No Indian wedding is complete without boxes of mithai and why oh why would you not have mithai. Firstly let’s just clarify what mithai is. Mithai is Indian sweets, simple yes, but this is then broken down further to hundreds of different types of sweets from ladoo, barfi, besan, gulab jamun, petha, halwa and so much more. The choice of flavours are endless but it is a must at a wedding and any celebratory event, a birthday, birth of a baby or even passing your GCSE’s and if you’re lucky when you finally get your drivers license. At Ragamama Ragasaan, we know that mithai is important and that is why we can serve your guests with sweet delights with delicate flavours that are perfect to begin with, and if you like serve with freshly brewed tea or coffee.
Confectionary that consists of clarified butter and sugar is creamy and rich screams out ‘eat me’. Sometimes this is an acquired taste and back in our hay days we wouldn’t dream of gobbling down pieces of barfi because we were led to believe that ghee is bad for you, thank goodness it is quite the opposite today. A luxury treat with a cuppa, perhaps the sweet shops that line the popular shopping roads across the UK have realised on that if the mithai is greasy or far too rich, it won’t sell. There is the exception of ladoo. These balls of sunshine are made with gram flour, semolina fried in ghee. This is then drenched in sugar syrup and then shaped into golf ball sized balls. And because we are passionate about food, everything is good in moderation. The skill in making mithai seems easy but the consistency has to be perfect. Sugar syrup that hasn’t thickened – and the test is the string test and not a sugar thermometer can result in the mithai not setting… and once it’s cooled it would be very difficult to fix it. The string test is basically when you take a rice grain amount of sugar syrup – without burning your finger and pinch slowly. If the sugar syrup has at least two strings, the syrup is ready and if it doesn’t then continue to simmer the syrup until it has thickened more.
So why are Indian sweets mandatory to have for a celebration? According to Hindus, all the ingredients in mithais; sugar, milk, and ghee are considered to be ‘sattvic’ which means pure and can be eaten by everyone, even spiritual leaders and vegetarians. As they are pure ingredients, mithai is also offered to the gods and distributed to the devotees in temples. Mithai is used to break fasts or eaten during a fast bearing in mind that the term mithai has no religious significance. This old tradition has been kept alive for centuries and mithai will always be served at times of celebrations. Many Indian restaurants will have fresh mithai daily and you may have noticed they pretty much are all pure vegetarian restaurants. Next time you walk along the famous Belgrave Road in Leicester you will notice that every mithai shop is pure vegetarian, so anyone who wishes to take a box to the temple may do so.
So with this deep tradition of considering mithai to be pure and an offering to the gods, this is why mithai is given to all the guests at weddings; a small gesture of appreciation of attending such a joyous event. Not many people will know the reason of handing out boxes of sweets to guests today at weddings, and many sweets can be in the form of cupcakes, chocolates and new innovative Indian sweet companies making their mark in the sweet gifting part of celebrations, with contemporary yet traditional mithai.
If you love sugar and sweets then you should read this book;
The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets
By Michael Krondl, Eric Rath, Laura Mason, Geraldine Quinzio, Ursula Heinzelmann