Mithai as we call our Desserts in India, is a very descriptive word, and I think it would be unjustified to write just a small post about it. In Indian context Mithai is anything that is sweet in flavor, though in Indian Culinary terms it is something that has Ghee, Mawa (solidified milk), sugar and nuts as base ingredients.
Culturally, mithai is really important for all religion, castes, and regions in India. It is present in all ceremonies right from Birth to Death. The Prasadam ( i.e. a blessing of God in the form of food) in Temples is always a sweet dish. It is prohibited to offer anything spicy or to salty as it will displease the God. I think that is quite logical, as when we take a bite of a sweet it always bring a smile on our face. And the heart goes ooommmm…. Well, that explains all.
But the debate of eating sweet OR not, will always be there, though there is no denial that anything that tastes good has to be sweet! The flavor itself is so satisfying in nature and probably that’s why it is served as a part of a complete meal, to satiate the hunger of your body as well as your soul. Its the ultimate pleasure experience for a diner. The right amount of sweetness gives you food ecstasy. And the mealtime will come to its FULL STOP.
A sweet dish will please anyone. In India, the first flavor that an infant tastes is that of honey, which is symbolic for the sweetness of life, and the departed souls are offered sweets on their death anniversaries as this is what they crave once they depart from the material world.
Sweets will be sent to all known’s, relatives, friends with the news of a child’s birth, also after someones death a Prasadi dessert will be cooked and distributed to lift the mourning period of 13 days and bring back the family to normal life.
Ingredients of Indian Mithai
Milk or Mawa, Sugar, Ghee and nuts are four essentials of making anything sweet. Usually, all are present, in some or the other form.
The Mawa – or the solidified milk is a wonderful ingredient. I so far have not come across any recipe in the world that uses this ingredient. It is probably not an ingredient in any other cuisine except India. It is achieved by reducing whole milk on a low heat, the reduction will turn from a thick paste to semi-solid fat like butter after it cools down.
Mawa is present as a base for all sweets, but in some its only whole milk that is required.
Sugar is used in the form of sugar syrup in many and in others it is added in powdered form while cooking. Sugar in its original stage- sugarcane Jaggery is the oldest form of sweetener in our food. East Indian sweets are mostly based out of Date Palm Jaggery.
Sugar caramel is used to make toffee snacks like peanut chikki. And sugar syrups are used in dishes as a preservative method of food, and things like Gulab Jamun
Ghee termed as clarified butter, is actually pure milk fat. It is a beautiful flavor, the best fat for a pure vegetarian meal, therapeutic in nature, has cooling effect on our system, heals the inner lining of the intestine, strengthens the bones, lubricates the joints. The list is exhaustive. Essential for making all sweets, with some exceptions like
And lastly, the addition of nuts make our Mithai complete in structure and texture. All sorts of nuts are used, but most commonly Almonds, Pistachio, raisins, cashew nuts are used to garnish and add a crunch to the Mithai.
So with that, we come to an end of the base ingredients for all our Sweets in Indian Cooking. Wait for the recipes and stories behind all.