An American Interlude for true foodies: Uncle Sam has a lot to offer beyond fast food

The thrill in the air becomes palpable. You cannot miss the joys of Diwali and you want to enjoy every moment. One way is by gorging on delicious sweets. The sheer variety is exhaustive and more are getting added. But one has noticed non-dairy sweets making its way into the list. We now discover these non-dairy varieties to add a delicious touch to the festivities.

No doubt, non-dairy sweets are different in terms of taste, texture and method. Chef Anil Bangwal, Yeti – The Himalayan Kitchen, CP, New Delhi, talks about benefits like avoiding milk allergies, good digestion, weight loss, strong bones, vegan living and more.

“Dairy-free desserts are so yummy. Your friends and family won’t even realise what they are missing. The methods of making these are almost similar except some traditional one.”

Chef Ajay Chamoli who is the Corporate Chef at Oddly Pub, CP, New Delhi, speaks about their benefits. “That’s the major factor of an increasing number of alternatives to cow’s milk for people who are lactose intolerant or feel that it’s not the healthiest choice.

Realising their benefits, the world is increasingly replacing the glossy white dairy drink to pour over cereal or in coffee with non-dairy kinds and for good." He lists benefits like being gluten-free and cholesterol-free.

Chef Arvind too agrees. The Co-Founder & Executive Pastry Chef, Whitecaps International School of Pastry, Bengaluru, feels everyone these days has become health-conscious but don't mind a cheat day to indulge in Indian sweets.

"Changing dietary landscape, we have certainly figured another dimension to indulgences, i.e. non-dairy sweets, considering health benefit over dairy and non-dairy.

It’s hard to make the different, being the fact we have alternative milk & milk products available now to produce sweets. You may experience a slight change in aroma and richness.”

Homemaker Uma Viswanath feels, "Non-diary sweets still has that critical mass in many families. A speciality of non-diary sweets is that they hold a lot of cultural prominence and speciality in family functions.

While many families still join make and share the sweets the onus lies in making efficient and cost-effective sweets for everyone. And non-diary sweets have had that upper hand as it is more voluminous, tasty and filling.” 

In terms of taste, Viswanath does consider the taste factor difference due to milk alternatives. "It gets further enhanced through the use of ghee and other rich and healthy ingredients along with alternatives to sugar like stevia sugar, organic jaggery and Manuka Honey. 

The texture is soft & smooth and is not greasy. The method of preparing although time-consuming is perfection based and leaves us with a lot of room for experimentation.”

And there are interesting non-dairy sweets. Chef Ajay recalls, “One of my favourite one is from the childhood “Nutella”. The first time I smothered this chocolate and hazelnut spread onto a crêpe I fell in love, and it’s been hot and heavy ever since. I remember buying a jar and stashing it in my college dorm room.

It was a symbol of my independence. I could make Nutella a part of my new life as an adult, and everything felt right and good and tasty. Do you have any dairy-sensitive former Nutella monsters in your life? If so, you totally need to whip this recipe up and spread the love. Pun intended.”

For Chef Arvind, it’s still Kaju Katli "It’s most traditional, popular across country and royal sweet to carry along during travel. I do like badam Burfi and twist with its spices.”

The homemaker in Viswanath speaks of her favourites from her 48 years of experience. “They include Bele and Kai Holige (Dal/Coconut), Besan Ladoo, Kesari Bath, Mysore Pak, Hayagriva, Yeriyappa similar to Kajjaya, Baadushah, Jangir, Sweet Samosa with Coconut and Jaggery Stuffing. There are modern ones like Pethas, Kajaas, Dry Fruit Laddoo/Dink Laddoo etc but these are commercial and contextual in nature.”

Chef Anil speaks about non-dairy sweets in his restaurant especially the popular Yomari. “We also have Til ka laddoo, Coconut Laddu, Til & Nariyal Peetha etc.”

Any suggestion to add a special touch to the festival with non-dairy sweets is a wonderful idea.  Viswanath rightly adds, “Diwali is a festival of sharing, bonding and camaraderie.

It is also a time for family members to most importantly filling their tummy with sweets/savouries without any element of guilt and acts as an ice breaker as desserts are all about passing interesting stories over the table for all. Non-diary sweets have a longer shelf life and do not need any special care. They can be consumed by any people as they are completely healthy.”

Indian celebrations and sweets go hand in hand, according to Chef Ajay. "Desserts add much more enthusiasm to the spirit. There is nothing quite like a dessert table decked with a variety of non-dairy Diwali sweets. Desserts made with chocolates are prepared & served with a slight nip in the air. People tend to get lured towards the cold, crisp and chocolatey.”

Chef Anil rightly mentions the most important aspect of preparing snacks and sweets to be shared. "Many Indian sweets are dairy-based, but all of your favourites can easily be made completely plant-based and when you give the option of non-dairy dessert it’s kind of icing on the cake.”

If you ask about ingredients, they include til seeds, jaggery, coconut, sugar, rice flour, sabudana, besan, sesame seeds, sweet potato, apple, chocolate, Nutella, dates, pumpkin, cardamom seeds, cloves, vanilla essence, cinnamon, rose essence, pineapple cubes, stevia sugar, all-purpose flour, fruits, dry fruits, carrot, ash gourd, potatoes and beetroot.

Your path to celebrating Diwali with non-dairy sweets is now open.