Marzipan is an integral part of the East Indian Christmas spread
Marzipan is an integral part of the East Indian Christmas spreadWikimedia Commons/Aurelien Guichard

5 Must-Try X-Mas Treats From Mumbai's East Indian Community

If you are in Mumbai this yuletide season, grab a box full of sweet treats of the East Indian variety

Come Christmas and Mumbai is adorned in red, green, and gold. The city's East Indian community is in full swing in their kitchens and bakeries, churning out delicacies from secret recipes handed down the generations. The descendants of the original inhabitants of the city that never sleeps, the East Indians, welcome the yuletide season with great fervour. While some of the Christmas delicacies the East Indians make are shared with Goans, Mangloreans and Syrian Christians, others are typical to this community. So, this Christmas, take a bite of their unique sweet dishes ranging from kulkulnankhatai, and date rolls to milk-cream, and marzipan.


Involving kids in kulkul-making is a great way to bond in this season of merriment
Involving kids in kulkul-making is a great way to bond in this season of merriment@swara's_sweet-delights

Made from flour, eggs, sugar, butter, or ghee, these crispy, deep-fried delicacies are always an instant hit and disappear almost as fast as they are fried. The ridges on these tiny rolls are achieved with either a fork or a fresh comb. Making kulkuls is a time-consuming task. It is usually a group effort of a couple of ladies in the community or a great time for family bonding by involving kids in kulkul-making. 


Nankhatais are the easiest to make among Christmas treats
Nankhatais are the easiest to make among Christmas treats@celebrationinmykitchen

Easy to make and quick to be devoured, nankhatais are crumbly, white, shortbread cookie-like tasty bites which will transport you to baked-goods heaven. Flour, corn/rice/tapioca flour or potato starch, castor sugar, fat in the form of either butter or ghee, and vanilla flavouring, are the ingredients needed to create these goodies. Remember to pre-heat your oven, and bake at 160 degrees Celsius for 11 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake them to see them turn brown -- those are bad cookies. There are several variations to the nankhatai recipe given above. Maida, wheat, ragi, besan, and suji (semolina) can be combined in different proportions to give each nankhatai a unique taste. If you store nankhatai in a air tight steel or glass jar, they keep good for 2 to 3 weeks at room temperature.   

Date Rolls     

Date rolls are a must-serve on the Xmas platter
Date rolls are a must-serve on the Xmas platter@celebrationinmykitchen

Date rolls are soft, chewy, and potent, with all the gooey goodness of warm dates stuffed with almonds, cashews, pistachio, walnuts, macadamia, or hazelnuts. The stuffed dates are rolled into the soft dough made of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter and baked for 25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius until golden. Date rolls are a Christmas classic and a must-serve on the Xmas platter offered to guests.   


Milk Cream is a cashew nut and milk fudge
Milk Cream is a cashew nut and milk fudgeClint & Manuela D'Souza

Soft, white, sweet, and shell-shaped milk creams are simply mouthfuls of Christmas. Crafted from the meticulous reduction of full-fat milk, to one-third of its original quantity, over a low flame, milk-cream is flavoured with powdered cashew nuts, sugar, and butter. The mixture is stirred till it begins to leave the sides of the pan, and post-cooling, it is ready for the moulds, shell-shaped or a flat-bottomed.  Some food colour can also be added to the dough to make colourful milk-cream treats.


With a refrigerated shelf-life of over three months, marzipan helps restore the yuletide spirit for a long time. Traditionally, marzipan is made of almonds. However, the cashew nut has replaced it with great ease in India. Cashews are soaked for an hour and blended into a smooth paste. The white of an egg, castor sugar, and water are combined over a low flame till the mixture is smooth. To this is added the cashew paste, and mixed well. In the end, goes in the vanilla or rose essence. Allow the mixture to cool on a plate, and thicken on its own, then knead it. Portion this dough, add colours of your choice, and voila! you have marzipan ready to add to moulds. Remember, if you are powdering dry cashews, grind them finely in short bursts, or they will release the oil, which you do not want. 

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