When Exploring the Flavours of Indian Food, Ottawa Residents Shouldn’t Forget Dessert
You might be forgiven for associating Indian food exclusively with marinated meats and vegetables, rice, curries, and savoury flatbreads. After all, these are the key components of Indian food Ottawa restaurants tend to serve, so our frame of reference for the culture’s cuisine may understandably be skewed. But just as Japan has more to offer than just sushi, and the Levant region that borders the Mediterranean Sea boasts more to its cuisine than shawarma and donair, India—and even the Indian restaurants you’ll find in Canada—has more flavour than you realize. In fact, Indian food boasts many sweet and indulgent desserts, and if you haven’t tried them yet, then you’re surely in for a treat.
These sweet balls of fried buttermilk dough originated in medieval times, when Persian invaders brought a similar recipe to India. “Gulab” derives from Persian words translating roughly as “flower water”—a reference to the rose water-based syrup that the pastry is soaked in after being deep-fried. Sweet spices such as cardamom, saffron, or kewra are also frequently included in the mix. Gulab Jamun is a traditional dessert in several religions, such as the Islamic celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and the Hindu festival of light, Diwali.
While its exact age is unknown, Rasgulla has been served in the Odisha region for at least several centuries, and is a spongy dumpling of cottage cheese and semolina dough, cooked in a sugary syrup. When looking into the sweeter side of Indian food, Ottawa residents must surely investigate this dessert, which is not only delicious, but very culturally significant; it has been used as a traditional offering to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, love, and prosperity) for several hundred years.
Considered by many to be Indian food’s answer to western cheesecake, ras malai (literally “juice cream” in Hindi) is a dessert commonly found in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. A very soft, very fresh Indian cheese called paneer is typically soaked in clotted cream and mixed with sugar, nutmeg, and cardamom. It is then garnished with a pistachio. A must-have for anyone seeking a true delicacy of Indian food in Ottawa.
Rice puddings are found in every region of southern Asia, and have as many different varieties as there are distinctive cultures through the continent. In southern India, a version known as payesh or payasa (depending on dialect) is prepared with coconut milk and traditional spices. It is occasionally served at