Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Diwali! - My Grandmother's Mithai


Today marks the auspicious Hindu holiday of Diwali.  Diwali is the festival of lights and is the triumph of good over evil.  It is celebrated by other religions as well such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Hindus across the world are celebrating this joyous day by offering prayers to the Hindu Gods, cooking sweet treats, and lighting rows and rows of diyas (little clay pots with oil and wick).




I remember when I was a teenager, my mom used to take my brother and I to the temple every Diwali and our Swami always used to tell the story of Diwali.  So the legend goes that Lord Rama, from the epic Ramayana, and his wife Sita are banished from their home in Ayodhya by their father, the king.  Lord Rama, Sita and Rama’s brother, Lakshmana, go to live in a forest.  After many years, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, a ten-headed demon.  He takes Sita to the island of Lanka.  With the help of Hanuman, the monkey warrior, Rama rescues his wife.  The people of Ayodhya lit diyas around their homes and in the village to guide Rama and Sita back from the forest to Ayodhya.  On their return, Rama is crowned king. Hence the celebration of good over evil and that is the story of Diwali. 

My grandmother's mithai is a sweet that makes Diwali feel even more special for me.  She only made these on Hindu holidays and other religious functions.  Now that she lives in India and I live in upstate NY, if I want these delicious treats, I have to make them myself.  I decided that I was only going to make two different sweets this year.  My family would make 5-6 different kinds, but what would I do with all that sugary goodness in my house? I decided to make my grandmother's mouth-watering mithai and a milk powder peera.  


I made these yesterday and added some extra cardamom, it turned out wonderful! 
I did, not write a post about these delicious peera's but you can get the recipe here at Manjula's Kitchen, she makes only vegetarian dishes and they all are easy to follow with her YouTube videos.


Click here:  Manjula's recipe for peera. 




Every Diwali my mom used to make so many tasty sweet treats.  We would package and give them away to friends and family members.  Likewise our family members would send over little bags filled with mithai, peera, and parsad.  I wanted to come up with a creative way to package these delicious sweets, so I made a trip to Michael's Arts and Crafts store. All together I only spent $9 for all the materials. I bought metallic gold paper bags with a beautiful burgundy ribbon, very Diwali-esq! I think they turned out amazing, what do you think?




I packaged the sweets in tiny Ziploc bags to seal in the freshness, into the paper bag they go!



Everyone in my family goes crazy for my grandmother's mithai. I have been fortunate enough to get the recipe and duplicate it as best as I can, I have to say it turned out almost exactly the same.  This was my first time making it, so hopefully next time, it turns out even better! 


Make the dough


Let it sit for 30 min or so and then roll and fry


There is no other mithai like my grandmothers. I'm sure everyone says this about their grandmother, but really, I have never tasted another mithai that could top hers or even come close.  She makes them thick and chunky.  Its flaky inside with a crispy crunchy outside and topped off with a glaze of sugar. 



I apologize, I didn't get to take pics of when I put the sugar glaze on.


This mithai is made with coconut, anise seed, carnation milk and other delicious ingredients. I have to admit though it was very tricky, the temperature of the oil has to be right otherwise, these will definitely burn.  Once you figure that part out, you are good to go. Did I mention I called my grandmother all the way in India to get this recipe? I hope that encourages you into trying this recipe now :) Happy Diwali my dear friends! 


Grandma's Mouth-watering Mithai 

Yield: about 50 small pieces


For the Dough
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, chopped
  • 2 tsp anise seed
  • 1 12oz tin evaporated milk
  • Vegetable or canola oil for frying
For the sugar syrup:
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:
  1. Mix the flour, baking powder, anise seed, and chopped butter together. Keep mixing by hand until the dough is crumbly or you can put everything into a food processor which is what I did to make things easier and faster.  Now add coconut to the dough and mix well. 
  2. Pour entire can of evaporated milk into the mixture and knead to form a dough ball. Add flour/ water if needed, to bring everything together. Cover with a damp napkin and set aside and let it sit for about 30 minutes. (the damp napkin keeps the dough from forming a crust)
  3. Place dough ball on counter/cutting board and cut dough into quarters. Work with one quarter at a time. Sprinkle flour on the working space and roll the quarter with a rolling pin to about 3/4 in thickness. If you roll it thinner your mithai wont be as thick and soft but rather more crunchy, if that is how you prefer it then roll it thinner. 
  4. In a pot, fill oil 1/3 of the way up the pot and let oil heat on medium-low. 
  5. In the meantime cut mithai into little diamond shapes and set aside till ready for frying. 
  6. The temperature of the oil should be around 280 degrees. You want the oil to be on medium-low heat otherwise the mithai will burn on the outside and not cook on the inside. Test one mithai to see if it is cooked all the way through before risking the entire batch. 
  7. Once the oil is ready, place mithai in oil and let it cook slowly, keep turning to brown evenly on both sides. Cook all the mithai and set aside in a pot or bowl big enough to toss with the syrup.
  8. Combine sugar, water, and vanilla, if using.  Boil on low for about 35 minutes, or longer depending on your stove.  Test sugar in water to see if it has reached the "soft ball" stage.  Read this recipe to learn how to test for the soft ball stage.
  9. When sugar is ready, pour over mithai and toss until sugar is no longer clear and has become white. 







5 comments:

  1. Looks Delicious!!! I just might try it this afternoon!! I love love the bags!! I may have to steal your idea for Nicholas's Jhandee!! Ravena

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  2. Happy Diwali!

    Your grand mother's mithai makes me wish I was in Guyana right now. I am definitely going to give your mithai recipe a try - when I have company to help me eat it otherwise, it could be dangerous having those morels of sweet fried dough around the house :)

    Quick question for confirmation, the cup measurements you referred to are measuring cups right?

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  3. Hi Cynthia!!

    I was patiently awaiting your post yesterday and finally I saw those beautiful peeras!! I wish I could have eaten the computer screen!

    Also, yes, I am referring to measuring cups. I called my grandmother for this recipe and she said, put two pot spoons of sugar for the syrup and I said "grandma no one measures things that way." Old ladies never use measuring cups, I guess they just know the measurements from their heads!

    I hope you try the recipe, let me know how it turns out.

    Best,
    Alica

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  4. Wow! I just finished making the Soft Mithai and it is wonderful on a rainy afternoon. My twist was adding a piece of fresh orange peel to the syrup as it boiled and a few cardamom seeds to the dough. Yum, yum. I am happy. Thank you very much.

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  5. Forgot to mention that I used Flavor Mate Vanilla Essence (200 ml for $2.75) made in Guyana. Not meaning to plug a particular brand but I have to. This "Tastes (just) Like Home! (Hi Cynthia). http://www.littleguyanabakeshop.com/grocery.php?catid=4&page=4

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