It’s greasy, it’s utterly sweet and it’s super rich in calories, but it is a wholesome snack or you can even term it a dessert. Rather an irresistible one for many! A typical Indian halwa is all about calories and that melt-in-mouth texture and taste.
Though halwa is an all season dessert, it is the winter time when people actually enjoy it even more. It comes in different variants, colours and flavours. I always thought halwa is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent till a recent article in a gourmet magazine refreshed my knowledge. It is interesting to know that halwa or halva as the world calls this dense confection is relished and served across Asia, Middle East, Africa and in some parts of Europe. However, each region prepares halwa differently. And the ingredients? You name any, be it flour, nuts, seeds, lentils and even veggies. Chefs from world over have been busy mastering the art of making halwa and today we even have halwa made out of fruits and even chocolate!
Foggy mornings, nippy evenings or a get together with friends, any time is perfect time to enjoy the warm and succulent flavours of a halwa of your preference. If you have been thinking about losing weight or simply want to stick to that New Year Resolution you’ve just made, we have a weight loss article in Confluence Please refer to that! And those who want to make the most of the the cusp of spring and summer, then read on! I don’t want to dissuade fitness freaks but imagine having straight-from-the-kitchen pipping hot gajar ka halwa as you quiver on a chilly winter evening? Well, no winter evening, especially in north India, is complete without relishing halwa. The situation is similar even in south India as none of the traditional meals is complete without a bowl of kesari bhath or rava kesari. Team it with crispy puris or have it with masala chai, halwa is a perfect snack for every occasion.
Halwa made out of rava or sooji or semolina is a very popular sweet dish across India, created by sautéing semolina in clarified butter (ghee), mixed with sugar and water and garnished with dry fruits. Traditionally, sooji halwa is made in Indian homes on religious occasions as an offering to god (prasad). After the prayer meet, the prasad is distributed to those present in the pooja as a token of blessing. Even Sikhism gives a lot of importance to this sweet confection. In Gurudwaras across the world, kada parshad is first offered to the Guru Granth Sahib and then distributed among the devotees. Kada parshad however is made out of coarsely ground wheat flour but the cooking procedure is similar to that of sooji halwa. If you want to have the best kada parshad in the country, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi is perhaps the best place. Here, you get kada parshad that is pipping hot, no matter what time of the day it is. Many people make frequent visits to the Gurudwara for its peaceful ambiance and the delicious kada parshad from which ghee keeps trickling. I am sure Delhiites would agree! Wheat flour or atta halwa is commonly prepared at the pre-wedding functions in Uttar Pradesh.
Bursting Indian flavours
In Indian households, halwa is one dish that has blissfully caught the fancy of one and all. Its fan following transcends its regional taste and makes its way to everyone’s heart through their stomach. Indians love gorging on crimson coloured gajar ka halwa that is made from grated carrots, milk, khoya, sugar and lots and lots of dry fruits. Today, people celebrate New Year’s Eve at all the fancy hotels and restaurants. But I remember there was a time when middle class used to celebrate the New Year’s Eve by watching Doordarshan and chomping scalding hot gajar ka halwa. Every city in the country (well almost) is home to at least one shop that serves the best in the city gajar ka halwa. And how can we forget the grand Indian wedding where serving gajar ka halwa is virtually a ritual. As the baraat comes at the doorstep of the bride, members of the baraat are offered some of the best delicacies and a lavish spread of desserts. No typical Indian wedding is actually complete without desserts, and gajar ka halwa can aptly be termed as the king of desserts.
Halwa also holds a special importance in Indian folklores and legends. When kids undergo exam pressure, Indian mothers get in to the kitchen to make badam halwa. Almond or badam is known for its memory boosting qualities, hence the halwa that is bundled with generous dollops of ghee and sugar. Badam halwa garnished with saffron is often given to pregnant ladies and lactating mothers as well. It is like a tradition in our country (where lives revolve around food), one has to have halwa as skies open up and winter breeze knock your windows.
Photo by Neetu Laddha
All season dessert
We Indians just love our food. And when it comes to the sweet tooth, we love our food even more. That’s precisely the reason why every nook and cranny of our country is mushroomed with sweet shops. Across western, southern, northern and parts of eastern India people swear by the ‘sweet shop’ culture where we get to relish some of the best desserts and oily yet delicious snacks like chhole bhature, alloo tikki, pav bhaji etc. These are the shops that master in preparing the ‘can’t be explained in words’ type of moong dal halwa. Made out of lentils, moong dal halwa is prepared only in winters in parts of north, west and eastern India. Southern India however is happy with their rava kesari or kesari bath, yet another sooji halwa with gorgeous flavours. Indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. This super rich in calorie dessert (moong dal halwa) is very heavy on the palate and the stomach too . To make moong dal halwa, lentil called moong dal is soaked in water for 12 hours and then ground in to a thick paste. This paste is now sauteed in ghee and then normal halwa making procedure follows.
Straight from the Nizam’s kitchen is the a sweet halwa made out of apricots. The tangy yet sinful flavours burst in the mouth the moment you relish this typical Hyderabadi dessert. A master chef contestant shocked everybody when she prepared her family’s traditional dessert that was ande ka halwa or halwa made out of eggs. Interesting it is to know how people make halwa out of just anything! Karachi halwa is another specialty from Pakistan, which comes in a slightly gooey form, enough to keep you glued to it till it lasts in your plate. Sohan Halwa is another famous halwa variety, indigenous to the region of Multan. This slightly thickened halwa is relished by people from all walks of life and it is believed if you have a small portion of sohan halwa with milk, you won’t age so quickly!
The diet conscious and fitness freaks who actually want to indulge in the sweet flavours can now opt for the healthier version of halwas. You can also savour beetroot halwa or a halwa made from oats or pumpkin, rava kesari with pineapples or oranges and even doodhi halwa, which is made from lauki and is immensely popular in Uttar Pradesh. There’s no fun consuming the calories all alone, share the calories to minus the guilt and make any occasion a happy occasion!
Halwa ho jaye!
- During navaratri, people break their fast by having Singhade ke atte ka halwa and Kuttu atta halwa
- Besan halwa is immensely famous in Rajasthan, UP and Madhya Pradesh
- Ande ka halwa comes from the land of Nizams, Hyderabad