With Diwali approaching, the aroma and fragrance of mouth-watering mithais are in the air.
Despite advice from doctors to be vigilant while gulping down rasgullas, burfis, laddoos, kalakand and other yummy items, the mithai-loving Delhiites are thronging the 1936-built Bengali Market.
The market’s car parking is choked by all those coming to buy their packets of sweets from the couple of mithai shops that have made Bengali Market one of the favourite places for Diwali buying.
The scene is no different in Bhagat Singh Market (Gole Market), which is not very far from the Bengali Market. Arguably, both the markets have some of the most prominent mithai shops in the Capital with proven track record for decades.
Late Lala Bheem Sen, the owner Bengali Sweet House in Bengali Market, used to say that buying mithai from either his Bengali Sweet House or Nathu’s Sweets has become a habit for Delhiites.
“We have ensured that the taste and quality of our products remain the best. Naturally, our customers have never deserted us,” he used to claim proudly.
Prominent realty expert Devinder Gupta says that he has been buying Diwali mithai from Bengali Market since late 1980s when he came to Delhi from Punjab.
“My daughter is getting married after Diwali. I am buying the customary Sagai Mithai from there. Their pink coconut burfi, parwal ki burfi and besan ke laddoo are out of the world,” says Gupta.
Nathu’s Sweets has also been a big name in the world of mithai in Delhi since decades. Though the owners have branches even in Sunder Nagar and Vikas Marg, their Bengali Market shop is the most well-known.
You can order everything from khoya pista burfi and milk-cake to sohan halwa and motichoor laddoo.
However, there are people who say that the quality of their sweets is declining.
There are also loyal customers of Annapurna Sweets, Chaina Ram Sindhi Confectioners, Hira Sweets, Kaleva, Kanwarji’s, among others. Kanwarji’s, Chaina Ram Sindhi Confectioners and Annapurna are all located in Chandni Chowk area. All these shops are over 100 years old and Delhiites don’t mind buying costly mithai.
Annapurna Sweets was established by Mohinimohan Mukherjee in 1929. Mukherjee was a railway employee based in Lahore. He wanted to create something meaningful. Hence, he quit his boring job and moved to Delhi and opened his mithai shop in Delhi in 1929. If you have not tasted the chamcham or rasgullas of Annapurna, you have missed something.
“The mithai of Annapurna is class apart. They also put up a stall at the Kashmiri Gate Durga Puja Pandal every year. Surely, high quality distinguishes them,” says Ashish Verma, a social worker in Delhi-6.
Surprisingly, when they opened an outlet in Green Park a couple of years ago, it did not click.
While Kanwarji’s is just a small shop right in front of Gali Paranthe Wali in Chandni Chowk, it has made a name for itself.
Their packet of mixed mithai, consisting of raj bhog, burfi, gulab jamun, baalu shahi and petha, is in huge demand.
Established in 1901 in Karachi, Chaina Ram Sindhi Confectioners at Fatehpuri is a top player in the mithai and namkeen category in the Capital. Former Delhi and Bihar cricketer Hari Gidwani is one of the owners of this shop.
Though not a very known player, Shiv Mishthan Bhandar in Chandni Chowk has carved a niche for juicy imartis, rabri and yummy gaajar (carrot) and moong dal (green gram) halwa.
The other mithai hotspot
Generations of Delhiites have loved to buy mithai from Bangla Sweet House of Bhagat Singh Market.
Close to Gole Market, the Bangla Sweet House was established by Lala Atama Ram in 1940.
Those were the early days for New Delhi as it was inaugurated only in 1931.
The whole area in Gole Market, Baird Road and Reading Road (now Mandir Marg) was more or less occupied by Government of India officials back in those days.
Their Moong Dal Burfi, Kesar Petha and Boondi Ke Laddoo are worth trying.
“I buy around 300 packets of mithai for my clients in Dubai during Diwali from Bangla Sweet House, Bengali Sweet House and Ever Green Sweets of Green Park. They all love it,” says Rajan Dhawan, a well-known tax consultant.
When it comes to pinni, patisa, coconut burfi and milk-cake, Bangla Sweet House is matchless. Even Atal Behari Vajpayee was fond of mithai from here. Those who used to visit him in his various houses from the one at Raisina Road to PM House, were offered mithai from either Bangla Sweet House or the now defunct Ghaantewale.
Kaleva, a neighbour of Bangla Sweet House, is also a very formidable name. Like other mithai shops in the Capital, they have currently closed their restaurant to serve and sell only mithai.
You will find everything, from tempting khoya burfi to juicy gulab jamun among other delicious mithais here.
“Apart from serving our individual customers, we get order of over 5,000 packets of mithai from various offices. They distribute these packets to their staff and clients,” informs a staffer of Kaleva.
Actually, this is true for all the key mithai shops in the Capital. They get huge orders from various offices during Diwali.
CP’s mithai shops
Connaught Place is a foodie’s delight. It offers good food for all. Heera, Malik, Tiwari and Haldiram sweet shops are all there. Alas, the famous Odeon Sweets is no more.
Though their outlet in CP opened only in 2012, Hira Sweets was established over 125 years ago in Shahdara. They are known for serving everything from mouth-watering balushahi to pista burfi. Late Ram Babu Sharma, a top Congress leader of Delhi, was the owner of Heera Sweets.
Haldiram’s is a rage in Delhi for its mouth-watering and thoroughly hygienic, street delicious Rajasthani mithai. The owners claim that they prepare their delicious sweets in pure desi ghee.
“I think their rasmalai and rajbhog are very good. I buy packets of these mithai for my house and staff every year,” says Sanjay Wadhawan, an East Delhi-based businessman. Well, their kesar jalebi is also a favourite among Delhiites. They have shops across Delhi and NCR.
For all who are based in south Delhi, the Evergreen Sweet House in Green Park main market has been a favourite haunt for decades. Established in 1963, when even the Ring Road was not there, it is well known for delicious kalakand, kaala gulab jamun, and rasmalai.
“Their sweets are always fresh and prepared in desi ghee. Nobody can match their boondi ke laddoo. They are mouth-watering,” says Deepak Joshi, an IT professional based in Gurugram.
Notwithstanding the fact now many mithai shops with very high-quality sweets have opened across Delhi, the pre-eminent position of Karol Bagh’s Standard Burfee, which opened in 1956, is very much intact.
It specialises in burfis of all kinds. Its milk-cake, kaju burfi, and dhoda burfi always remain in great demand.
And in the crowd of so many established names, Gulab is creating a niche for itself. It serves wide range of very high-quality sweets.
“I think the rajbhog, malpua and rasgulla there are out of the world. It is certainly the most well-known mithai shop in north Delhi. I think both Gulab and Manohar Sweets of Kamla Nagar can match the class of any mithai shop of Delhi. People also throng Gulab Sweets, based at Pitampura, for kulfi. Of course, they only make and sell mithai during Diwali,” Joshi says.