This Diwali, I brought in my bestie to be my guest blogger. We decided on some stuff he would like to try, and tell us how he felt about it. Here’s episode # 1 of it. Uncorrupted by knowledge of its origins, my first unboxing of this popular sweet down south was pleasant; it came in a vaccum sealed tin foil with an inner covering of butter paper. Unravelling the contents one discovers a toffee swiss-roll like sweet meat which is quite unlike the standard milk made halwa. I dissected the log shaped 250gms of the halwa to spot a crystalline top holding a jiggly jelly heart. The wheat-sugar-ghee creation made me wonder…. Lovechild of a Sohn Halwa and Karachi Halwa over an Otacamund rendezvous… My arrow of assumption was not far from the mark.
The first spoonful confirmed a taste sampled earlier, also from similar offering at a spiritual shrine. The top is your sticky-toffee Sohn Halwa, served at Dargahs of Ajmer and Fatehpur Sikri. This crust was thinner and hence less sticky, sparing the crown of my grinders from a cavity attack. Missing were the almond, cashew and pista bits that come on the Sohn Halwa. There was a generous basting of ghee, preserved by the butter paper casing, which made it prudent to use the spoon and not grease out the fingers. The heart was distinctly Karachi Halwa jellyness. A retro-trip of savouring the same on Chowpatty beach courtesy Ghasitaram Halwaai at Grant Road was the first natural reaction.
There are quite a few reasons why this offering didn’t ring any bells for me and why I couldn’t relate to anything southern about this. Most prasada and sweets from famous temples of south – Tirupathi, Idduki, Tanjore, Rameshwaram etc come with a strong camphor aroma and taste, which is received first by the nostrils. This instant baptism was missing in this halwa. It would have added levels to this halwa had the makers infused local flavours of an elaichi banana, or tapioca or guava in the Karachi jelly. I wouldn’t travel 500 miles to sample a hallway that tastes similar at a corner shop near my home.
A Rajasthani inspired sweet outside a Tam-Bram temple comes as a misfit to my tastebuds. But just like the misfits are revered as miracles by Indians, this goodwill of the Halwa grows from strength to strength, witnessed in the daily rush to buy from the dim lit shop which only opens for three hours, which is roughly the same time as the temple doors open for the devotees at the Nellaiappar temple nearby. Did I find the divinity in devouring this deliverance…. Illai