The Big Fat Glossary of Indian Mithai: Halwa

November 24, 2013 - by Shriya

Halwa can be found in South Asia and also throughout the Middle East. It is a dense, flour or nut based confectionary that is slightly liquid in its consistency.

Popular forms of halwa include badam (almond) halwa and gajar (carrot) halwa, but the sweet can be made with just about any nut or fruit.

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Photo courtesy of sensationalfood.wordpress.com.

Culture

In Arabic, "halva" means "dessert" or "sweet." Countries in Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa - who all have Arabic influences - enjoy halwa as a favorite treat.

Halwa can often be found at weddings or other ceremonious events. Since the sweet takes a long time to make, it is reserved for special occasions. Mughal weddings, especially those of royal emperors, often featured halwa as one of many elaborate desserts at the reception.

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Halwa served at a religious altar, as an offering to the gods.

Photo courtesy of kaipakkuvam.wordpress.com.

Halwas have also been known to be served as prasad (blessed food) at pujas and other religious ceremonies. It can be placed at the alter of Hindu gods to show devotion during Diwali celebrations and other auspicious events.

Ingredients

Halwa is primarily made of flour, butter, milk, nuts and sugar. Flour-based halwas mostly use rava (wheat) or besan (gram) flour. Nut-based halwas are commonly made with badam (almonds) or seeds such as sunflower.

Fruit and vegetables are also great bases for a halwa. Gajar (carrot) halwa is a popular dessert amongst many cultures, and starchy foods such as sweet potatoes and pumpkins are the perfect texture for the soft, gooey dish.

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A bright, orange heap of gajar halwa.

Photo courtesy of manjulaskitchen.com.

Halwa is made by simmering the main ingredients on low heat until they become dense and thicken. Spices such as cardamom, saffron, and ginger can be added to the dish to give it an extra kick.

Variations

Like most mithais, halwas are named based on the main ingredient featured in the dish. Popular halwas include gajar (carrot), badam (almond), and sooji ka halwa (wheat flour).

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Moong dal halwa is a savory dish that uses soaked lentils as a thick base.

Be sure to check out the rest of the mithai glossary and get to know all the Indian sweets.

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