Sweet Indian Valentines

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.

Shalimar Delights in Fordsburg. The sign says “sweetmeats” but there’s no actual meat in the 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.

He cut it into sections so Joe and I could share. But Joe, who isn’t a fan of sweets, declined. I ate the whole thing and lived to regret it.

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 on the right. We originally showed up at 1:50 and found the doors locked.

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 biscuits.

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.

Photo courtesy of Joe.

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.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Greg February 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Divine looks like the very best Italian bakeries here in NJ. So cookies are biscuits. I’ll need to make a note of that since I am most definitely a cookie..err..biscuit monster.

  • Reply amblerangel February 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Love the post! Loved it so much I gave you a “Memetastic Award” You’ll see it on my page…. Hope you see it as a blessing and not a curse!

  • Reply eremophila February 12, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I always adore posts about REAL FOOD albeit perhaps a little sweet and fattening:-)

  • Reply clouded marble February 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I think I should get you to send me some of these goodies you post about 🙂

    • Reply 2summers February 13, 2011 at 10:23 am

      Sadly, I don’t think Indian sweets would travel very well, at least in the cardboard boxes that I got at the sweets places in Fordsburg. The sweets I bought in India came in sturdy (yet un-environmentally-friendly) plastic boxes and I was actually able to bring some home to the States with me!

  • Reply Slowvelder February 14, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I really think I could do with one of those coconutty balls. I dont really like chocolates and sweets too much but just love coconut deserts, sweets and chocolates. Yum.
    Nice photos again (Joe?)

    • Reply 2summers February 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks! Joe took the photo of the ceiling of the church but I took the others. They all benefited from Joe’s PhotoShop magic though.

  • Reply @injoburg February 22, 2011 at 2:47 am

    The Divine Bakery church is not really orthodox, but Lebanese, or Maronite (they’re Catholics, but it’s complicated), so I was told on a recent tour. The pillars and wooden ornaments are all made from Lebanese pine that was shipped all the way from the motherland. The place could be spectacularly renovated, but the owner runs this bit of his business as a hobby and doesn’t have the cash…

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2011 at 9:15 am

      Hey, thanks for the clarification. I changed my post to say it’s a Lebanese church. When we were in there a couple of weeks ago, there were some renovations going on — the upstairs part was closed and he said they were renovating. So hopefully that’s a good sign…Did you take a tour of Fordsburg? That’s something I wouldn’t mind checking out.

  • Reply An “Off the Beaten Path” Guide to Joburg – 2 Summers September 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    […] with classic off-the-beaten path spots. In addition to the market, try the Oriental Plaza, the Indian sweet shops, and the Turkish […]

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