Sweets, ghee-based: halwa, ladoo
What: Among India’s myriad sweets made with ghee, or clarified butter—and specifically those common in Delhi—there are halwas and a variety of ladoo (in addition to the ever-popular jalebi, of course). Within those categories there are many types; halwas, for instance, are generally either soft and flour-based (such as the pudding-like moong dal halwa) or crunchy/crumbly and nut-based. To simplify we’ll focus on a few local favorites: sohan halwa, a nutty Punjabi sweet (made of sprouted wheat flour, nuts, ghee, milk, sugar) that’s been satisfying Delhi sweet tooths for several centuries; Karachi halwa, a soft, chewy, nut-studded halwa tasting of honey, made from dry fruits and originally from Pakistan; and motichoor ladoo, a sugar-syrup-soaked ball of fried gram flour, ghee, milk, and cardamom powder, hailing from nearby Uttar Pradesh—one of the many sweet “balls” that are called ladoo.
Note: In an attempt to organize India’s vast mithai (sweets) scene—and we’re just covering the tip of the iceberg—we’re dividing a few into ghee-based versus khoya/milk sweets. For more typical sweets, see also: jalebi, gulab jamun, and rasmalai.
Where: The sohan halwa pictured above (48 rupees) is from Old Delhi’s Ghantewala (1862-A, Chandni Chowk, map), one of the city’s most famous—and oldest, established in 1790—sweets shops. This is its signature offering, and it lives up to the hype, with a crunchiness almost like thick peanut brittle and a sweet, nutty flavor—though it is quite oily, thanks to the ghee. Ours is the tiranga, or three-colored, with pistachios, cashews, and almonds on top.
When: Daily, 8am-9pm (approx.)
Also: For the softer, sweeter, more gelatinous Karachi halwa, Chaina Ram (6499, Fatehpuri Chowk, map), award-winning Sindhi confectioners selling a good variety of halwas and ladoos, is the place to go. Look for the storefront at the west end of Chandni Chowk, near Fatehpuri Masjid in Old Delhi. (One hunk costs 59 rupees.)
For motichoor and other ladoos (besan, panjiri), we like Anupama (2924-3311; HS-12, Kailash Colony Market, map), in South Delhi, where the friendly staff wears gloves to handle sweets.
Another popular spot in Old Delhi, especially for ladoos, is Tewari Brothers (multiple locations including 862, Chandni Chowk, map).