There’s some food for every mood! So wouldn’t it be utterly unacceptable if every season did not step in with its own distinctive food as well? And when it’s winters that come along with its rich bounty, the variety go gastronomy is only palpable. India is host to way too many people and traditions, innumerable species of veggies and foods and diversive tastes and preferences which finds expression in every season. So it is only natural that there are way too many foods that find particular expression in the country in its winters. Here’s some really exclusive, really authentic Indian winter foods that will make you fall in love with flavours one more time-
A rich Rajasthani dessert exclusive to the winters, feeni or phenni will look to you very much like the colored sewaiyan discs that greet you at ever corner of the market during the month of Ramzan. And indeed, they are quite close. Phenni is also a disc shaped dessert that is made by deep frying sewaiyyan or vermicelli in ghee before being soaked in sugary syrup.
However the feeni vermicelli is a wheat flour or rice flour based preparation that is made with expertise by confectioners in Jaipur and also in Gujarat. The desi ghee enhanced flavour and the saffron infused color is really a delight to behold during the bleary winter days. Feeni is mixed with hot milk and relished extensively as a super rich sweet treat catering to the quintessential Indian craving for sweetness!
Daulat ki Chaat
If you are in India during winters you should absolutely not be missing out on a delightful foamy dessert. Dominating the delectable wintry delights in Dilwalo ki Dilli is the famed Daulat ki Chaat- that is indeed a daulat (treasure) of exquisite richness. A melt in your mouth, heart warming, deeply satiating and immensely satisfying treat, the dig into a bowl of Daulat ki Chaat is pure ecstasy!
Raw milk is mixed with cream and left out in the open overnight when the misty dew of the winters work upon the concoction and leaves it in a rich texture. This mixture is then hand churned until it is so light and frothy that it looks like a mass of snowy white cloud! Blended again with sweetened khoya and served topped with more khoya, Daulat ki chaat is an experience you need to live to be enticed by it.
This really heavenly sweet dish is also made in some other parts of the country- as malaiyyo in Varanasi or nimish in Lucknow and I’m not quite sure if I really am doing justice to this sinful preparation by clubbing it together. There might be some difference as far as the authentic versions of each goes but they are more or less the same. Either way winters in India would not be half the enigma it is if not for these utterly divine bowls (that I believe are too small a serving in all their out of the world taste)!
Nutritionists might not vouch for you to go so out and about with the sugars especially in winters which is why our next star is a healthy seasonal dish. Beetroot thoran is a veggie preparation that makes abundant use of the pretty pink veggie that paints the winter food canvas with its bright splash. A traditional Keralian dish that has beetroot cooked with turmeric and chillies, the Thoran is as tasty as it is healthy. Because of its warming and healing properties, turmeric is a wonder spice specially in winters. And combining the right amounts of this zest orange spice with chunks of stir fried beetroot is just the perfect way to dive deep into winter goodness!
Nolen Gurer Sandesh
Bengalis are known for their artistic expertise in churning out unique mithais and the sondesh is one such sweet that is really decadent in taste. But come winters and the already irresistible sandesh takes on yet another cloak of delicious magic! Nolen gurer sandesh is a winter specialty that no one with a sweet tooth should dare miss!
This variation of the already very varied offerings of sandesh makes use of palm jaggery or nolen gur to deliver the sweet its distinct taste and flavour. Ask any mithai fanatic what they covet more than sandesh and there’s no way they won’t be blurting out nolen gurer sandesh with a delight that is easily decipherable. With winters almost here, we sure could not be waiting any more to grab some of these tastiest sweetmeats.
If ladoos sets you off every time you hear about them because you aren’t one of those blessed ones harbouring a sweet craze, then Ram ladoo is the thing for you. A popular winter food lining along the Delhi streets, these are moong dal ladoos that are savoury and are more chaat like than the Daulat ki chaat. These crispy fried dal fritters are best served with green chutney and muli slivers for that quintessential wintry feel. There’s nothing like gobbling up platefuls of these healthy yummies to ward off the Delhi chill on a misty, foggy evening!
Gur ka halwa
Come winters and it’s wise to ditch off your refined sugar and make the switch to jaggery. Because gur is known to produce calories it helps keep the body warm and is therefore a healthy and tasty alternative to sugar. No wonder then with the goodness of this ingredient and with the Indian fetish for all things sweet, gur ka halwa needs to be on the typical Indian winter menu.
Gur ka halwa is as basic as it sounds. The main ingredient here is jaggery that is liquefied with water and added to a roasted mix of besan and sooji cooking up a simple dish that is however immensely rich in flavour and texture. Mostly made in the state of Punjab, a steaming hot bowl of this slightly runny halwa instantly ups your body heat and your spirits to be the perfect winter remedy. There could even be variations like the atte ka halwa made with jaggery that is also as pleasing and appealing to the taste buds.
What makes the Gujarati dish Undhiyu a mostly winter preparation is the assortment of seasonal veggies it brings in its fold. Needless to say, it’s a healthy preparation that will sure offset your winter blues. You can make undhiyu to incorporate a variety of veggies but the basic requirement is fenugreek out of which dumplings are made and a curry is prepared out of it. Traditionally cooked upside down underground in earthen pots fired from above. This almost dry preparation is best savoured as an accompaniment with poori.
If you though Bengal can only have you in with its sweets, then you are naive enough to be denied of its other bites of deliciousness. And one such crispy, snacky winter native is the koraishutir kochuri. Just your usual kochuri but with a spiced peas stuffing, this is the Bengali ode to the prevalent ‘peas’ey presence of the winters. And a lip smacking one at that!
Badam ka halwa
There’s something very warmly enticing about nuts. Be it the crunch or the flavour, the coarse look or the texture, a handful of nuts not only lends you health but also lends your body some much needed warmth. And the moment you think you have munched on enough, try to a bowl of badam ka halwa for solace. Oozing oodles of Indian tradition and tonnes of healthy deliciousness, gobbling up a bowl of this halwa ensures that your tummy remains fit, fine and filled even in winters.
Another must have during the Indian winters is the Punjabi and Hyderabadi preparation Panjiri. A coarse mixture made with whole wheat flour fried with sugar and ghee and generously showered with dried fruits and edible gum, Panjiri is quite an addiction with its rich taste. These crumbly (and prospectively fattening) food is eaten in winters because it helps to keep you warm but you will find yourself feeding mouthfuls nonetheless. It’s that irresistible a dose of goodness!
Gur wali chai
It doesn’t really matter what time of the day or what season of the year it is- Indians love their tea anytime and in any way. Not surprisingly therefore, even winters bring along a special edition of this refreshing brew to suit the cold consciousness. Gur wali chai or jaggery tea is your usual chai, done up with some spices and jaggery instead of sugar. The result is a distinctly sweet refreshing drink that is the best way to start a wintry day in India.
There can’t be any way you wouldn’t be going gaga over khichdi- after all, it’s the national dish of the country! Come winters and you can get even a bit fussy with your ultimate comfort meal but no issues. Masala khichdi is here to the rescue. Spiced to suit your whims and veggied to honor the season, pour everything at your disposal into this one pot meal and let it cook and whistle away to your heart’s content and your tongue’s fancy.
Chikkis are an all time favorite for Indian to snack on because they are so crunchy and tasty and are also healthy and filling. Winter specifically is the season that lauds this humble mass of sticky goodness and til patti or til chikki is the perfect celebration of this delight. With the goodness of jaggery coated sesame seeds and a crunch that sounds so much like the perfect way to drive away winter blues, til pattis are your excuse to chomp, chomp and chomp every winter in India.
Methi nu pak
Methi nu pak remains the understated hero of the winters even when they have so much in them to ward off the cold. But the Gujaratis know how to value their methi right and so they got them moulded into this eye popping methi barfi. It’s a sure diversion from the array of Indian barfis that line up in Indian sweet shops but isn’t that exactly the beauty of this bitter winter sweet? Because India is a land of unity in diversity, you should indeed seek some unique bliss in this really daring edible venture.
Hanhor mangxo kumora
How can winters ever be complete with a meat curry to soak up all your chills and blues? Of course chicken is here to stay forever, but the northeastern region of India boasts of a diversive meat dish to lend you warmth and comfort. Come November and duck meat is the go to meat for every meat fanatic in Assam and the hanhor magxo kumura is a really lip smacking preparation of that. Fatty, healthy ducks are cooked with ash gourd that when paired with rice makes for an extremely rich and tasty meal. There’s nothing more satisfying than a steaming dish of aromatic rice done up with a bowl of the duck curry on a night when the chill is just a bit too much to bear.
Gajar ka Halwa
Ah here comes the star of the season! Winters bring a bounty of colorful veggies that are a delight for the senses. Bright red carrots is one such pretty and healthy veggie that makes every dish reside in its glorious essence. But just because it is a veggie you don’t need to reserve it only for the stews and the soups, the sabjis and the salads. Here comes the most recognisable treat of the winters- the Gajar ka Halwa.
Fresh grated carrots cooked in ghee and milk and sweetened with sugar- you wonder what’s there to rave about this simple sounding preparation. Everything we say. You need to have just one spoonful of this extremely decaden rich dessert to understand the bounty of emotions it can inspire. In fact for the typical Indian foodies, gajar ka halwa is so much of a delight that they make it even during the seasons when carrots should not be typically available. Of course, the taste isn’t as authentic as divine as what you get with the juiciest and sweetest wintry carrots. So if you haven’t tasted this sweet dish uptil now, rejoice! You are in luck because with the onset of the winters you can find every Indian household making this sumptuous treat on almost a regular basis.
A sweet preparation of broken wheat commonly called daliya, there’s something extremely satisfying about a steaming serving of lapsi. Sticky, sweet and sinful, lapsi carries the inherent goodness of daliya and the warmth of jaggery and is the perfect way to indulge without having to worry about upsetting your body.
Sarson ka Saag
Mustard green preparations- that’s what this exotic sounding dominant winter preparation is in essence. This very famous Punjabi delicacy sure is available all throughout the year and across the country but there’s a special satisfaction that a serving of sarson da saag brings about on a chilly winter night. It’s an evergreen dish that is of special importance in winters because it is healthy, spicy, warming, comforting, filling and all things interesting.
Makki di roti
Whip up a serving of this mustard green preparation with makki di roti- that is the only authentic way you can do this Indian food justice. This cornflour based flat bread is healthy and can be eaten anyway. But makke di roti- sarson ka saag is a classic Punjabi combo that is the stuff health and taste- and winters- are made of.
Gond Ke Ladoo
Among the many ladoos that deinfest the sweet Indian scene all times of the year, gond ke ladoo is a hatke addition that makes its advent during the winter months. It is what it says- ball shaped sweets made of gond and infused with ghee and sugar. A typically Rajasthani sweet cum health pill, you can’t be in India during the winters and not load up your body with more than some couple of boxes of these ladoos.
A drink that is healthy and helps keep you warm- that’s just the perfect winter antidote after a steaming cup of tea! And the refreshing warmth that a serving of traditional raab brings to you is one of the many reasons you should be waiting for winter with bated breath. Made basically in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, raab is a drink made from bajra or pearl millet flour spiced with dry ginger powder, ajwain and sweetened with jaggery. While it’s the bajra base that is particularly healthy, the addition of ghee also does well to add doses of warmth and taste to this uniquely rich preparation.
Moong dal halwa
It’s sad that a preparation as delicious and tempting as the moong dal halwa should be at the mrcy of the seasons to satiate our spirits. Of course you can make this dessert all year round but there’s a different aura about a wintry serving of this halwa. Cooked in generous amounts of ghee, the richness of the ghee complements very well the nuttiness of the roasted dal paste to put forth a blend of exotic aroma and mind blowing flavour on your winter palate.
Matar ka nimona
Because matar is the veggie that winters inevitably has us heaping on, it’s only worthy that we dish it up every way we can. And a special peas preparation that has the world go round and round is the nimona. In the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, matar ka nimona is a dish that explores the bounty of the matar in its full glory. A soupy peas curry made with potatoes and a few spices, it is best done up with ghee laced hot rice. Now that sounds like a hot slurpy delight to bring you ‘pease’ this winter!