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  • Writer's pictureSanah Alban


This week I shared my take on barfi with cranberry and pistachio balls. This got me thinking about the tradition of sharing sweets on special occasions and so wanted to share a little bit about mithai and the beautiful customs around it.⁣

Image by saumendra from Pixabay

What is mithai?

Mithai is an umbrella term for the sweets, confectionery and desserts from the Indian subcontinent. As well as barfi this includes other sweets like ladoo, gulab jamun, jalebi, peda, halwa, kheer, kulfi, ras malai, cham cham and many others!

How is mithai made?

Mithai varies with ingredients, such as sugar, different flours, milk, milk solids, fermented foods, root vegetables, raw and roasted seeds, fruits, fruit pastes and dry fruits, and different cooking methods; for example kheer is cooked, barfi is baked, jalebi is fried and kulfi is frozen.⁣

Where can you get mithai?

Mithai is found across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Just like how you get sweet shops there are entire shops dedicated to selling this amazing confectionary. I love going into mithai shops and admiring all the different sweets with their varying colors and shapes.

Image by M Ameen from Pixabay

When is mithai eaten?

Mithai is traditionally served as a form of greeting, celebration, religious offering, gift giving, at parties and a sign of hospitality in South Asia. It's shared on special occasions, either homemade or purchased, and is often an essential part of ceremonies like weddings or religious ceremonies.⁣

Origins of Mithai

Sugarcane has been grown in South Asia for thousands of years and the process of refining sugar originated there by the Indus Valley Civilization 8000 years ago. Interestingly, the English word ‘sugar; comes from the Sanskrit word ‘sharkara’ for refined sugar, whilst the word ‘candy’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘khaanda’ meaning unrefined sugar. There are descriptions of confectionery like rice puddings and fried cakes in ancient Sanskrit literature and sweets like gulab jamun and jalebi have origins from West Asia, making their way to the subcontinent via trade. It's no wonder there is such a vast array of confectionery as the Indian subcontinent has a long and ancient history of refining sugar and making sweets.⁣


What’s your favorite type of mithai? I’d love to know!⁣

Check out my take on barfi with these yummy vegan and raw cranberry and pistachio balls!

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