Demonstration Of Indian Sweets

March 19, 2014

Yet another interesting day begins at the Department of Culinary Arts, with the arrival of Chef Surjit to teach us the basics of cooking Indian sweets. Currently working as the Chef de Partie at Ocean Pearl, Mangalore, he brought with him the halwai-lore that you wouldn't find in any professional cookbook. He has experience of 10 years in the industry, beginning his career at Labdi Sweet Shop, then moving onto Radisson Punjab and only moving forward after that, doing a brief stint at Valley View Inn, Manipal where he met one of our Chefs, Manoj Belwal (Assistant Professor).

He demonstrated 10 classical and well known Indian sweets, revealing a multitude of trade secrets in the simplest of techniques known only to the halwais. The dishes he demonstrated were - Ras Malai, Rasgulla, Cham Cham, Raj Bhog, Mewa Bhatti, Gulab Jamun, Kala Jamun and Barfi.

After the introductions were done, he began by curdling 4 litres of milk to make chenna. Once the milk was curdled he strained the solids through a muslin cloth and squeezed out all the water from the milk solid mass. Then began kneading it vigorously to remove the lumps, 30 seconds later he added a dash of cardamom powder and voila we had fresh Chenna. He then made a sugar syrup which he used to soak the Ras Malai, Raj Bhog, Rasgulla and Cham Cham. He shaped the pedas for all of these with finesse and precision. In about an hour and a half, he finished all this plus cooked and soaked the pedas of chenna for the various dishes with almost no wastage.

Next came the Gulab Jamun, Kala Jamun and Mewa Bhatti. He began by making the dough for the pedas. Once ready he began shaping the pedas for Mewa bhatti and stuffing them with pista, cashew and saffron then frying to a vibrant orange-brown colour and soaking it in a sugar syrup. Next he blazed through by making pedas for Gulab Jamun and frying them without breaking a single one. The Kala Jamun was made with a batch of the pedas, but he fried them longer until they looked burnt evenly (although they tasted sublime). All of these were soaked in a sugar syrup for at least an hour.

He finished the Pista Barfi by cooking Khoya (reduced milk) and sugar to a thick consistency and spreading it out to let it set. Finally, he made the flavoured milk (for the Ras Malai) and Rabdi (for Cham Cham). At the end he presented the sweets garnished with slivers of pistas, cherry and saffron.  The sweets were photographed; a group photo was clicked with all the students, professors and Chef Surjit.

When all formalities were done, Chef Manoj gave the word for the students to taste. The students, unable to contain themselves any longer, fell upon the sweets like hyenas on a wounded buffalo. The sweets were nothing short of sumptuous and grand. They gave us a sense of what the kings of old would have eaten for dessert. At the end of the class we unanimously thanked Chef Surjit for the demonstration, knowledge and sweets he left us with.

The entire demonstration was recorded on camera and all the recipes were taken down by the students thereby documenting the knowledge of the Halwais, perhaps for the first time in years. Now, we hope to practice these recipes and keep the art of the noble Halwais alive.