Monday, February 11, 2008

From Karnataka with Love: Mysore Pak

Karnataka is home to many amazing Indian phenomena: Bangalore's hi tech revolution, ancient buildings, the Mysore maharajas - perhaps most notably, Mysore Pak. This amazing Carnatic dessert is delectable - sweet, buttery and rich. Like an Indian shortbread, but better. Just don't pay too much attention to what goes inside. . .

That said, the best Mysore Pak in the country, I will venture, is not in Karnataka. It's made in a sweet shop in Chennai called Sri Krishna Sweets. It's utterly amazing, worth the trip out of state for a taste. And if you're only in Chennai for a short while, as I was - don't worry. Sri Krishna now has a stall in the domestic airport where you can buy a quarter kilo of this great stuff for just 50 INR (about $1.50).

Because the recipe is fairly simple, the quality of ingredients that you use is critical. Mysore pak's main element is besan flour - a fine chick pea flour that you're likely to find only in an Indian grocery store. Also, do not cut back on the amount of ghee used in here. No substituting with apple sauce or margerine or Crisco - just pure, unadulterated clarified butter. As much as your arteries may cringe when you're making this dish, just keep in mind that serving sizes are meant to be tiny - bite size. So enjoy it in moderation!

Here's a recipe that I've borrowed and modified from Mahanandi:
1 cup Bengal Gram (sift and aerate to remove lumps)
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 cup Ghee (at room temperature)
1/2 cup Water
2 pods cardamom (crushed)

1. In a big sturdy pot, take one cup of water, add sugar and bring them to boil till the sugar syrup reaches one string consistency. Reduce the heat.
2. Now pour the ghee and besan flour in a steady stream into the sugar syrup while stirring. Stir constantly!
Cook till the mixture becomes slightly frothy, thickens and the ghee begins to leave the sides of the pan.
4. Add in the cardamom powder.
5. Spread out on a greased pan immediately. Even and level out with a spatula. When firm, but still warm, cut the mysore pak into squares or diamond shapes.

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