Be it the festivities like Dussehra, Diwali, or celebrations like weddings or a birthday, no occasion in Indian culture is complete without the presence of sweets. In fact, India has had a long history of sweetening up every single celebration with a bountiful platter that is bound to entice the taste buds. No matter how strict you are about your diet, all your resolution can go for a toss when you see a huge plate full of Indian mithai in front of you! It is a known fact that the Indians are unapologetic food lovers and sweets form an important component of our platter for every occasion. Regardless of the occasion, ending the meal with dessert is a requisite for the Indians. It is believed that sweets are synonymous with happiness and can be a precursor to any good omen. In India, be it a sumptuous meal on a special occasion or just to satiate the cravings for some sweet delicacies, sweets are always the go-to food for everyone.
The most popular types of sweets which top the lists of the Indians’ most preferred sweets for all special occasions are as follows:
Rasgulla: This is one of the desserts originating from Bengal which leaves an unforgettable aftertaste in the mouth of every individual whether one has visited Bengal or not. An iconic sweet, rasgulla or rather rosogolla is famously known as ‘Banglar rosogolla’, in which the Bengalis take a lot of pride. These are basically soft round dumplings made of cottage cheese which are immersed in sugar syrup and no one can say no to a plate full of Rosogollas! Bengali weddings and festivals are incomplete without these soft dumplings on the menu.
Jalebi: It is one of the most popular desserts in Delhi. Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Uttarakhand and goes by multiple sweets names like jilipy, jilapi, jilebi, zulbia, and so on. In fact, it is believed that this spiral sweet snack has got its regional ancestors in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Nepal, Pakistan, Western Asia, and many more places. Jalebis are mainly made by converting maida into a dough and deep frying it in the shape of pretzels and soaked in sugar syrup. Most of the North Indian communities love jalebi along with curd or rabri as condiments.
Ladoo: These saffron-coloured sweet balls are handmade and come in different varieties like Besan ke ladoo, Motichoor ke ladoo, Sattu ke laddu, and so on. Among these varieties, the Motichur ke laddu has an immense fan following and it tops the charts during festivities like the Ganpati celebrations in Maharashtra. In most of the North Indian festivals, these particular sweets take the centre stage in the list of desserts.
Barfi: This sweet name which is after the Persian word ‘barf’ which actually means snow. Primarily made out of condensed sugar and milk, barfi can be given different kinds of shapes, and sizes and holds the position of one of the most popular and preferred sweets in North India. In order to enhance the flavour of barfi, mango pulp, coconut chips, dry fruits such as almonds and cashews, raisins, and even chocolate is used as a key ingredient. During festivities like Diwali or Dussehra, barfis are one of the most exchanged sweets between friends, family, and other acquaintances.
Soan Papdi: Another popular sweet from the Indian subcontinent is the Soan Papdi, which resembles the Persian dish named ‘Sohan Pashmaki.’ The key ingredients used to make this sweet are sugar, ghee, flour, almond, and milk. What gives this sweet a distinct identity is its flaky and breakable texture and the strong aroma of ghee wafting out of it, in addition to the flavour added with pistachios on them. In some places, this sweet is sold in rolled paper cones whereas some other confectioneries sell it in the cube shape. The best part about this sweet is its low sugar content and easy-to-prepare recipe. It is almost like the Indian avatar of candyfloss, which originated in areas like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh.
Rasmalai: This juicy sweet dish is a grouping of two words that is ‘Ras’, which means juice, and ‘malai’ which means cream. It is available in the market under different sweets names in the entire Indian subcontinent like rassomalai in West Bengal, Rasa Malei in Odia, and so on. This particular sweet dish is very popular in places like Kanpur, Haridwar, and West Bengal. Its key ingredients are cheese curd or chhena, and clotted cream flavoured with rose water, cardamom, saffron, and pistachios.
Modak: This is another popular sweet dumpling dish in India which is also considered to be one of the favourite delicacies of Lord Ganesha. The main ingredients of this sweet are nutmeg, coconut, jaggery, and rice or wheat flour. Besides being one of the choicest sweets during Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra, Modaks also exist in Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand in different versions. In these countries, Modaks are also offered to the respective deities in different versions like steamed and fried.
Malpua: This sweet name itself describes a deep-fried pancake immersed in sugar syrup. One of the most popular desserts from Odisha, Malpua is also one of the ‘Chappan bhog’ of Lord Jagannath. It has different kinds of variations depending on the province where it is served. In Bangladesh, ripe bananas and coconut are added along with the key ingredients. On the other hand, in the Bihari version, the fritters are not dipped in sugar syrup, rather, sugar is added before frying. In some other provinces, pineapples or mangoes are used to add flavour to the Malpua.