A sweet surprise

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 11 October 2018

Agra Pethas, which are popular across the country, come in exotic flavours now. We visit a few places in Pune which offer this treat 

Celebrations are incomplete without sweets, especially during Indian festivals. With Navratri celebrations in full swing and Durga Puja festivities commencing soon, it’s time to indulge in some sweet delights.
 
While Kaju Barfi, Gajar Ka Halwa, Kheer and Rasgullas are the usual treats people like to savour during festivals, the rather underrated Petha can be a good choice if you want to surprise your guests with a sweet delight. Pethas, the translucent, soft sweet from North India, more precisely Agra, are quite popular. Tourists visiting the Taj Mahal and other monuments in Agra don’t leave the place without a pack of these succulent sweets. Believed to have originated in the royal kitchens of the Mughal emperors during the reign of Shah Jahan, Petha, today, is available in a number of varieties and flavours.
  
In Pune, Omkar Sweets, located on Khadki Road, is famous for its Petha. The owner Rajan Kumar Chaudhary, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, says that Pethas have become an identity for UP-ites, especially people of Agra. “Traditionally, Peth is made with ash gourd or white pumpkin, however, today, you can find flavours like kesar, kewda and even paan-flavoured Petha. First, we boil, peel and deseed white pumpkin or ash gourd and then boil it again in chashni (sugar syrup). To add flavour, either kewda or rose syrup is mixed. Apart from being delicious, it is also a dessert that gives you energy throughout the day as it has lots of sugar in it,” adds Chaudhary. 
 
The traditional humble sweet of Agra is now available across the country. Other than shops selling it, Petha is also prepared in households mostly during summer season. A lot of innovation and experimentation has led to flavours like Petha Gulab Laddoo, Kancha Cheena Petha, Kesar Angoori Petha, Kesar Petha, Dry Cherry Petha, Lal Petha, Coconut Petha, Paan Petha, Rasbhari Petha, Sandwich Petha, Santra Petha, Spinch Petha, Sugar Free Petha, Chocolate Petha, Cherry Mango Petha and so on. 

When asked about the difference between Kesar Petha and a regular Petha, Chaudhary says it is one of the most popular varieties. “Kesar Petha is dry just like the original white translucent Petha and prepared in a similar way. White pumkins are used to make it and later flavoured with saffron, kewda and cardamon that gives it a yellowish colour. Unlike the regular Petha that is rectangular in shape and bigger in size, Kesar Petha is cylindrical and smaller in size,” says Chaudhary adding that it is slightly more expensive than its white variant.
   
Of late, Paan Petha has gained popularity outside Agra. During a recent visit to a nearby restaurant, we got a chance to relish this exotic dessert which is a cross between a mouth freshener and a dessert. This piqued our interest and we wanted to know more about this interesting sweet. Green in colour and folded just like a paan, the Paan Petha is tempting. “This exotic sweet from Agra has a sweet and minty flavour that makes both sweet and paan lovers happy. Betel leaves are known to have medicinal properties like aiding digestion and cooling down our system. And Paan Petha looks good and tastes delicious. While some make it by adding betel essence to white gourd slices, others make thin Petha slices with khoya or other sweets,” says Rajiv Khanna, owner of Tummy Ticklers, a restaurant at Baner-Pashan Link Road.  

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