Subha and Arshya always found it monotonous to adhere to laid down recipes while cooking anything. When laddoo met wine and gujiya embraced tiramisu, Nihira came to existence and kept transforming. Thanks to its founder's ingenious idea, artistic flair, and dogged drive. Nihira's modern takes on time-honoured Indian sweets, known as mithai, combine the best of both worlds in terms of taste and presentation. And the patrons in India and abroad have already lapped it up. Subha and Arshya's Holi menu is something one can't afford to miss
It was one of those lazy Sunday afternoons when I was contemplating what new to try this Holi. The thoughts were about how to satisfy the ever-sweet-craving Bengali soul. It orchestrated a series of reflections: how sweets are intertwined with our festive celebrations. In fact, I said maa, let's make gobindo bhog rice kheer with nolen gud or new jaggery. My mother smiled with a subtle sense of pride and said she was glad to see my roots intact. I didn't know that my next call would reaffirm the power of Indian mithai and their tradition-upholding abilities. The telephonic conversation with Subha Aggarwal and Arshya Aggarwal ushered in such profound excitement for the upcoming Festival of Colours. This Delhi-based mother-daughter squad is on a mission to give a total makeover to Indian mithai and keep up the country's sweet saga by launching Nihira, a luxury line of sweets.
Quite impressed by their label's appellation, I enquired- Why you chose this particular moniker? "We were motivated by the name. We felt we ought to be fair to Nihira. We wanted to make the discovery of Nihira, which means "newfound treasure," an exceptional event," articulated Subha Aggarwal, Co-Founder of Nihira. Arshya, Co-Fo, Nihira elaborated further, "we decided to emerge the excellence and experience as one unique blend. And we are glad we chose to use alcohol in Indian mithai."
A box of different mithais by Nihira
What was initiated as a small venture has become a global craze. The brand has got solid fan base worldwide. And the growth graph is going upward. Today, this luxury fusion sweets brand of India has become the go-to resort for any special celebration. "We believe we are setting up a monopoly by taking the exclusive Indian flavours, sweet making stories to a broader platform," says the Co-Fos. In an exclusive interview with slurrp, the duo spoke about the changing avatar of Indian mithais and a new-found love for them as they get a boozy tweak.
Q: What inspired you to create a uniquely curated fusion line using Indian and Western ingredients?
One of our Indian cultural traits is the tradition of consuming sweet foods like mithai. Regardless of age, mithai is associated with nostalgia, whether it's the traditional motichoor from the thali that we'd slip away to devour soon after the pooja was carried out or when our grandparents loaded us with mithais as a means to express their affection. These are the experiences we always hold near to our hearts, much like tradition. We pass them on to the next generation.
There's a certain comfort zone with Indian sweets; you look at them and know how they taste precisely. It's reassuring! However, we discovered that gifting and consumption of mithais were declining. The trend in the west was moving quickly towards radical desserts, which were so avant-garde and exciting and, more importantly, accessible to everyone in India. But Mithai seemed a holdover and was even criticised as "boring." There was a reluctance to explore new and creative grounds because it was entirely uncharted. Also, it is all about the trending food palettes that are constantly changing.
Assorted laddoos by Nihira
So, we reintroduced traditional Indian sweets in an upbeat manner to the younger generation. This target audience had lost touch with them as they gravitated more towards these other desserts that seemed 'uber cool'. That's when we realised that we could affect that thinking. So they can still create the same memories with their grandmothers and family in a new manner, bridging generations. That was the start of Nihira!
"You can take the Indian out of mithai but not the mithai out of the Indian. It'll never go out of fashion!"
Red wine laddoos, Image By: Nihira
Q. Can you share how versatile your creations are?
We're pleased to say that our brand presently comprises 80 varieties. In just over a month, we'll be hitting the three-year mark. To express our gratitude, we'll make it 100 variants to surprise everyone and commemorate the season.
Q. What is most popular?
It is our alcoholic mithais. The list includes Gin & Cranberry Ladoo, Whiskey Ladoo, Red Wine Ladoo, Sambuca & Grape Ladoo, Jagerbomb Ladoo, and Old Monk Halwa.
Q. Are there Non-Alcoholic Mithais?
Of course, yes. In this segment, the most sought-after ones are Mojito Ladoo, Lavender Ladoo, Cheesecake Barfi, Pina Colada Ladoo, Tiramisu Barfi, Khoya Dough (our take on cookie dough made into a barfi), Pista Chandan Peda, Besan Tulsi Nuts Ladoo with Gur, Pistachio Tulsi Coconut Ladoo, and Apple Pie Gujiya.
Mojito laddoo, Image By Nihira
Q. What do you observe among Indians with a sweet tooth?
People are used to international ingredients and love their traditional mithais. This combination of the two met with great success. We have every traditional sweet on our menu. However, with a twist in taste, a shift in the ingredient or a surprise in colour.
There are laddoos, but some are spiked with liquor, some kneaded with tulsi, and some made special with lavender. There are barfis in colours that pop; combine khoya with the most flamboyant notes and rich flavours like cheesecake, blueberry, and tiramisu.
Lavendar laddoo, Image By Nihira
Q. How aware and open are Indian sweet lovers towards fusion mithais?
Acknowledgement and awareness about fusion mithais definitely are there now. However, we respect that some clients like their sweets as traditional as possible. Hence, we have a dedicated range available for them to choose from.
Q. Is there a room for customisation?
We are open to customisations, from the packaging to even curating mithai, especially for the clients, keeping their themes or flavours in mind. For example, our floral-flavoured segment of mithai includes Lavender Ladoo, Jasmine Ladoo, and Marigold Ladoo.
There are also Rose Boondi and Peach Boondi with Hibiscus Flowers. And for a tropical theme, try Mojito Ladoo, Pina Colada Ladoo, Watermelon Lemonade Ladoo, and many more.
Tiramisu Gujiya for Holi, Image by: Nihira
Q. With Holi around, how are Indians responding to the brand?
Holi season is as exciting for us as for those who value our brand. It's a time when everyone is super experimental. The celebrators are more open to all things out of the box than they are all year round. And 'out of the box' is a synonym for 'Nihira'. From the liquor ladoos to the gujiyas to all the fusion mithais.
Apple pie gujiya, Image By Nihira
Q. What special are you making for the festival of colours?
There are many incredible innovations and flavours to try this festive season. We have Apple Pie Gujiya Wrap, Tiramisu Chandrakala, - Rasmalai Chandrakala, Lotus Biscoff Gujiya, Rose Gulkand Gujiya Wrap, Thandai Gujiya, Pista Chandrakala and lots more.
Holi is incomplete without the classic spiked element of bhang. There has been several creative sweets and beverages creations with them. One can get them at this unique swanky sweet label.