure to try one of these scrumptious delicacies as your sweet tooth will thank you and leave you for craving for more.