Halbai: A Ghee-Laden, Luscious Sweet From Udupi
Image Credit: Halbai

Can one imagine making a mithai in no time and with basic ingredients like raw rice, coconut, and jaggery? And if yes, can it be as perfectly cooked, neatly shaped, rich-tasting and soft-textured as Halbai? Doubtful. But with Kannada special, Halbai it’s achievable. The sweet is made with unimaginable ease in just three steps and with three ingredients. Making rice and coconut batter, preparing jaggery syrup and cooking both together in a pan with a generous dosage of ghee to ensure that Halbai batter does not stick. This ghee-laden and lustrous dough transforms into a mouth-melting ready-to-eat sweet after setting for just half an hour. However, sauteing the dough as it tightens and comes together into a lump requires some effort. 

Halbai is an authentic and one of the most popular delicacies made with rice and jaggery from Udupi or South Canara. It’s generally made for special occasions and festivities. The most amazing part of this sweet dish is the use of just three ingredients - rice, jaggery, and coconut - to make a uniquely delicious sweet.  It is considered rice halwa or rice cake of Karnataka. The rice used for making these is Sona Mansoori and not Basmati. It is also made like a savoury snack by replacing jaggery with mild spices, buttermilk and chillies. 

Halbai

Some other traditional rice-based sweets of Karnataka include Halasina Mulka, a deep-fried sweet of jack fruit, jaggery, and rice batter; Pattoli, a steam-cooked sweet made using rice batter, jaggery, and coconut filling; and Sihi Paddu, which is made with rice flour, jaggery, and bananas. The sweet and soft Halbai are certainly different from the usual sweets in their composition and making. However, the finally made Halbai may give one an impression of the cook being a true Halwai or confectionery maker. 

Here’s the recipe for Halbai. 

Preparation time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Servings: 10-12 pieces of Halbai

Ingredients:

    1 cup raw rice 

    3 cups of water 

    1 cup of fresh coconut 

    ¼ tsp salt 

    ½ tsp cardamom powder

    ½ cup ghee

Method:

    Rinse the raw rice thoroughly and soak it for 2 hours.

    After 2 hours transfer the rice to a blending jar and add grated coconut too.

    Add little water to this and blend into a fine paste.

    Take it out and keep it aside.

    Prepare jaggery syrup and strain the impurities when it's done.

    In another pan, apply some ghee and pour the filtered jaggery syrup into the pan.

    Then add the rice and coconut batter to it.

    Add salt and cook on medium flame.

    Keep stirring this mixture until it begins to thicken.

    After 5 minutes it will start circulating and coming together like a dough.

    Add 2 tbsp of ghee at this point and keep stirring.

    Then again add 2 tbsp of ghee and stir the dough.

    Keep adding ghee little by little and stirring the dough until it becomes non-sticky and smooth. Switch off the flame.

    Grease a tray lined with parchment paper or a plate with ghee.

    Transfer the Halbai dough into it and spread the dough uniformly to fit in the entire tray. Let it rest for 20 minutes.

    As it sets and hardens a bit, cut it into equal-sized rectangular pieces.