When my first son was born, we headed to India for a visit with his grandparents. My parents and in-laws filled their houses with toys and books for the baby and with loads of desserts for me (my obsession with desserts is nothing short of insane).
Indian desserts, I feel, are one of the most misunderstood foods here in the West. There is so much more to Indian desserts than the standard rice pudding, kulfi (Indian icecream), gulab jamun (milk dumplings in a sugar syrup) and gajjar halwa (carrot pudding) shown on Indian restaurant menus.
Desserts are an integral part of Indian cuisine and culture. When you visit an Indian home, the host will generally produce a plate of “mithai” (milk based sweetmeats) or some other type of sweet – since guests are considered a form of God . Wedding announcements are, to this day, sent to close friends with a box of mithai – not including a sweet is, as my father says, “Simply not done.” Festivals find people exchanging boxes of mithai. Merchants are producing this milk based desserts in every shape, size and color imaginable. In Delhi I am served desserts prepared with figs. From cashews to bottle-gourd all kinds of ingredients are used to prepare these desserts. The variety of desserts being offered at places like Halidrams (huge restaurant chain in Delhi known for its desserts and savories) is mind blowing. Btw, Halidrams is known not only for its desserts but also for the beautiful way in which it packages these desserts.