Certain things happen only in India. Consider our obsession with sweets: only in India will one find sweets made out of the oddest ingredients, such as white pumpkin, bottlegourd, cucumber and even garlic. Only Indians, moreover, would find so many different ways to make sweets out of exactly the same ingredients. For instance, besan ki barfi, besan ka sheera, magaj and mysurpa are all made of a combination of besan, sugar and ghee, but they all differ in taste and texture. Only in India will a major dispute erupt over the origins of a sweet, like the one that has both West Bengal and Odisha staking claim on their respective versions of the rasgulla.
Indians love their sweets. We offer them to our gods, make specific varieties for specific festivals, prescribe them to strengthen children, the elderly, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Each Indian sweet, whether it is as laboriously prepared as the Goan bebinca or as simple as a quick vella aval (sweet poha from Kerala), is integral to the ethos of the region(s) it is made in. There’s also a rich variety of Indian sweets to be discovered — beyond the more famous laddoos and kalakands, kheer and payasam. We came up with a list of unique, region-specific desserts from across the country. They bring sweetness and light to all occasions, and are never eaten without a generous side of stories and memories.