Decadent, delicious, sumptuous, sinful, toothsome, tasty and so on and so forth- there’s perhaps no adjective pleasing enough to the tongue that is not attributable to the delight of the culinary that sweets are. Waxing eloquent about them as desserts might endow a certain flavor of sophistication or choosing to concentrate exclusively on the sweet essence of chocolates and the creamy delight of cakes might arouse different exclamations of similar beckoning but there certainly is no bite of decadence heavenly enough to outrun the sugar rush that the very sight of any Indian mithaai conjures up a salivation of. Indeed, walk into any sweet shop in India that dots the length and breadth of the country in wide abundance and you cannot help but be fascinated by the wide array of morsels of sugary indulgence on display there. From plump looking roundels of immaculateness to beautifully rose tinged blobs resident in dripping dimensions, from diamond shaped pieces of preciousness indeed to spectacular, circular motions of droolworthy prominence, from bowlfuls of aromatic seasonal specialities sitting atop counters to milky offerings enticing you from behind the counters of brightly lit up beauties, and indeed as expansive a range of exclusive and exotic regional and statewise servings that you however need to take enough pains to scout out for that dig into heavenly bliss, Indian sweetmeats are an altogether different range of the gastronomic that everyone would be more than delighted to explore, with such variety manifesting from within this short, simple, collective emotion endearingly expressed as mithai that makes it hard not to surrender oneself entirely to this countryful of sweet tricklings with something in hand to be the sugary fix that every single soul deserves the luxury of treating themselves with.
And while any sort of food and foodstuff, sweets included stand out as an item of the epicurean in the resident taste of them, it also is the vision they present that makes them all the more enticing for onlookers to try out, yielding in to the appeal of the appearance. And nowhere more pronounced is this play of the aesthetics along the routes of the culinary in rather simplistic but standout eminence than what the gleefully decked up shelves of Indian halwai shops will greet you with. Not only is the range of Indian sweets diversive enough to allow for a thousand options to drench your taste buds in the immense occurring of their taste but they are also as strikingly dramatic in appearance, manifesting in such shapes and sizes and designs and patterns and forms and figures of impeccable beauty that will leave anyone gazing at that luxe display of delicious spoilt for choice. As spirals of blooming beauties or as colorful shapes of dainty flora, as perfectly rotund existences or as clear cut squares or triangles emerging from the confines of geometry, as grainy spoonfuls laden with richness or as bite sized pieces of immense goodness, the Indian sweet experience is one that is a perfect coming together of elements that appeals to each of the senses. Accentuating further this play of the impact that mithais are crafted to create on their own is always a certain addon spark of rich elegance and trademark prettiness, signifying perhaps the beaming spirit that entails essentially any serving of this platter of sinful sweetness.
Beaming from atop the mounds of neatly lined sweets that is the staple sight across shops selling these Indian versions of the dessert would be a certain shine that which is quite resplendent in the silvery sheen of them. And indeed to cite an analogy of no sum or substance but that which still satiates enough specific souls forever in search of sweetness in such delirium that only the pursuit of something as gratifying as food can generate, we perhaps can equate the prominent diamond being of one of India’s most famous sweet offering of the kaju barfi to equate this scrumptious serving of saccharine as akin to being some precious jewel of sort! Which is why it would be no wonder when we say that it indeed is the jewelled predominance of something as exquisite as the sterling shimmer of silver that shines upon many a such Indian sweets as if they were some treasured piece of jewelry indeed! And backing this rather absurd claim that we admit we are making in all our serious obsession with this saga of mithais is the very image of the kaju katli that we have evoked, that comes almost always dressed in scatterings of silver deriving therefore a certain essence fit of emerging from the rapturous riches of royalty even when it is one of the most humble and commonplace yet decade of Indian sweets that you can partake of in its deliciousness anywhere, anytime and anyway.
Beyond such amusing, illogical explorations of what it could be that make many Indian sweets shine through in the specific charm of them, it indeed is the preciousness of silver that adorns the faces of these already irresistible offerings of traditional as well as fusion leanings. Silver leaf or what is known locally and colloquially, and also more exquisitely as chandi ka warq, decorates sweets in immense measure in our country, mostly during festival times but also often otherwise and expands as well to other explorations along the food trail that need not necessarily stock up on the saccharine but still are irresistible servings of deliciousness in themselves. Barfis, in every variety and shape, almost always sport this thin lining of grace upon them as does motichoor laddoos and jalebis and gulab jamuns and some servings of halwas and sevviyans even as other extravagant offerings like shahi tukda or seasonal splurges of exoticness like daulat ki chaat deliver a different dimension of both taste and texture when allowing for this sheet of shine to span across their range. Beyond the mavericks of mithaais, chandi ka warq also finds expression upon that sumptuous mound of biryani or a fragrant platter of saffroned rice while also decking up the already distinctive dimension that the quintessential indulgent necessity of a packing of the punch of paan entails. And while this unconventional indeed mode of assertion that the metal of silver has had upon the arena of food in the Indian subcontinent, though not all exclusively, concerns with the aesthetic appeal of them, it isn’t only the chasing of the visuals that this rather unexpected flair flaunted along the alleys of the culinary tends to adhere to.
The use of silver leaf or chaandi ka warq upon foods might indeed be very decorative but the stemming of them in this essence can be linked to certain positive impacts it can have upon human health. Hailing from the practices of Ayurveda is this undoubtedly striking metallic seating of sweets and stuff, that finds mention in several Sanskrit scriptures and medical Ayurvedic documents not just in the silvery sheen but also in the golden gleam of these metals of preciousness. Not just silver therefore, but also edible gold sometimes decks up even further the premises of food in the form of sone ka warq, gold being valued for its role as an aphrodisiac while silver is believed to possess such antimicrobial properties that is beneficial for humans. Silver leaf is more common though since it helps also prevent the growth of bacteria in food and enhances therefore the shelf life of such foods that do not make use of any preservatives for that purpose. Prominently coming into use as a medium of garnishing during the times of the Mughals and the Awadhs known for their royal taste in food, the use of silver and gold leaves across the many offerings of what concerns cuisines and platters has continued mainly to enhance the appeal and allure and therefore marketability of them while delivering also the associated health benefits, though without much ado. And while silver and gold themselves do not lend any flavour to the sweets they grace, the immense assertion that these additions have on the overall grandeur of what is presented on the plate means that these are one of the rare and therefore remarkable elements that have managed to hold their own in the explorations of food without significantly affecting the experience of their taste.
Despite however the rather ‘traditional’ use of them, the use of chaandi ka warq has been cause for contention with issues that range from the safety of them to even inciting conflict of religion. Often adulterated through substitution with less expensive and somewhat harmful aluminium foil and rendered unusable in certain aspects of its manufacturing that traditionally makes use of animal intestine to yield these fine sheets of delicateness, the glittering premises of this spread worthy of royalty extends to more than what just meets the eye. But prevailing in utmost essence of the undeniable irresistibleness is this trace of the metallic in sweets, Indian mithai that is to say, that presents indeed a sumptuous feast of soul satisfying indulgence, catering both to the tastes of the tongue and the desire for beauty of the eyes.