Sunday, August 29, 2010

ENGAGEMENT HALWA

ENGAGEMENT HALWA
A Sweet Delicacy from Kalyan
By
VIKRAM KARVE


When I was a small boy, in the 1960s, Pune was a beautiful verdant town, laid back, with a lot of soothing greenery, a nice place to live in a salubrious pensioner’s paradise. 

Yes, Pune was more of a pensioner’s paradise, a place for good education and a beautiful tranquil place to live in. 

One travelled by the railways, and in those days there were no direct trains from Pune to the “upcountry”. 

So one caught the Deccan Express from Pune in the afternoon and got down at Kalyan Junction in the evening. 

At Kalyan you had dinner in the Railway Dining Room and waited for one of the famous Mail trains, like the Calcutta Mails via Nagpur or Allahabad or the Punjab Mail, or the late night express trains, which would come from Mumbai and take you to your destination in the upcountry.

That’s all I knew about Kalyan – its famous Railway Station with well maintained and comfortable waiting rooms and the decent dining room which used to serve sumptuous meals.

For years we passed through Kalyan, yet we never explored what lay beyond the railway station. 

Did the city have a heritage, a culture, a signature cuisine…?

So I was most pleasantly surprised when at a recent Alumni meet in Lonavla, Sateesh Pol told us that he lives in Kalyan and we were most happy when he introduced us to the unique speciality of his town – Kalyan Halwa.

Now I am sure you know what Halwa is…!

Maybe, as you read this, you’re relishing a plate of your favourite Sooji Halwa (also called Shira made from Semolina or Rava and Ghee), Doodhi (Pumpkin) Halwa or Gajar (Carrot) ka Halwa.

Halwa is a dessert made from various kinds of fruits, vegetables, grains and lentils. The ingredients in Halwa are grated finely and fried in ghee and sugar. Nuts and milk may also be added. Halwas have the consistency of a very thick pudding. 

Halwa is the name given to a huge range of sweets made in the Middle East, Central Asia and India. The word itself comes from the Arabic word for sweet, "Hulw".

In the seventh century, hulw was a date paste that was kneaded with milk, which eventually evolved into other forms including stiffer confections made with wheat or semolina flour and sweetened with fruit paste, syrup or honey and flavoured with nuts, spices or even rose water before deep-frying.

Soon local improvisations were introduced in recipes for halwa and each place had its own unique halwa. Middle Eastern halwa can be made with nuts, dried fruits, yoghurt, honey and spices. In Turkey and Greece, halwa is made without grain and is made with cooked egg, syrup, nuts and sometimes fruit. 

In India there are many varieties and assortments of a range of halwas. The word “halwai” is probably derived from the word halwa, and this indicates the popularity of halwa.

I am sure you have tasted the ubiquitous Sooji, Doodhi, Satyanarayan (Shira with bananas) and Gajar Halwa, and also famous local specialities like the delicate melt-in-the-mouth slabs of Mahim Halwa or Ice Halwa, the deliciously satiating Badami Halwa, the tasty and nourishing Kozhikode (Kerala) Halwa, the delicious fruit and vegetable halwas, rich wholesome halwas made from cashewnuts, almonds and dryfuits and full of nourishing pure ghee.

But let me tell you, the Kalyan Halwa that Sateesh Pol had got for us was truly superb – well I can say that it is one of the best halwas I have ever tasted. The slab of halwa, which Sateesh had got from Anant Halwai in Kalyan, was nicely packed in airtight foil on which the words Engagement Halwa were written.

Sateesh explained that this halwa is so popular that it is distributed during engagement ceremonies and so Kalyan Halwa is also called mangani halwa or engagement halwa.

Let me tell you that this lip smacking halwa is really superb. It is truly delicious, and sumptuously rich, embellished with copious quantity of dry fruits, and prepared in pure ghee. The aromatic halwa tastes luxuriant and imparts a wonderful flavour and leaves a very lingering aftertaste which is exceptionally pleasing, a scent of lovely fragrance on your palate and a satiating feeling of delightful gratification.

Well, Sateesh Pol had brought Anant Halwai’s famous Shrikhand too, which was also top class … creamy and lip smacking …  but then I have had equally good Shrikhand in Pune and other places too.

It was the inimitable Engagement Halwa from Kalyan, a true signature delicacy, heritage cuisine, which was truly distinctive and matchless – a feast worthy of Kings…!

So, Dear Reader, the next time you are in Kalyan, or a friend from Kalyan visits you, make sure you try out Kalyan’s unique Engagement Halwa … and do remember to tell us how you liked it…

And do tell us about your favourite halwa too … and the food speciality and heritage cuisine of your hometown.

Happy Eating.

VIKRAM KARVE 
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.  

VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog - http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com
Academic Journal Vikram Karve – http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve - http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve 
Email: vikramkarve@sify.com
Foodie Book:  Appetite for a Stroll  
http://books.sulekha.com/book/appetite-for-a-stroll/default.htm

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