Chef Susheel Joshi Chef Instructor Culinary Academy Of India
Ladoos are famous. But one particular variety is infamous – “Thaggu Ke Laddu”. Literally translating to ‘thug’s ladoo’, this Kanpuri delicacy has a story rooted in the Indian revolutionary struggle. The context, sugar, was a colonial commodity and Mahatma Gandhi had termed sugar ‘white poison’. This put Ram Avtar Pandey, the founder of Thaggu Ke Laddu, in a dilemma as he wanted to be join the freedom struggle in spirit but couldn’t afford to substitute sugar from his recipe owing to how cheap and readily available it was. As a result, he called it what it was, a thug’s product – and that’s how “Thaggu Ke Laddu” got etched into the record books.
One of India’s notable contributions to the culinary dessert world, Ladoos are immensely popular wherever there is an Indian population. Within India, these delicious ball-shaped sweets are so tremendously popular that each region has its own variety. From the festive, sacred Tirupathi Ladoo to the more health conscious Methi Ladoo, ladoos hold a special space in the Indian diet - a culinary trend that has stuck for millennia.
In fact, the word ladoo originates from the Sanskrit word Lattika and it is said that Sushruta, the ‘father of surgeries’ (touted for performing the world’s first plastic surgery), began using sphere-shaped sesame seed balls to treat his patients in ancient India. In his texts, Sushruta Samhiti, he mentions the use of sesame and jaggery to make ‘ladoos’ and describes them as ‘easily edible for patients’.
From being medicine to one of the country’s most popular sweets, Ladoos have really come a lot way.
Before the advent of the British, Ladoos were made with jaggery. As the British gradually introduced sugar (a cheaper substitute to jaggery), more ladoo preparations switched to the use of sugar. Til Ladoos, one of the earliest form of ladoos, are made using a combination of sesame seeds, peanut and jaggery. Nutritious and rich, these are specially made during Sanktranti and help keep the body warm during the winter.
Among the most famous ladoos world over is the “Motichoor Ladoo”, commonly associated with the states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and literally means ‘crushed pearls’. These round-shaped sweet pearls are made using tiny besan balls which are fried in ghee and then soaked in a sugar syrup before being shaped into a sphere. Besan Ladoos, made with gram flour, ghee, sugar and dry fruit are another famous variant of the dessert that peak in popularity during Diwali.
In South India, coconut ladoos are abundantly found and the oldest form is called “Narayl Nakru” which dates back to the Chola Empire. In fact even the Persians adopted this immensely popular delicacy and created the “Shahi Ladoo”, which is made using figs, dates, seed and dry fruits. When it comes to seasonality, nothing tops “Gond ke ladoo”. Made using gond, a hardened natural made-gum taken from the acacia tree, during the cold winter months, these ladoos keep the body warm and comforted.
If ladoos are studied as a food legacy, then tracing their journey is truly indicative of India’s culinary heritage. A recipe that has been localized, updated, refreshed and innovated on countless times, ladoos are a quintessential part of Indian celebrations and sweet stores. After all, there are but a few other Indian recipes that help elevate India’s international culinary status as much as the ladoo.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 BrandCai
Archana on November 24, 2020:
Chef Sushil you have given really thoroughly knowledge about history of Ladoos.You have also mentioned the places of invention of all type of ladoos. So that it gives more idea about cultural involvement in such delicacy sweet of India.
Chef Shiladitya Dutta on November 24, 2020:
Writing is Praiseworthy Chef.
Alex K on November 24, 2020:
excellent article about Indian Traditional Sweet.....LADDU.
Joshi Chef if you remember me I worked with you in Goa. CAI always doing something for the chefs fraternity ....saw your dancing video about WE ARE BACK felt happy.All the best .my relative son is joining CAI this year in one and half year course.