The forgotten world of Sindhi sweetmeats
Mithi dhabhala is fried bread slices soaked in sugar syrup
Sindhi cuisine is not only known for its sinful crispy snacks like pakwan, sanna pakora, aloo tuk etc, but also for the long list of sweets/ mithai/ desserts and sweetmeats.
Apart from the regular gulab jamuns, pista mithai, almond burfi, there are several types of sweets that are popular among the Sindhis.
Then there are some forgotten sweet treats like mesu, some confectioneries on the verge of getting extinct and some defunct ones.
The cookies and chips along with soft drinks, killed the trend of offering visitors at home dal nakul along with papad and water followed by tea or homemade rose sherbet.
The school-going kids no longer flock around the hand carts outside school gates to buy locally-made orange candies, Ravalgaon and Parle sweets, ice lollies, pepsi colas (the tubular frozen, flavoured syrup) because the parents prefer their kids to have branded cakes, pastries, donuts instead.
Some of the most unheard Sindhi sweets are:
Praghree: (Mitha samosa): A crunchy, layered puff stuffed with khoya, is a seasonal delicacy, made only during Holi.
Gheear: Again a mandatory Holi sweet, a cross between ghevar and jalebi, the gheear is made by squeezing out the fermented flour batter in hot oil/ghee, through tiny hole of a cloth in random directions in a round mould immersed in hot ghee.
Singhar ji mithai: A typical Sindhi mithai made from unsalted sev and khoya is what makes a true-blooded Sindhi go weak in his/her knees.
Varo: Dry fruit praline, made from perfectly crystallised sugar to which dry dates, dry coconut and nuts are added, was sent to the married daughters during winter along with Majoon, a rich sweet made from nuts, dry fruits, mawa, poppy seeds and milk.
Singhar ji mithai is a typical sindhi sweet dish made of sev and khoya
Chabhu Halwo/Karachi Halwa: Made from cornstarch with added pistachios, this ghee loaded sweet was very popular in olden days.
Saata and Ghach: Made from flour and ghee, deep fried and coated with thick sugar syrup.
Tosha: Traditionally a Punjabi sweet, this is immensely popular with the Sindhis. A dough made of maida, ghee, curds, baking soda is shaped in oblong rolls and deep fried and dipped in thick sugar syrup. They taste like badusha.
Boondi Singhar: The pearly drops of gram flour, fried and dipped in sugar syrup, known as boondi are often served with the salty sev (gram flour strings) as prasad in temples.
Dal Nakul: Unsalted sev covered with sugar, served with fried, salted moong dal.
Tosha is traditionally a Punjabi dish that is very popular in Sindhis
And some sweets and confectioneries popular among Sindhi kids two decades ago that are hardly eaten now are:
Gulbeda: Tiny biscuits topped with colourful icing sugar (probably royal icing).
Khatmithri goli: The locally made orange-coloured candies.
Laachi: A vendor carrying Laachi or peppermint flavoured pulled sugar, wrapped on a wooden pole to which a round container is tied to hold the sticks, could be found in some remote streets.
The seller pulls away strips of laachi and wraps it around the small stick to make various shapes like flower, sparrow, peacock etc as per the demand.
Some confectionaries are rare and on the verge of extinction.
Anarkali : A variant of soan papdi and more soft and fluffier than lacha patisa.
Pasham: The good old candy floss, ‘bhudee key baal’, the melt-in-the-mouth cotton candy.
Pasham is also popularly known as candy floss. Photo: Sahil Talreja
Since on many happy occasions gulab jamuns were shared with relatives, friends and family, one can find these syrupy sugar bombs in most Sindhi families.
And after the gulab jamuns were relished, the excess sugar syrup was put to good use by either making Lola (flatbread made from flour, syrup and ghee) or mithi dhabhala, fried bread slices soaked in sugar syrup (shahi tukda sans rabri).
Recipe for Mithi Dhabhala
Cooking time: 15 min; serves: 3
7-8 bread slices
100 gm Sugar
50-70 ml water
2-3 Green cardamoms
Saffron, a pinch (optional)
Few drops of rose water/essence (Optional)
Unsalted nuts for Garnish
Oil/ghee for frying
1. Cut the bread slices in desired shape-like triangles, squares, rectangles or circular (using a cookie cutter or small katori).
2. Heat the oil in the pan and deep fry the bread pieces till golden brown. Drain on tissue paper.
3. Mix sugar and water, add slightly crushed cardamom, and boil the mixture till the syrup becomes bit sticky (a little beyond the stage when small bubbles appear on the surface). If using, add saffron too.
4. Put off the flame, and add rose water or essence.
5. Now soak the fried bread in the warm sugar syrup for few minutes and remove them on a serving plate using slotted spoon or fork.
6. If you want the bread crispy, soak for lesser time in less warm syrup, and if you want soft bread, soak for some more time or use a tad bit more warm syrup.
7. Garnish with nuts and serve warm or cold.
Photos: Alka Keswani
Alka Keswani is a microbiology graduate, a hands-on mom and food blogger. Besides contributing articles to various magazines and newspapers, she has also co-authored a food section in ‘We The Sindhis’ book. Her blog Sindhi Rasoi won the Best Regional Food blog in 2013 and Best Vegetarian food blog in 2014 at the Food Bloggers Association of India awards. She also manages another blog called Recipeonclick for non-Sindhi recipes.
Follow Alka on Twitter @Sindhirasoi