Talk about Indian desserts, and halwa is sure to find a mention in some part of the conversation. There are probably as many kinds of halwa in the Sub-continent as there are parathas or biryanis. Every variant is unique in taste, texture and colour, but equally as relishing with the generous spoons of desi ghee that go into their making, and the inclusion of dry fruits and nuts. One such halwa variety that has a huge fan following is the Karachi Halwa, more commonly seen in the northern parts of India.
As the name suggests, its origin points to the city of Karachi in Pakistan. If you have had the chance to try the Turkish Delight, you are bound to draw a connect between the two. Probably that's where it stemmed from. Halwas are said to be originally Persian, and as such one sees different variations of halwa - whether made from semolina, wheat flour, lentils, pulses, vegetables, nuts, corn flour or starch - all across the Middle East, Mediterranean, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, among other countries.
Karachi Halwa or Bombay Halwa, this sweetmeat easily stands out for its bright colour, usually a vibrant orange, mimicking the hue that is obtained from saffron strands. Unlike more famous halwas like Gajar ka Halwa or Moong Dal ka Halwa, the Karachi Halwa is not grainy in texture, but chewy with its gelatinous form. It is made using corn flour, which is mixed with sugar and water and stirred continuously to achieve the halwa consistency. Food colouring and desi gheeare added for elevating appearance and flavour, as well as dry fruits for some crunch.
Karachi Halwa is a preferred sweet when it comes to Diwali gifting, or any other major festival. It is convenient to pack, attractive to look at, and a delight to chew into with its buttery sweetness. In Delhi if you ask around where to find Karachi Halwa, the locals are sure to point you towards a century-old shop in Old Delhi called Chaina Ram Sindhi Confectioners. Sweet lovers from all over Delhi throng this little shop to give into pure indulgence. They offer a wide variety of halwas depending on the season - Sohan, Moong Dal, Gajar, Habshi - but their Karachi Halwa is among the hottest selling items, available all year around.
If talks of Karachi Halwa has got you craving for it, but you don't really want to fight your way through Chandni Chowk for a tasting, then you can try making it at home. It takes some skills, but if you follow the recipe patiently, you are sure to perfect your hands at making Karachi Halwa at home. The process is simple, which involves cooking corn flour or arrow root in water along with sugar and food colour till it thickens and attains halwa-consistency. Desi ghee is added to the mixture right before removing it from the flame, and laying it out in a flat tray, when dry fruits are mixed into it, and it is left to set.
Here's a recipe by Chef Mannat Khana - Karachi Halwa.