Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Paan Petha- an exotic sweet from city of Taj

Agra is the place where I have spent my favorite time mostly i.e. summer vacations. Yes, This city is where my grand-parents used to live ,where my parents grew up and got married.They shifted to Rajasthan because of work constraints but we always found our selves well connected to this city in fact in love with this city. I got chance to do graduation from here which was the golden time I had in my whole education life.These four years not only I molded myself in a logical & analytical person through my degree but also got chance to develop satisfy my taste buds with some new tastes.
Agra is famous for Taj Mahal (one of Seven Wonders of the World) everyone knows but what makes it stand out of the crowd is -its Crowd! Yeah I love this city n I belong to it but still it gives me goose bumps when it comes to its irregular traffic and crowd.
But as Burger king says "Taste is King" I can go again n again to visit its famous eating joints like for chaat at Saudagar line Sadar, Bhagat Halwai, Panchi Petha Store, Deviram's etc..But I miss a typical yet exotic sweet from there-Pan Petha. I can hardly find this sweet in other parts of India or abroad. 
So here is the nostalgic recipe which I got from authentic Halwais (sweet makers) in Agra and picture courtesy Panchhi petha Store.

But first some trivia on Petha:
Petha (Hindi: पेठा pronounced [ˈpeːʈʰaː]) is a translucent soft candy from North India. Usually in the shape of rectangular or cylindrical pieces, it is made from the Ash gourd vegetable (also known as winter melon or white pumpkin, or simply petha in Hindi and Urdu).

Paan Petha are thin Petha slices with pistachio sandesh.
So for filling we need to make Bengali sweet Sandesh with fresh chenna.
Ingredients for sandesh:
1 1/4 cups chenna (how to make chenna at home)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pistachios, finely chopped,
a few saffron strands
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (elaichi) powder

Knead the chenna till it is as smooth as possible. Add the sugar to it. Put this mixture into a shallow vessel stirring constantly over low heat and avoid over heating as If it does over heat, it will become grainy and fat will separate. The mixture will first turn liquidy and then start thickening. When the mixture becomes a creamy thick paste/very soft dough consistency then stir in cardamom powder,saffron strands and pistachios.

For wrapping it up:

1 kg of Ash Gourd/White Pumpkin
small peice of Alum
700 gms 3 1/2 cups of Sugar
Water for boiling gaurd.
Cloves for garnishing

Peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds and soft fibers. Cut it into 4'x4', thick slices. Prick well with a fork, all over.
Soak these slices in water with small alum(fitkari) pieces it for 2 hours. Then rinse the slices with fresh water thoroughly.
Now boil the water and cook the ashgourd slices with lid On for 4-5 mins or till it changes its color to transparent.
Don't let it cook completely.Drain the water now.
Take another pan with sugar and add slices in to it.Keep it aside for half an hour.
Slices will leave water and get mixed with sugar.So there will be enough of water for making sugar syrup out of it.
Heat this pan on low heat and let the sugar dissolve completely and cook slices on medium heat afterwards.
Remove it from syrup before getting dry.Now it is ready for wrapping the sandesh filling.
Now divide the filling into equal parts and shape each portion into even sized balls.
Place one portion of the filling on a petha slice.
Fold it along the sides to form a triangle and stud it with a clove.

To slice the petha, use a sharp wafer slicer.
Always use cow’s milk for making chenna as it has a low fat content.

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