Malpua: Tracing The Origins Of East India's Favourite Dessert
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Indians have a great affinity for desserts. "Ek aur!" is usually spoken after each mithai is served, which means, "One more!" It's easy to gripe about the excessive amounts of fat and calories or the way the sugar syrup feels like a thin layer of glue between your fingers, but there's no denying the comforting feeling that comes after that first mouthful.

Every dessert vies to become India's favourite dessert, with its own flavour, presentation, and preparation. There are many who would swear by wholesome gulab jamun, others who would contend that rossogulla is the best there is, and yet others who wonder what could possibly top a hot, fresh jalebi.

There is just one obvious winner for the title of the oldest and most well-known dessert in the nation, though it may still be a drawn-out contest: the Malpua. Whoever believed that a dessert had to have layers upon layers of intricate ingredients and cooking techniques in order to be truly tasty had never experienced the humble malpua.

You'll be forced to take more cheat days after trying this easy pancake drenched in sugar syrup, which also gives you a flavour of India. But keep in mind the long-standing significance of malpuas the next time you munch on one.

What Is Malpua?

Malpua is a pancake-based, classic Indian sweet dish. But they're not like your typical pancakes at all. These pancakes, scented with cardamom and fennel, are fluffy and crunchy on the edges. They are covered in sugar syrup, garnished with almonds, and occasionally served with rabri, or thickened, sweetened milk.

You can find a wide variety of malpuas in different regions of India. Certain recipes call for adding fruits to the batter, such as shredded coconut, mango pulp, or mashed bananas.

The History Of Malpua

About 5000 years ago, Malpuas was first mentioned in the oldest Veda, the "Rigveda." During the Vedic era, this food was called "Apupa." It was made with barley flour and formed into flat cakes that were cooked in ghee and served with a honey dip. Although the ingredients of the apupa have changed over time, the method of preparation has not changed.

Writings from the second century CE describe the components of apupa as wheat flour, milk, clarified butter, sugar, and various spices, including ginger, pepper, and cardamom. A jaggery-filled little cake called a purliika was created from rice or wheat and cooked in ghee. During that period, apupas filled with different fillings were also quite popular.

Over time, cultural influences transformed Apupa into Malpua. Islamic cuisine has come to love malpua with eggs and mawa (khoya). Malpuas made with refined flour as a foundation are now offered as a dessert or snack. In Bihar, the batter is typically mixed with sugar before being fried in ghee or refined oil.

The lengthy history of malpuas leads us to Odisha, where information on the dish can be found in the Jagannath temple records. It appears to have been developed during the reign of King Gajapati Prataparudra Deva, who was influenced by the saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus, it is said to have been an element of the temple's chappan bhog, known as amalu, since the early 16th century.

Three different kinds of amalu are served to the gods at the temple's evening rites, known as sandhya dhoopa. Additionally, it is present during holidays like Snana Purnima, Pausa Purnima, Makar Sankranti, and Nabanna. During Navratri, it is also served to the goddess Bimala, the wife of Lord Jagannath.

The 6 Variations Of Malpua

Indian Malpua

There is a wide variety of malpuas in India. You'll be spoiled for choice with atta and banana malpua from Odisha, ranga aloor malpua in Bengal, the egg malpua made by the Bohri community during Ramadan, and the rabdi malpua in Rajasthan.

Banana and Atta Malpua:

This is a renowned dish originating from Odisha and holds significance as an offering to Lord Jagannath during Sakala Dhupa in Puri. This delicacy is also a traditional preparation in Odia households during Raja Sankranti.

It is made by blending maida, or atta, with milk, bananas, cardamom, aniseed and black pepper. After creating a well-mixed batter, it is shaped into thin discs and fried in ghee until golden brown, which are then immersed in sugar syrup, allowing them to soak. 

Bengali Ranga Aloor Malpua:

The Bengali Ranga Aloor Malpua introduces a variation by incorporating sweet potato, semolina, and flour and enhancing its flavours with fennel seeds and cardamoms in the batter, which is deep-fried until golden brown and crispy and soaked in a sugar syrup infused with cardamom and saffron. The accompanying rabdi is made by combining crumbled khoya with warm milk. This malpua can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Mawa Malpua From Rajasthan:

Mawa Malpua is a traditional Indian dessert renowned in Rajasthan. These sweet pancakes are dunked in sugar syrup and served with rabdi, or thickened milk. The batter, a crucial element, consists of Khoya, curd, milk, all-purpose flour, baking powder, cardamom powder, and pepper powder. The sugar syrup, with a one-string consistency, is infused with cardamom powder and saffron. Frying in ghee adds a distinctive flavour, achieving a perfect balance of crispy edges and a soft, fluffy centre.

Pakistani Egg Malpua:

Malpua, as it is known in Pakistan, is comparable to the Bohri community in India. Egg and mawa are combined to make malpua, a delicacy that is popular during Ramadan and Eid and it has a rich and thick texture.

Marpa In Nepal

The Nepalese Marpa reflects the region's flavours. Made with bananas and fennel seeds, traces of peppercorn temper the flavour of milk and sweetness. Marpa is somewhat similar to the Odisha version of malpua.

Malpua In Bangladesh

Bengalis adore their malpuas, served with fresh fruit. During festive occasions, friends and family are offered a delicious malpua made with mashed bananas and wheat.