A Kid in a Candy Shop Who Knows Nothing About Candy
March 8, 2022 10:29 PM   Subscribe

I have the benefit of access to an Indian sweet shop with a long and well-stocked, case of delicious and freshly made sweets. However, I have basically no knowledge of Indian sweets. So tell me, if I were to purchase a selection of sweets, what should I get and why. And, sure, I could buy one of everything, but let's take it as a given that I need to be selective and will purchase 4 items.
posted by brookeb to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My favorite is rasmalai, which they may not have if it’s just dry sweets… this is like a sweet cheese dumpling in sweetened milk.
posted by music for skeletons at 10:41 PM on March 8, 2022

Best answer: I like chamcham, pista rolls, and jalebi. The Indian sweets shop near me also sells savory samosas so I get a few of those too.
posted by pmdboi at 11:23 PM on March 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (rubs hands together)

Your first job is to chat to the owners. Are they Bengali? Bangladeshi? From somewhere else? This will influence what's available and what might be good. They might also straight-up tell you what their specialty is. Or they might be weirdly grouchy. But in general I think such storeowners tend to be pretty ready to chat about their inventory.

For example, my favorite Indian sweet is Mysore Pak. It's so good, like a kind of caramelized milk fudge I guess? Wow. But where I live, they tend to dye it weirdly yellow and make it with this dry, crumbley consistency. NO THANK YOU! But if anyone goes to South India I beg them to bring me back some. Also possibly too regional: Dharwad Pedhas and Kala Jamun, both first-class IMO.

On the Bengali side you might find kheer kadam which are rasgullas covered with a sweet coconut mix. Also amazing. I love rasmalai but the tinned ones can be metallic and the fresh ones can taste like the cold case if there's not a lot of turnover. Mishti doi likely to be delicious but is what it sounds like (thick sweet yogurt): kind of basic. There is also this Bengali sweet that's like a French toast without egg? I forget the name? But that's also super good.

Jalebis are super popular, but for me it's a big maybe. Are they fresh? Are they hot?

Mango barfi, A+ for consistency. Because they're just made with tinned mango pulp, reliably good (if super sweet). This is what I get for people I don't know.

Have fun! Now I want sugar!
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:39 PM on March 8, 2022 [21 favorites]

Best answer: OK one more, haha. Soan papdi! Your store might have ready-to-go boxes from a brand like Haldiram's. The artificial flavours will likely taste, uh, artificial, but no less DELIGHTFUL.
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:48 PM on March 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Kaju katli or GTFO.

Seriously though - cashews, cardamom, milk and sugar. Cream colored, nearly always cut into slender diamonds, sometimes with delicate silver leaf on top. I suppose you could say they're "kind of like an Indian marzipan" if you needed to draw a comparison. But you should not do that. Because these are on their own level and nothing compares.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 11:51 PM on March 8, 2022 [7 favorites]

I'll be watching this with interest, but my favorites are: milkcake (interesting grainy texture), mango burfi, khova burfi, and gulab jamun (squeaky syrupy donut). I would definitely recommend getting a variety of texture/consistency and shape!
posted by acidic at 11:59 PM on March 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

So tell me, if I were to purchase a selection of sweets, what should I get and why.

Buy the four things on the leftmost end. Next time you come by the shop, buy the next four. And so on.

Nobody can tell you what you're going to like more accurately than you can.
posted by flabdablet at 1:58 AM on March 9, 2022 [7 favorites]

I asked my mother. Her advice, after serious consideration, to give you substantial variety:

fresh hot jalebi
gulab jamun
Haldiram's Soan papdi
laddoo with raisins or cashews

If they have Mysore pak, replace laddoo with Mysore pak.
posted by brainwane at 5:15 AM on March 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

From my trip to India, I have very fond memories of gulab jamun, kaju katli, and jalebi (esp if fresh and hot, as branewane suggests).
posted by nkknkk at 6:22 AM on March 9, 2022

Are they Bengali? Bangladeshi?

If they are just plan to get one of everything over period of time if you want to reduce your choices to 4 at a time. They are the masters of the sweet - I have such fond memories going to Alluddin Sweet shop on Airport Road in Dhaka with giant displays of sweets... Oh man so good. Here's a bit of a primer. My favourite? Maybe rabri, naru, kacha golla?

If they aren't Bengali? Fresh jalebi, laddu, burfi, kaju katli are solid choices.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:11 AM on March 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

My favorite is barfi, but only if it is well made. I love the stuff from Delhi, which is flaky. The barfi I've gotten in the US is more like fudge, and has a very different texture and taste. I have been told that in the US barfi is made with sweetened condensed milk, whereas in India it is made from whole buffalo milk. So ymmv.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 9:03 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I'd ask the shop owners or staff to recommend their favorites. I used to be part of a snack exchange group on LiveJournal; a few times a year, everyone would throw their name in a hat and we'd draw partners to exchange snacks internationally. US + Japan, UK + Brazil, Finland + China, and so on. My partners would always ask me what I wanted them to put in the box, and my answer was always, "Surprise me." I know what I like; I want to experience what other people like, what's popular in their culture. Some of them were misses, sure, but I also discovered some really amazing treats that I never would have considered otherwise.
posted by xedrik at 9:07 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Loooove kaju katli, an Indian coworker used to bring it in to the office and I would make a beeline for the kitchen! It's sweet but not too sweet
posted by radioamy at 10:01 AM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

There is also this Bengali sweet that's like a French toast without egg? I forget the name? But that's also super good.

Shahi Tukra! Yummmm.

If the store is a Bangladeshi one, I would recommend trying out the following:

chom chom
mishti doi
Pantua and its close cousins ledikeni and gulab jamun - tbh I think of them as interchangeable, but what do I know? Experts will identify differences
posted by unicorn chaser at 3:14 AM on March 10, 2022

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