If you don’t have an Indian background, and if you’ve never lived in or travelled to India, you might be forgiven for a rather one-dimensional view about Indian food. You’re probably thinking of “curry,” and the words “paneer’” and “tandoori chicken” are probably at the top of your mind as well. If you’re a regular patron of an Indian restaurant then you’ve probably enjoyed a cool glass of lassi, snacked on pakoras and broken up pappadoms with your fingers as you wait at the table for your food. If I challenged you to think about an Indian sweet, and you do have a sweet tooth, then you may be able to come up with gulab jamuns, and then again, you might not.
In my opinion, that is decidedly tragic. India is a vast country that simply cannot be encapsulated in one restaurant menu alone. Regional cuisines in India are vastly different from each other and when people don’t explore the various cuisines in India they aren’t embracing India’s diversity. If you’re a dessert person who doesn’t know about the glorious varieties of Indian desserts and sweets, then you’re truly missing out. In the spirit of helping you discover South Indian sweets, I’ve prepared and photographed this list for you; I also ate them all, but that just shows you what a selfless writer and journalist I am.
Awanthi Vardaraj lives and writes in the port city of Chennai, in the south of India, where she runs her own small artisanal bakery, and keeps a garden full of jasmine plants and herbs she still cannot name. As a freelance writer, she focuses on food, feminism, travel, mental health, and poverty, and nurtures a deep love for the Oxford comma and the semi-colon.