Friday, July 27, 2012

Indian Sweets: The Good, The Bad, The Great, and The Gross

*Our internet was down yesterday, so I apologize for not posting something!*

When Heide and I first arrived in India, we had many questions on our minds about the culture.  What do they wear?  What do they eat? What are their customs?  One question that we both had in mind, and were eager to learn the answer to, was what are Indian sweets like?  8 weeks and a lot of sugar later, we have both learned quite a bit about Indian sweets.  So here is a run down of some of our favorites...and some of our not so favorites.  

The Good: Jalebi 
Jalebi is an Indian sweet that would fit perfectly among desserts you would expect to find at the fair in the United States.  They take whole-wheat batter, deep fry it in a circular shape, and then soak it in sugar.  The result is a warm, chewy, sugar-filled treat that you can feel rotting away your teeth as you eat it.  They cost about 1 to 2 rupees each (approximately 2 to 4 cents in dollars). You can find people whipping up these tasty treats all over the streets - And it is oh so tempting to purchase one from every vendor.  

A pile of Jalebi 

The Bad: Indian Cake
Cake and confectionary shops are a very common sight along the main roads in India.  They are filled with beautiful looking cakes, pastries, and chocolates with a very small price tag.  Unfortunately these beautiful and intricate little cakes do not taste as good as they look.  They are very dry and taste almost as if they are freezer-burned, although I highly doubt they have ever been in a freezer.  A fellow volunteer suggested that they taste this way because they are made without butter.  Butter is not very common in India and I'm guessing it is left out of the cake-baking process.  

Beautiful? Yes. Tasty? Not so much. 

The Great: Rasgulla 
Rasgulla is probably the number one thing I am going to miss about India.  We first tried this tasty treat on our adventure to Budge Budge and now I can't get enough of it.  Rasgulla is a ball shaped dumpling of Chhena (Indian cottage cheese) and dough, cooked in a sugar syrup until the ball is saturated.  In this part of India it is often flavored with rosewater as well.  You can find these little sugar soaked balls in cans at the grocery store, in nice sweet shops on the main roads, and sketchy looking shops on the side streets.  I often find myself wandering outside of Seva Kendra and purchasing some from the streets.  I just try to ignore the bees and flies that appear to be enjoying the sugar syrup just as much as I do.  

Rasgolla! The U.S. needs to catch on to this one...

The Gross: Sandesh 
There are several types of Sandesh in India but the ones that I have tried don't leave me wanting to try the others.  The main ingredient of Sandesh is also Chhena, but it tastes nothing like Rasgulla.  Firstly they toss the Chhena with sugar over light heat.  Then it is cooked to different consistencies, different flavors are added, and it is molded into different shapes.  The best way I can describe Sandesh is play-dough that tastes kind of like India smells.  A lot of Sandesh is also cooked with aluminum foil stuck to it - and then you eat the foil along with the rest of it.  The locals seem to love it - but it must not be a taste I grew up accustomed to.  

One of the many types of Sandesh - Complete with tin foil. 

Much Love - Elaina 


  1. The last one is also called Kajju barfi(cashew sweet). This is the most favorite of many Indians. Is it gross because it has aluminium foil on it?

    1. Haha I'm sorry George! It is a taste you must be more accustomed to than myself. I actually don't mind the foil, you can't really taste it. It is the consistency that bothers me! I too have noticed that this is a favorite of many Indians but not one that foreigners enjoy. I am convinced it is something you have to grow up eating. (Much like your amazing tolerance for very spicy curry!)

  2. There are two men missing in your life while your in India. Ben, and Jerry.

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  4. I never knew my sister was such a good writer! I've so enjoyed reading your posts. You have so many clever descriptions of things! I love the line about how you can feel it rotting away your teeth as you eat it! Lol. Yum! :-)

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  7. What you mentioned as aluminium foil is actually silver foil.

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