Boondi Laddoo /बुंदी चा लाडू/ బూంది లడ్డు
Photos by Amruta Nargundkar
It’s fascinating to watch those large platters of the golden globes of the boondi laddoos – in front of Lord Ganesh in calendar art; in the hands of random people dexterously rushing from here to there in a wedding scene in Hindi films; in pooja thalis of filmy mums returning from prayers at the temple or performing an arati on homecoming or war bound heroes (always wonder why they have to have so many laddoos, for they break off only a small piece to stuff in the blessed hero’s mouth and the rest gets forgotten when the shot is cut)…
Then there are laddoos lying flush and snug in a traditional red “tie-and-die” or bandhni print mithai box or a modern bejeweled casket during festive seasons; laddoos filling deep and huge yellow-red cellophane- wrapped baskets atop the shoulders of a train of turbaned gift bearers; laddoos in a pyramid pile at the mithai wala; bright yellow (almost fluorescent yellow) laddoos crammed inside general store candy jars; laddoos in a white or brown paper packet distributed in schools on Republic Day; laddoos that need replenishment just before the server reaches you at a sit down meal (not to mention that for some reason the servers recommence after replenishing starting from the person beside you)…
Motichoor, Tirupati prasad, shaadi key laddoo; laddoos in thanksgiving and those for celebration, hard ones and soft ones, big boondis and small boondis, laddoos orange, yellow, speckled with green and red, dotted with sugar crystals, seeds and nuts and dried fruit; flavoured with camphor, cardamom, cloves, saffron or occasionally chocolate and vanilla; pure ghee laddoos and oil fried ones – occasionally one made in a trans-fat medium (dalda!)…
The laddoo is as primordial an orb as the earth, and as celestial a body as the moon.
The word laddoo itself is so sweet – even Elmo from Sesame Street couldn’t stop saying ladduladduladduladduuuuu – don’t believe me? Do watch the episode titled Rakhi Road to see what I mean!
I made these laddoos for my darling daughter’s birthday today. As she wished.
And to think, there was a time, when as a gangly teenager, she suffered her (almost) greatest embarrassment at school on her birthday!
It so happened - the husband went to buy some sweets for his darling daughter’s special day, and on a whim, bought a few kilos of premium quality motichoors, thinking she would love to take them to school. What was he thinking!
I suppose I must have greatly added to her ignominy as well, when in my – everyone gives chocolates – you do something new - you shouldn’t be scared to be different - what’s so shameful about following your culture- why waste all these kilos of good mithai-poor people in India don’t get to eat even dry and stale bread – I coerced the fourteen year old to take the motichoors to distribute in class.
Now a lovely young lady who fortunately doesn’t mind being affectionately called “laddoo” and still adores laddoos, this child of ours has never forgiven us for this grave wrong.
But she does give us a bit of reprieve, when she tells us that she never let the huge box reach the class room – disposing of the uncool treats in several ingenious and not wasteful ways and places- one of them we are sure, being her own tummy!
As I have said enough above, the laddoo comes in various sizes, shapes, colours, textures and flavours. But our favourites are the Marathi laddoo and the Tirupati laddoo which is a little stiff and made with thicker syrup, as it is meant to last a while. It’s similar to the Tirupati prasad laddoo, in texture, but the latter has a distinct camphor flavour to it!
It has been my dream, shared by my enthusiastic girls, to make boondi laddoos at home. So much so that on my recent trip to India I even bought a boondi (jhara) ladle from Bharat Bhai (remember him?) And I also researched how to get the effect of the edible camphor and discovered that a mixture of ground cloves and black cardamom can achieve this flavour…
Here goes the boondi laddoo…
2 cups besan
1 cup and a little extra water
A pinch of soda bicarb
1 tbsp rice flour
1 tbsp oil
A few drops of yellow food colour
To deep fry
Oil +2-3 tbsp ghee (to cheat the flavour)
For the syrup
2 ½ cups sugar
1 ¼ cup water
For the garnish
2-3 tbsp chopped cashews
2 tbsp raisins (I didn’t use any- as one of my girls detests them)
2 tbsp misri or crystal sugar
½ tsp freshly ground green cardamom
1-2 ground cloves
Sift the besan and mix in the rice flour, colour and the oil. Add the water gradually making a smooth paste making sure there are no lumps. Keep covered for about 15-20 minutes.
In another pan, add the sugar and water and let it come to a boil, then turn the heat down and let the syrup simmer till it almost reaches a one thread consistency. Turn the heat off and add the cardamom and clove powder to the syrup. Keep it warm.
In a flat kadhai or wok, heat the oil and add the ghee, to give it flavour.
Now add a pinch of soda bicarb to the batter and mix well.
Test the batter by dropping a few drops into hot oil. If the drops fall into little balls with tails, the batter is too thick. If the balls are too light and full of holes and is oily, the batter is too watery. The perfect batter will fall into drops into the oil and form round boondis that are light and crisp. Adjust the consistency of the batter and then hold the boondi ladle (jhara) over the hot oil and pour some batter into it. Gently tap the sides of the ladle with a spoon, nudging the drops to fall into the oil.
Fry the boondis, batch by batch, until golden and remove them from the oil using a perforated spoon and drain in a bowl lined with kitchen paper. Once the excess oil is drained, add the boondi to the sugar syrup.
Fry the cashews in a little ghee and add to the boondi and syrup mixture. Add the misri or crystal sugar and raisins.
Let the boondi soak in the syrup for about an hour or so, until it cools down completely and seems very dry and fluffed. Grease your hands with a little ghee and roll the mixture into uniform sized balls or laddooooos!
Store in an airtight box, if any remain to see the light of the day.