More than sweeteners and milk, Indian desserts are prepared with emotions that resonate with the generous nature of the common populace. Though the country’s innumerable regions have their own set of geographic, climatic, social, and cultural identities and consequently, their own set of recipes and sweetmeats, some Indian sweets do transcend these local boundaries to achieve pan-Indian and subsequently global popularity. The Ghughra, or more commonly called the Gujiya, is one such special dessert from the northern part of the country that finds adaptation in numerous Indian cuisines.
This crescent-moon-shaped, stuffed, fried, sweet dumpling is often compared with the Spanish Empanada, a fried pastry with filling, because of the uncanny resemblance of the shape. The Ghughra stuffing is made by mixing roasted Khoya or Mawa (condensed milk solids), roasted Rava or Sooji (semolina), ghee (clarified butter), grounded dry fruits, sugar or jaggery, and cardamom powder. The dough for the dessert is prepared from Maida (wheat flour), milk, and ghee, kneaded softly. Small circular portions of the dough are then filled with the stuffing, pressed to give the typical shape, and folded on the sides to seal the flavour-packed interior. The stuffed dumplings are then deep fried in ghee till golden brown in colour.
Ghughra is a compulsory serving on Hindu festivals like Diwali, Teej, Holi, and Chhath and is no less than a symbol of celebration in Indian cuisines. Different states have provided different names to the dish, the recipe for which remains more or less the same everywhere. In Bihar, Ghughra is known as Pedakiya and in Tamil Nadu, it is called Karachika. Andhra and Karnataka call it Karjikayi while most north Indian states prefer to call it by the more common alias Gujiya. Stuffing too changes based on local taste like Maharashtra’s Karanji uses coconut while the traditional Gujiya prefers Khoya for its creamy smooth texture and slight tinge of sweetness. Goa’s Ganesh Chaturthi and Gujarat’s Dhanteras can never be complete without a serving of Ghughra.
The earliest preparation of Ghughra can be traced back to a 13th century dish that involved sun drying a jaggery-honey mixture covered in wheat flour. Some people opine that Ghughra might have arrived In the Indian subcontinent from Turkey as the dish shares a similar recipe and flavour palette to the Turkish delight Baklava. In India, however, the Ghughra or the Gujiya is believed to have appeared first in Bundelkhand where from it had dispersed to other Indian states.