A Short Primer on Indian Sweets in Victoria

I sit down to write this at the beginning of Diwali, the Hindu festival of Lights. This is the time of year when Hindus and Sikhs the world over celebrate the autumn season by lighting candles and shining light into encroaching darkness of winter. People say that the important point is not only the making of light when the days are getting dark, but also that light penetrating into darkness is a celebration of good’s triumph over evil, and education’s vanquishing of ignorance. I’ve had the rare fortune to celebrate Diwali a couple of times in India, and I can tell you it’s quite a sight. That is a story for another time, though.

 

Diwali is also the time when Indians produce and consume the most sweets. Indian sweets, if you have not tried them, are generally small dense cakes, made from a variety of ingredients often including some combination of cashew or pistachio milk, almond paste, cow’s milk, spices, and sugar.  The varieties and combinations are vast, and also vary greatly from region to region. A fresh Indian sweet makes for an unforgettable, unique indulgence.

deep catering - mr. mrs. dulku

Here in Victoria, one of the best sources for sweets is Deep India Sweets & Catering, run locally by Kulwinder and Amarjeet Dulku since the year 2000. Their catering company (which also provides meals for weddings) creates a vast spread of sweets to help the Indian community celebrate Diwali in the proper style. I went up to visit them a couple of days ago, to learn what makes their company so special.

 

Deep India Sweets is a family run business.  Kulwinder and Amarjeet, assisted by their sons Bhupinder and Baldeep, cook everything at their home, ensuring that the products they provide are always fresh. I underline this point because often sweets are imported from India and are stale when they arrive. Eating them within a day of their creation is an essential part of their enjoyment. A diversity of skills is also a part of the company’s package.  While Mr. Dulku often returns to India, learning new recipes and techniques around the subcontinent, Mrs. Dulku has completed a chef’s program at Camosun in order that she might understand Western cooking as well as she does Eastern.

 

deep catering - sweets2
deep catering - jalebi and burfi
This has allowed her, she says proudly, to cater not only Indian, but also Greek and Italian weddings and provide people exactly what they like. I picked up a variety pack of sweets and carried them to the Eat staff meeting to share with the other writers. The consensus (as the box was demolished) was that these were high quality—and probably addictive—treats we were devouring.

 

Some Popular Indian Sweets:

Barfi: This is a usually lozenge-shaped sweet, made with condensed milk and ghee (clarified butter).  There are also popular varieties that contain either cashew or pistachio nuts or milk. This is far and away one of the most popular and cross regional treats to come out of India. Often the top of barfi will be covered with edible silver foil.

 

Jalebi

Jalebi

Jalibi: This is a spiral-shaped, orange treat that often comes drenched in heavy, sweet syrup.  It is popular from India through to the Middle East. The batter is drizzled into hot oil and cooked, then soaked in syrup that often contains rosewater and other spices. One of my personal favourites.

deep catering - sweets1

Laddu: This is a small ball-shaped sweet made using chickpea flour (among others), spices, and ghee. It is quite a popular treat; at least it was at my sitar teacher, Shambu Das’, home during all the years I was actively taking lessons with him.  I think it is the only sweet he ever ordered.

 

Gulab jamun: Again, this is one of the world’s most popular sweets.  It is a kind of milk curd dumpling that is often served in a sweet sauce. The gulab jamun is a popular dish to serve when one is capping off a heavy Indian meal of a variety of curries and other dishes. The milk curd is heated on a low flame until the liquid is almost evaporated and then it is placed in a syrup infused with saffron, rosewater, or cardamom.

 

As always, this list could go on, but I will leave it here and advise you to investigate the world of Indian sweets for yourself. In the meantime, happy Diwali, and have fun shining your light into the darkness.

 

Deep India Sweets & Catering:

www.deepindiafood.com

(250) 477 – 1741

 

 

 

 

 

Written By:

Born and raised in the mysterious East (by which I mean Ontario and Quebec, not Asia), Adam migrated out to British Columbia in search of adventure and fortune. He had been at different times a scholar, a musician, a poet and a ...

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