This is the thirty-third installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved going to sweet shops when visiting my family in India. A wide grin across my face, I would stare in awe at the rows and rows of sweets in the store, most of which were not available in the United States. The sugary smell that filled the store made me giddy. I was instantly drawn to the sweets’ bright colors and different shapes. I distinctly remember going to the sweet shop at 7 years old, seeing boondi laddus in the display case, being taken aback by their sweet aroma and shiny appearance, and begging my parents to buy me one. I loved that the boondi laddus were made up of tiny droplets, almost like puzzle pieces. I was mesmerized by the fact that the boondi, something I had only ever eaten in savory foods, could be used to make something, laddus, so sweet and delicious.
Boondis are small droplets of fried besan flour batter that are used to make many different Indian snacks, both sweet and savory. Some people season the boondi with a small amount of salt and chile powder and eat it with diced yellow onions and finely chopped green chiles. Others go one step further and add this delicious combination to raita, a traditional Indian yogurt dipping sauce. My favorite way to prepare boondi is to make boondi laddus.
Laddus are heavenly Indian sweets that are made from sugar, oil or fat (ghee), and a base, which can be anything from besan flour to rava to boondi. Laddus come in all sizes and colors and are the staple of many different Indian festivals and holidays, including Diwali. While there are many types of laddus, I like boondi laddus the best because they deliciously pair the crispiness of the boondi pairs with sugar-water syrup.
- 1 ⅔ cups besan (chickpea) flour
- 2 ⅓ cups water
- 4-5 cups vegetable oil or melted ghee
- Handful of golden raisins
- ½ tbsp. ghee (clarified butter)
- ½ tsp. cardamom powder
- 1 ⅔ cups sugar
- Optional: food coloring
- Optional: a handful of nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios)
- 2 large pots
- 1 small pan
- 1 medium-sized mixing bowl
- 1 spatula
- 1 stainless steel skimmer
To make the boondi, add 1 cup of water to the besan flour in a mixing bowl and use the spatula to stir. This should form a batter with a similar consistency to that of pancake batter. If the batter is too thick, add a little more water; if the batter is too thin, add a little more besan flour. Some people choose to add food coloring to the batter so that the final product is bright and colorful. Let the batter sit for at least 20 minutes at room temperature.
Pour the vegetable oil in the large pot and heat; this should take at least 10 minutes. To add more flavor, some people prefer to use ghee for this step instead. After heating the oil for several minutes, drop a small amount of the boondi batter into the oil. When the batter rises to the top, the oil is hot enough to use. Once the oil reaches the appropriate temperature, pour the batter into the oil through the skimmer. Doing this should cause small droplets of batter to form as they fall into the pot. Fry these droplets for approximately 30 seconds or until golden. Use the skimmer to remove the boondi from the oil. Let the boondi cool while proceeding to the next step. You can either dispose of the oil or use it to deep fry other foods.
Finely chop the assortment of nuts. For this recipe, I prefer almonds and cashews. People also like to include pistachios, but you do not need to include any nuts to make the boondi laddus. In a small pan, heat the ghee until it melts completely. When the ghee is hot, add the finely chopped nuts and the golden raisins and roast for a few minutes. The nuts should be lightly browned and the raisins should become “plump” because they absorb some of the melted ghee. Set the roasted nuts and raisins aside for now. It is very easy to burn the nuts, so make sure you are paying attention!
On a stove, in a different large pot, add the sugar to 1 ⅓ cups of water on medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves, add the cardamom powder and bring the mixture to a boil until the sugar-water mixture forms a sticky syrup of sorts. Use the spatula to periodically mix the sugar-water syrup as it boils. The sugar-water syrup must be the correct consistency or else you will not be able to properly shape the laddus. If the sugar-water mixture is too thin, the boondi will not be able to absorb all of the syrup; if the sugar-water mixture is too thick, there will be too little syrup to coat the boondi. One way to determine if the sugar-water mixture is the correct consistency is to observe how the mixture falls off the spatula. When lifting the spatula above the sugar-water mixture, if the mixture on the spatula falls off in a continuous stream, the mixture is too thin and still needs to be reduced. Conversely, you can tell that the sugar-water mixture is the correct consistency if it forms small droplets as it falls off the spatula.
Next, add the boondi to the pot and stir with a spatula until every droplet is coated in the syrup. Add the roasted nuts and golden raisins from before and stir. Make sure the nuts and raisins are evenly dispersed throughout the boondi mixture. After 1 minute has passed, remove the boondi mixture from heat.
To form the laddus, take a small handful of the mixture and mold it into a ball. The best way to do this is by placing a small handful of boondi mixture in one hand and placing your other hand directly on top of the handful of boondi mixture you are already holding. Continuously press the boondi mixture in your hands until a firm ball forms. If you do not press the boondi mixture hard enough or long enough, the shape of the laddu will not be spherical. It may also be helpful to put a little bit of oil on your hands before working with the boondi mixture. It is important to do this step as quickly as possible so that the sugar-water syrup does not dry up before you form the balls. Be careful while doing this step, as the mixture is still a little bit hot. Let the boondi laddus harden for a minimum of 4 hours. These sweets do not need to be eaten right away and can last for up to 1 month if they are stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from CookingShooking’s “Boondi Ladoo Recipe | Easy Perfect Boondi Laddu – Indian Sweets, Everything Explained,Halwai Secrets”