Five years ago I visited Chennai, India, and fell in love with Indian sweets. Indian sweets are difficult to describe — there are hundreds of different kinds and they vary by region. The ones I’ve had are colorful little balls or squares, made mainly of sugar and condensed milk and flavored with things like coconut, pistachio, and cashews. (Read about Indian sweets on Wikipedia.)
Fordsburg, Joburg’s Indian cultural center, is just a few minutes from Melville. I’ve written previously about Fordsburg’s Oriental Plaza and I intend to write more about this area because I love Indian food. But in observance of Valentine’s Day weekend, I’m writing a post specifically about Indian sweets.
Someone recently commented on my blog and said I should visit Shalimar Delights on Main Street in Fordburg. Great suggestion — this shop really reminded me of the sweet shops I visited in Chennai. (Nyain in Spain: If you’re reading this, thanks for the tip.)
Unfortunately I forgot to write down Nyain in Spain’s recommendations on what to try at Shalimar. So I asked the guy behind the counter to pick something at random and he gave me this delectable coconut-ty ball.
Joe opted for a potato samoosa, which he proclaimed to be among the best he’s ever had.
For those of you who are new to 2Summers, Joe likes to blur his face to protect his identity. I’m not sure how well it works but it’s become a tradition. I must applaud his work here — he managed to blur his entire face and still keep the samoosa sharp.
We bought a box of assorted sweets for our friend Eva’s birthday. (Hope you’re enjoying them, Eva. Take it slow.) Then we waded back out into the Fordsburg traffic, which is also very reminiscent of my time in India.
Our next stop was Divine Confectionery, around the corner from Shalimar on Mint Road. We had tried to go there initially, but like many Fordsburg businesses it’s closed on Fridays from noon to 2:00 for afternoon prayers.
Divine Confectionery is an Indian-owned bakery that specializes in Western baked goods — biscuits (cookies), cakes, bread, etc. It’s clearly popular with the locals. I was the only woman in the place who wasn’t wearing an abaya.
Divine Confectionery’s real draw is the building itself — a converted Lebanese church. All the original roof beams and pillars are still there, and the kitchen is in the nave of the church. It makes for an interesting scene.
I bought a few biscuits and Joe and I chatted with Moosa Pochee, one of the proprietors. He said the church is about 100 years old and the bakery has been there for ten. Moosa’s father immigrated here from India in the 1930s. Moosa is one of 13 children and had all kinds of interesting stories to tell about life in South Africa. I could have stayed there talking with him for hours if I didn’t feel nauseous from all the sugar I’d ingested. It was time for Joe to roll me home.
If you’re looking for an alternative to a boring box of chocolates for your beloved this Valentine’s Day, Fordsburg is a good place to shop.