THE Story of MAALADU
Maaladu (pronounced as 'Maaa Ladooo')… just saying this word for me brings the aromatic, melt-in-your-mouth memories of a simple yet spectacular South Indian sweet (also commonly sold on road side stalls).
Maaladu can be called the poor-man’s sweet. I think that is 100% true and you will agree with me if you hear what it is made of.
Maaladu mainly consists of a mixture of roasted chickpea flour + sugar + cardamom + roasted cashew nuts + ghee (the amount of ghee is defined by the right quantity required to make the other ingredients bind and mix well). Then this mixture is rolled in to small, round balls of deliciousness!
As you can see, none of these ingredients are too expensive. Sure, the ghee is expensive, but the quantity of ghee can be reduced to a very minimum, just sufficient to bind the mixture. The cashew nuts can be pricey too, but they are literally just a garnish.
Even though I refer to this as a ‘poor’ man’s Indian sweet, there is nothing poor about the taste. This is one of my favorite Indian sweets. This may not seem like a huge statement – but those who know me, know that I am NOT a big dessert fan (except dark chocolate –Who doesn't love them?!). So if this dessert has made its mark for me, that is definitely saying something.
And, there is also nostalgic childhood memories (as always) associated with this. My grandmom (mother’s mother) was not a big dessert fan either (I think that is the dessert gene I inherited). She neither enjoyed eating sweets nor making them. As a result, there were hardly any desserts she had learned to make or gained special expertise in. But Maaladu was one thing she knew how to make. Why?
Here’s the secret: because it is SO easy-peasey! Don’t believe me? Check out this recipe I used to make mine.
So anyway, I visited my grand mom (she lived in a small town about 6 hours by train from where I lived in Chennai) during my summer holidays every year until I left for college. As soon as saw her, I hugged her first, answered the usual 'formality-sake' questions like how my school year was, how I fared with my grades and etc. Then, without further adieu, I would ask her: “Have you made Maaladus?”. She would beam and say “Ofcourse!”. Then off I went to the kitchen to stuff myself with at least 2-3 of them.
I think secretly she thanked her stars for this fateful coincidence, where her granddaughter enjoyed so immensely the one and only dessert she knew how to make! Alignment of the stars or stroke of luck I don’t know or care, I just knew I absolutely love my Grandmom and her Maaladus.
The WINE pairing with Maaladu
I finished making the Maaladus in under an hour. I tasted a small piece, and it was G-O-O-D.
Now, about the wine pairing - it can be quite tricky for Maaladus. And this is true for most Indian desserts. The reasons are two-fold: First one is that, most Indian desserts use Ghee (which is a finger-licking-deliriously-delicious ingredient aka clarified butter!). The second reason is that, Indian desserts (most not all) can have obnoxiously humungous amounts of sugar. I am not saying this like it is bad or good, I am just saying it for what it is – especially after consuming desserts from several other cuisines.
Both ghee and insanely high amounts of sugar can throw a wrench in to which dessert wines when paired will make that magic happen in the palette.
The Tokaji had perfect amounts of sugar in every sip, and just the right kind of heft to cope with the ghee. There were no other floral or fruit flavors. Maybe a mild aroma from some kind of white flowers, but that is it. This worked well with the Maaladu's slight hint of cardamom and tiny pieces of roasted cashews here and there.
The wine was creamy first and then there was a orange/mandarin inflected flavor profile that took on the ghee like its true match.
I took a small bite of Maaladu and then followed with a sip of the Tokaji. Then, I took another sip of the Tokaji and took a bigger bite of the Maaladu. The verdict? Before I knew it, I had made a significant dent on the Maaladu and wine consumption. Almost 3 Maaladus were gone and the second pour of the Tokaji was fast disappearing. Now, that's the verdict :)
Hungary is one of those countries which was not known for its wines even as recent as 10 years ago. Off late, Hungarian wines are showing up a lot and for a reason. Tokaji was the first wine from Hungary that got the world to notice it. The other notable wine from Hungary, popular especially in the US was/is the Bulls Blood of Eger (Hungarian red wine). But now, many other indigenous grapes, most notably the Kekfrankos and Kadarka are causing a stir. I have tried one Kekfrankos and it was pretty amazing - I can see it working well with Indian street food. So stay tuned!
My Indian sweet and the Tokaji dessert wine pairing experiment was a great way to end my day, and I felt strongly in agreement to these words of wisdom:
If food is the body of good living, wine is its soul - Clifton Fadiman