Uttar Pradesh is a synonym for sweetness. From Lucknow to Agra, from Gorakhpur to Faizabad the people of Uttar Pradesh are famed for their absolute charm. They say, “You are what you eat”. Since Uttar Pradesh is home to innumerable sugary delights, it is hardly surprising that the people are living specimens for the word “Sweet”. Here are some of the best drool worthy desserts of the state.
Makkhan Malai or Malaiyyo:
This creamy, delicate, frothy, light desserts encapsulates the lucknavi nazaakat and Benaras’ lilting tone. It is prepared only in the winters. The elusive quality of the dessert makes it all the more delicious. The main ingredients of the dessert being milk and sugar, it is churned countless times overnight, until it becomes fluffy and then is liberally peppered with almonds, cashews and cardamom. It melts into your mouth and you just can’t seem to have enough.
Rabri is another milk delicacy which is thickened sweetened milk with many layers of malai or cream in it. Flavoured with cardamom, saffron and a generous addition of dry fruits, the rich sweet requires a lot of time and patience, like all the best things in life. Just as the best often comes in pairs, rabri’s beau is Imarti. Made from Urad dal, Imarti is Jalebi’s cousin but lighter and crispier. Together, Imarti and Rabri bring loads of calories but the taste is worth those few extra pounds.
Kaali gaajar ka halwa:
Because gajar ka halwa is too mainstream, try the kaali gaajar ka halwa. The black carrots have a distinct taste and are quite different from the red variety. The black carrots are peeled and grated and milk, sugar and ghee are added in measured proportions to give your taste buds an immeasurable delight. It is again a winter preparation and the ingredients provide the much needed warmth in the cold months.
Malai Ki Gilori:
Malai Paan encapsulates the age old adage of simplicity being the best virtue. Mishri or little chunks of sugar are wrapped in paper thin layer of Malai with hints of rose water and Kewra. Chef Ranveer Brar says, “Sometime in the 1800’s, tobacco and paan were banned during the rule of one of the Nawabs of Oudh. So Malai (also called Balai) ki Gilori was invented as a substitute for paan. To keep that quality of paan intact in the sweet, only mishri was used in it along with dry fruits. So you’re eating paan without actually eating paan.” No fancy ingredients, no over the top garnishing yet the melt in the mouth sweet reaches straight to the heart.
Raj Bhog is a traditional Bengali sweet but Uttar Pradesh has made it their very own. The name “Raj Bhog” literally means “offering befitting for royalty.” Quite similar to the rasgulla, Raj Bhog is made with paneer and flavored with saffron and rose essence and the dipped in sugar syrup again flavored with rose essence. The sweet hides finely chopped nuts in its heart. Give your taste buds the royal taste of Rajbhog and feel pretty much like a king.
Forget Ice-creams for Kulfi is so much better. The milk is flavored with sugar and churned and churned until the consistency is thick. Khoya or evaporated milk is added. The mixture is then flavored with saffron, rose water, cardamom and kewda and frozen in earthen pots. It provides a delicious escape from the harsh summer of North India but it is savored in all season’s in Uttar Pradesh. Kulfi in Uttar Pradesh is not just a delicacy but it’s the flavor for happiness.
The city of Benaras and Laung Latta or Lavang Latika are inseparable. It is a sweet fried pastry made of flour and Khoya with loads of dry fruits sealed lovingly with a clove (laung). Hence the name Laung Latika. Benarasi welcome and Laung Latika come in tandem. The sweetness flavored with the aromatic, slightly bitter clove prove that opposites not just attract but their flavors are unique, harmonious and delicious.
Peda, soft pieces made of khoya and sugar, originated in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. From Uttar Pradesh, the humble yet scrumptious sweet has toured the whole country. In fact Thakur Ram Ratan Singh of Lucknow introduced peda in Karnataka in the 19th century. Talk about the North saying a tasty hello to the South! Peda is offered to the deities too and distributed as Prasad. Do try out the ambrosia which is made with love in Uttar Pradesh.
No milk or khoya this time. The luscious petha is made with pumpkins! The sweet is crunchy on the outside yet deliciously soft on the inside. Originated in the city of Agra, Petha is unique and tasty. You can’t gift the Taj Mahal as a memoir (unless of course you’re Shah Jahan!) but Petha with its long shelf life makes a perfect gift from every tour to Agra.