The gold box. In India, or Indian culture, this comes bearing a sweet gift. For us, it was a gift to ourselves. The small pink packets are one of our main reasons for a venture across town to Little India. The packaged cakes were just an added bonus.
Burfi (or barfi) is an Indian sweet made from condensed milk, and is similar in consistency to fudge – perhaps a bit creamier. It is often made from nuts, including pistachio and cashew. Also flavours such as chocolate and mango. During festive times such as Holi or Diwali, burfi is given as a gift, and many more flavours are available, often garnished with bits of edible silver leaf.
Paan is a digestive treat made by filling betel leaves with sweet concoctions that include fennel seeds, candied anise, coconut, cherry paste and more. Many paan shops offer a menu of 15 or 20 kinds of paan, including ones with bits of betel nut, or even tobacco. These paan were made by a woman, which is atypical; paanwallas are almost always men, and some of them are quite famous.
Soan cake is something almost indescribable. Cardamom flavoured chickpea flour is spun and compressed, creating a cake with a consistency somewhere between halva and dragon beard candy. It’s moist but also fluffy, and the strands of candy crumble away from the cake. This requires a moistened fingertip and persistence, but it’s important not to let one single bit go to waste.