Chai ke saath kuch meetha ho jaye? – The Best of Pakistani Sweets
Tea is entrenched in the Pakistani way of life. Come winter, come summer, din mein kuch martaba chai to banti hai. While chai is my love, meetha is my life. Shaam ki chai with some meetha is my daily ritual. That’s just how I unwind: with my feet up on the sofa and a good episode to watch, or maybe just catch up on Facebook. During Ramazaan, however, my chai and meetha session gets pushed to late night. Once the iftar, namaaz, dinner etc. are done, and my blood cells are screaming for some sugar therapy.
I do enjoy my cup of tea with biscuits, cakes, pies and tarts. However, Pakistani sweets also fare well in providing yummy, sugary options for me to enjoy my peace and tea with. Here are 5 ways you can enjoy your cup of bliss with riwaayati meethay.
Public Service Message: It all tastes best with mixed chai, not the tea-bag waala drama. Add a cardamom or two while the tea is cooking for an extra kick of flavor!
Disclaimer: Do not read while fasting. Pictures may be injurious to health – and imaan.
Gulab Jamun – The sweet tooth winner
Gulab Jamun, with its poetic name, is the sweet of the Mughals. It comes as soft as a good sweet should be.The name is derived from gul and aab in Persian, which mean flower and water respectively. Aab refers to the ingredient of rose water, which gives it its signature aroma. Jamun is part of the name because the shape and purple-ish colour are reminiscent of the fruit jamun. One gulab jamun with my late night cup of tea makes me sleep a happy woman. If you’re in Karachi, visit Burns Road and have a few from the theyla right next to Babu Bhai’s bun kebab stall. It will be a trip to heaven. That’s my guarantee!
My gulloos do look glamourous in those ramekins. Hmm!
That is history in your spoon which will turn to heaven in your mouth!
Jalebi – The crunchy goodness of a sugar high
These Pakistani sweets rate high in awesomeness. I don’t like my jalebis with iftar. They tend to get overshadowed by the sheer joy of just getting to eat at Maghrib. My piece of jalebi deserves its own time slot. I must pause to hear the crunch when I bite into it, and allow the taste to reign in my mouth. Hence, I save my piece for later, and love pairing it with my chai.
Isn’t this orange, pretzel lookalike, sugar syrup dipped sweet just beautiful?
Muft Mashwara # 1: Warm it up in the oven before digging in, NOT the microwave please.
Multani Sohan Halwa – the Multanis do Pakistani sweets like no other
Sohan Halwa is definitely a gift of the City of Saints, Multan, to the entire subcontinent region. This 200-year-old mithaai comes with a variety of nuts but my personal favorite is the one with walnuts. I love it because of its sumptuous flavor, its sticky, toffee-like texture, and also because my childhood memories are attached to it. My father travelled a great deal when we were young. He used to bring Hafiz ka Sohan Halwa from Multan every time he visited the city for work. For me, it is the ideal condiment with tea.
Muft Mashwara # 2: Warm the halwa up in the microwave before making this sinful indulgence; its taste reaches record-breaking levels this way.
I was happy to know that Hafiz Sohan Halwa delivers the product throughout the country and now this gorgeous Multani sweet is just a few hundred rupees away, if you really want it authentic! You can place an order online here. Of course, it is also produced by various bakeries in Karachi and other cities but nowhere will you find Sohan Halwa as delicious as that produced by Multani halwaais.
In my bachpan, after the halwa was consumed, the tin box used to turn into the sooi dhagay ka dabba or dawaai ka dabba.
Kasuri Andrassay – a crispy sweet delight
These crispy, lightly sweetened, sesame seed covered, cardamom-scented Pakistani sweets are my mother’s most favourite desi sweet. Perhaps for this reason, I have a special place for them in my heart. A hot cup of tea, an andrassa or two (or three or four) to hog, and a mindless episode of a Hum TV drama – I’d say that’s a nice way to relax and get your sugar level back to normal after the 15 plus hours of fasting.
It took me a lot of effort to find these in Karachi, then I realized I had spotted them at Burns Road on one of my trips there. On revisiting the theyla, I learnt that they are called anarsay in this part of the country, which explains why no baker understood what I was asking for. They are, however, mostly a Punjabi thing, and the best ones come from Kasur. By the way, this gulloos + andrassay theyla is open all night. So this is where you need to be if you want to do ‘saari night besharmi ki height’ with calories, bros!
There they are, behind the deyg of the gulloos.
The roti-shaped andrassas resemble meethi tikya a lot, but the former are made from rice flour while the latter from semolina. Didn’t really need that piece of information? Okay. Sorry.
Almond Naan Khatai – Khalifa Bakers
Koi aur naan khatai nahin, sirf Khalifa ki naan khatai. Hands down, Khalifa Bakers located near Mochi Gate in the old part of Lahore serves the best naan khatai in Pakistan. The khatais are soft, fluffy, and sweet to just the right level, and amazing in texture because of the whole almonds that come with every bite. Saath aik chai ka cup, aur rozay mein sahay gaey tamaam dukh ghaaib. Like, really.
A few years back, getting naan khatai from Khalifa Bakers in androon sheher used to be a mega task. Though … I did enjoy my walk through the small historic streets and lanes of Lahore when I made a pilgrimage to the bakery myself. We parked our car at Mochi Darwaza, visited the Wazir Khan Mosque (heart) and then headed to Khalifa Bakers. There we admire see the stacks of naan khatais in their absolute glory. Now, however, you can just make a call at 042-37657352, transfer money online and get a box of the amazing khatais delivered to any city in Pakistan within 24 hours. It’s great service (saying that with personal experience) so I’d say do yourself a favour and get yourself a box. Now.
Muft Mashawara # 3: Dunk the khatais in tea for maximum pleasure. They taste better like this, like any other biscuit in the world!
Bee tee doubleyoo, an article on these crazy-good naan khatais, has been published in the Forbes Magazine, which you can read here if you wish.
Parh ke maza aya? Ab khaa ke mazey lein. Pakistani Sweets karen Ramazaan ka maza dobala! Happy Ramazaan!
Until next, byeeezzz.
Note: All food photography has been done at home with my hubby, thanks to his photography skills! You can see more of his work here.
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