Thursday, October 13, 2016

Foodie Memories – Engagement Halwa

Mouthwatering Memories of the unique Sweet Delicacy from Kalyan

From my Foodie Archives:

Prior to the advent of the white revolution”  non-milk sweets like Mysore-Pak, Balushahi, Sutarfeni, Mahim-Halwa etc were quite popular. 

More than 6 years ago – in the monsoon of 2010 – we college classmates had a get-together in Lonavala. 

Many of us (especially those who had migrated abroad) were meeting after more than 33 years.

It was at this occasion where I first tasted a rather unique Halwa called Engagement Halwa specially brought for us by a classmate from Kalyan 

(Engagement Halwa is also called Kalyan Halwa or Mangani Halwa)

Let me tell you about it


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 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 are relishing a plate of your favourite Sooji (also called Shira made from Semolina or Rava and Ghee) Halwa – or Doodhi (Pumpkin) Halwa – or maybe 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. 

Halwa has 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 paste of Dates 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” (Sweetseller) is probably derived from the word Halwa – and this indicates the popularity of halwa.

I am sure you have tasted the ubiquitous Sooji Halwa and Satyanarayan Halwa (Shira with bananas)  Doodhi Halwa  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  different versions of delicious fruit and vegetable halwa  and the various types of rich wholesome halwa 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 Kalyan 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 (Mangani” means engagement in Hindi)

Let me tell you that Engagement Halwa is really superb. 

It is truly delicious  sumptuously rich, embellished with copious quantity of dry fruits  and prepared in pure ghee. 

The aromatic Engagement 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  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

Do remember to tell us how you liked it.

And – Dear Reader – do tell us about your favourite Halwa too – and the food speciality of your hometown.

Happy Eating. 

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