Bharat International Spice and Sweet Centre

Indian candy……….the very thought has left me glassy eyed for the last few days. Why? Well, here’s the thing: each night Top Gear was on this past week, everyone else gathered round the box and ogled and giggled as though it was some kind of quality entertainment.
So I would snuggle up by myself on the bed with the portable DVD player and watch an episode of Feast India with chef Barry Vera. It is a DVD series I bought second hand to give my sister for Christmas several years ago, but after previewing it, I found I couldn’t part with it! Sorry Robyn! The videographer captures India’s colorful and vibrant cities and villages; and the food….well you can nearly smell it. And so it is I have been daydreaming about Indian sweets for days…
When I Googled to find out where to get them here in Canberra, one place kept popping up: Bharat International Spice and Sweet Centre (1/17-23 Oatley courtBelconnen ACT (02) 6251 0455), though from now on in this post we will call it Bharat.

Bharat is tucked away in the industrial area of Belconnen, and it does not just sell sweets. After I arrived and confirmed with the owner Ravi, that Indian sweets were sold in the establishment, I relaxed and strolled around the aisles a while.
Oh my! Never have I been in a grocery store and known less about what to do with all the exotic ingredients on offer. I was inspired by my hopelessness. Maybe I should do a Indian cookery course……
Look at all the different types of rice you can buy!

Yes, Indian sweets stocked up! Woot!

Check out these Supersize Me sacks of rice!

More rice…..

Coconut oil…brings back lots of memories of Kenya.

Assorted Indian snacks: 6 for $10

Supersize Me bags of cashew nuts.

They don’t just sell food.

There is an extensive range of well priced savoury and hot food as well. You gotta love the lunch hours, huh! One of the customers told me he comes all the time and is hooked.

You can dine in.

Ok, enough browsing…. time to choose the sweets ! Hurray… so many of them were already familiar to me and took me straight back to a city stall in Mombasa. It was a tough choice but here is what I came up with.

I am not going to go into depth and try to pull out what every single ingredient is in each sweet…I think the mystery is half the exotic charm and enticement of Indian sweets…suffice to know that they are sweet, succulent and scented gently with spices.
Here is the rundown of what I chose, and I did not even sample half of the sweets they had.
Kalakand is a sweet made with paneer, khoya (solidified, sweetened milk) and cardamom, and it has an addictively moist crumbly fudge texture
Bangali Rasagoli is balls of chenna (freshly curdled milk)and semolina dough, cooked in sugar syrup. I didn’t like it at all, but once I knew what it was made of, my taste buds re-computed and now it is one of my faves.
Khoya Cutlets- Khoya is a reduced fresh milk used in making desserts and curries, and this was a delicious sweet, bit like a dense buttery cake soaked with sweet syrup.
Ladoo Besan- crunchy nutty fudge balls- I could have sworn there was semolina in there, but maybe it is some type of powdered nut.

Milk Cake is the candy most people probably think of when they hear ‘Indian candy’. It’s fudge-like consistency tastes creamy and is delicately perfumed with cardomon
This is Rusgula, which seemed to be nearly the same thing as the Bangali Rasagoli (a few pics above), but that is confusing as they are very different in taste. This Rusgula was not as cheesy, and maybe it was deepfried before being soaked in syrup.

My favourite!!! Gulab Jamun: deep-fried sweet milky balls of dough, soaked in sweet syrup.
Eating a crumb of this one ( Sugar is not my friend, so I ration myself big bits of sugary substances that I call ‘crumbs’) was time travel. 🙂 Each bite is delicately chewy and all the syrup soaks right into your waiting tastebuds. Oh my!

Ravi, who runs Bharat is friendly and helpful, and happy to have a chat. I have been looking for misri (though I didn’t know the name of it) for years, though no one really understood my description. Ravi, however, knew exactly what I meant, and the kids have eaten nearly all of it! ‘Misri’ comes from a Chinese word meaning “sweet-pebble-glassy’ and it sure is! It is a sugar candy, that looks like small pieces of glass. Mmmm! Ravi sometimes stocks a Fanta bottle that is just like the ones I grew up with in Kenya

Next time I get out my massive Indian cookbook and come up with an overly optimistic menu, I will go to Bharat and have Ravi help me find my way through the spices. Definitely going back for more!


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