The small desi chana
is hulled to make the Bengal Gram-one of the most widely used pulses in India. The dal
got its English name because the English first encountered it in Bengal
. Kabuli Chana
, bigger and fairer, on the other hand, as its name suggests only came to India much later in the 18th century from an overland route from Kabul. The Bengal gram is used to give us besan
. And this is the base for a host of sweets
that we find in our midst. Besan Ladoos
are common all over northern and central India
, the much loved food of many a deity and human.
Achaya suggests that laddoo
as a term can be found in the Mahabharata and perhaps the older modak
was also a ladoo
though now it refers to an entirely different sweet. In any case, this is one of the oldest desserts of India. The same base-besan and ghee can in fact be used in different ways for sweets ranging from besan barfi,
set on steel thalis
and then cut into diamonds, or halwa.Mysore Pak
, the most popular sweet from Karnataka
(which ostensibly does not find a mention in old literature from the region and is most likely a relatively newer creation) is just besan barfi
by another name: cooked in sugar and finished with copious amounts of ghee.
(Also read: Mysore Pak - The Three-Ingredient Dessert That Melts in the Mouth
Because of the copious amounts of ghee they use to make the dal
desserts creamier and because of the "heavy" nature of pulses itself, these desserts are more common in winter
than in summer. A classic example is the puran poli
, from Maharashtra
, cooked during the Diwali festivities. Puran is just boiled chana dal
sweetened with jaggery (Diwali is harvest time for cane as well), and this is then filled in between layers of a poli
or flat bread.
No mention of dal
desserts in India can be complete without a look at the jalebi
Coils of batter are dropped in hot oil and then immersed in sugar syrup. The batter itself varies from region to region. Besan
together, fermented by a little sour curd
, can give you the crisp jalebis
of UP and Delhi. On the other hand, urad dal
batter is used to make the jalebi's
thicker, wholesome cousin, the imarti.
The desserts obviously belong to the sophisticated Persian
tradition and even now, many parts of the former Turkish
empire (the Turkish conquered the Persians) have similar desserts in their repertoires. In India, the jalebi
seems to have come into existence through trade contacts with the Arab world
. We have accounts from Karnataka and Maharashtra mentioning it in as early as the 15th century. Like with many other dishes, it seems to have been refined by the Mughal
and later Nawabi cooks to give us the thinnest, crispiest whirls that are looked upon as such a delicacy in UP and Delhi.
(Also read: 13 Best Street Food Places in Old Delhi
is another dessert that has seen refinement down history. Originally, said to have originated in Rajasthan
, the fried chickpea flour dots sweetened with syrup
are part of the temple offerings in many parts of northern India. Gradually, boondi
began to be fashioned into ladoos
, and finally into finer motichoor ladoos.
But the acme of its refinement seems to have come about in the old Awadhi culture. Nugdi ke Ladoo at Ram Asrey in Lucknow
are still an institution, the ultra fine, orange boondi as refined as the small dot or nuqta
of the Urdu script. It's a dying legacy today-one that you need to bite into before it disappears.About the Author:Anoothi Vishal is a columnist and writes on food for The Economic Times and NDTV Food, and runs the blog a moveablefeast.in. She tracks the business of restaurants and cuisine trends and also researches and writes on food history and the cultural links between cuisines. Anoothi's work with community-based cuisines led her to set up The Great Delhi Pop-Up three years ago, under which she promotes heritage, regional and community-based cuisines as well as researched and non-restaurantised food concepts. She has also been instrumental in reviving her own community's Kayastha cuisine, a blend of Indo-Islamic traditions, which she cooks with her family and has taken across India to a diverse audience.Disclaimer:The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.