Over the past few months I have tried to taste as many Indian sweets as possible. When I first began my mission, the task was daunting. The most popular flavours were unfamiliar to me (saffron, rose, pistachio) and they came in varieties I had never heard of before (chum chum, laddu, burfi). On top of that, chocolate is rarely used in sweets here which is almost always the most important requirement in a 10/10 sweet experience for me. Despite all that I powered through, and have compiled a list of the sweets I tried with an evaluation and short description. I evaluated each sweet on a scale from 1-10; 1 being I would rather eat raw, unseasoned kale and 10 being other worldly.
Sweet Pan 0/10
You bite into a leaf and then your mouth is filled with something that tastes like toothpaste or soap. If you want to try it keep a bin and napkin nearby.
Laddu Plain 3/10
A grainy, sand-textured ball that just tastes like plain sugar. Hard to eat a full one.
Kaju Apple 5/10
The texture of kaju sweets is hard to describe but it is similar to a stiffened dough made with finely ground cashew and sugar. This sweet is rather misleading because it doesn’t taste anything like an apple. Really just a regular kaju sweet but in the shape of an apple and a cute colour.
Soan Papdi 5/10
Flaky and very sweet cubes. Not bad, but not very good either.
Small little orange sugar balls. Similar to laddu in flavour and texture, but because of their size they are less overwhelming and fun to eat.
Chum Chum Plain 6/10
Better than no sweets, but just okay. An oval shaped cake doused in sugar syrup. I found this sweet way too sweet and unappealingly big in size.
Afghani Laddu 7/10
Pistachio, rose, petals, and almonds chopped up and stuck together with honey in a ball. Quite pleasant and visually appealing.
Condensed milk and sugar boiled again and again until it becomes solid. Thin, artificially flavoured burfi (5/10) sold at big sweet shops is not very good and significantly lowered burfi’s evaluation. The flavours I tried ranked from highest to lowest: pistachio, coconut, cashew, strawberry, mango, pineapple. Homemade/pure-milk burfi (9/10) on the other hand is thick and has no added flavours and is absolutely mouth watering. It takes 5L of milk to make 1kg. It is harder to find, but you will know you’ve found it when you try it.
Kaju Katori 7/10
A dough-like taco filled with almonds, cashews, and honey. Comes in many flavour variances. Pistachio is the best flavour I’ve tried.
Saffron Kaju Pyramid 7/10
The saffron-flavoured dough-like pyramid is then filled with honey, pistachio, and almonds. The flavours all come together quite nicely in this sweet and it has an air of sophistication.
Chum Chum Kheer 7.5/10
The creamy icing on top of this chum chum really changes the game.
The texture is sponge-like, and the balls soak up too much rose syrup if you don’t squish some out before you eat it. The sweet is overall enjoyable and a solid option for dessert.
Laddu Nariyal 8/10
A delicious, coconuty ball with a smooth texture. A complete outlier from the other types of laddu.
There is a lot of variance in the quality of lassi. The most important factor in determining the quality of the lassi is the texture. Lassis that are completely smooth throughout are not as good as the ones that have some yogurty-chunks. Pomegranate, coconut, and pistachio are all delicious flavours for lassi but it is fairly hard to find places that have flavour options.
Mini jalebi balls most common in Punjab. Almost of the same caliber of a hot jalebi, but not quite.
A yummy, usually saffron flavoured foam. Especially yummy when it’s a mix of pistachio and saffron mailio. A Varanasi specialty.
Ras Malai 9.5/10
Milky balls in a sweet pistachio cream. Truly embodies the milky ocean. A fantastic sugar-syrup-less dessert option.
Gulab Jamun !!10/10!!
A timbit/munchkin soaked in rose sugar syrup. A fitting nickname for gulab jamun in pancake balls. Kala/black gulab jamun is fried longer than regular gulab jamun, so it has a crispy outside which makes the buttery inside even tastier. This is however a contentious issue and some people will get quite heated when discussing gulab jamun vs black gulab jamun. Another note is that gulab jamun are often sold in big syrupy tubs, but are sometimes served individually on a liner which makes the ratio of syrup to ball even better. If there’s one sweet you have to try in India this is it!
A delicious crunchy sugar delight. Best enjoyed when fresh out of the pan and the syrup is still hot. It is also important that the jalebi are fried properly so that they have a nice fluff to them. Disclaimer: As jalebi cool they become less and less enjoyable very quickly.
In the end, I had a lot of fun on my sweet adventures in India. Thank you to everyone who supported and motivated me to continue when I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. Special thanks to Marka for being my sweet-hunting partner-in-crime 🙂