Commonly known as a poor man’s sweet, the humble petha is one of the most popular and iconic sweets of Uttar Pradesh. Though petha is generally associated with Agra (Agra Petha), the angoori petha of Prayagraj is equally famous and delicious.
The residents of Prayagraj have for long been accorded the status of being the biggest food critics as well as the biggest food connoisseurs of India. Traditional dishes with very slight variations made for centuries are still available in every pocket of this vibrant city.
Angoori petha is perhaps one of the healthiest sweets made in Uttar Pradesh and is highly recommended for the hot summers experienced here. Made with petha (ash gourd or white pumpkin) and lots of sugar, this sweet is rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, sulphur and Vitamin A, B, C and E. Petha has been used in Ayurveda to treat piles, nose bleeds, blood disorders and to improve one’s immunity.
Petha has been prepared in different parts of India for years and used to be sundried, dipped in alum water and then soaked in sugar syrup. This preserve used to be carried by the tribals when they went into the forest in search of food and fodder.
Normally, the skin of the ash gourd is first removed, then deseeded and cut into cubes. All the pieces are poked from all the sides. Limestone (chuna) or slaked lime (Calcium Hydroxide) is dissolved in a large vessel.
The cubes of ash gourd are added into this and left for at least 10 hours. The ash gourd pieces are thoroughly washed and boiled in water till they become translucent.
The chaashanee (sugar syrup) is prepared with water, sugar, cardamom and a few saffron strands. The cooked ash gourd is added to this hot sugar syrup, boiled for a few minutes and then skilfully taken out and allowed to cool for at least 12 hours.
Besides angoori petha, kesar angoori petha, rose petha, coconut petha, mango petha and petha made from seasonal fruits are also available. This unique preparation is a soft candy-like sweet that is very light in flavour and texture.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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