Soan papdi, the very name invokes a multitude of emotions ranging from dread to resignation to amusement to desperation. Undoubtedly, India’s most hated sweet that makes its appearance in every festive season. The unwanted yet expected and convenient guest that plays musical chairs in every social and religious function. At the end of the festive season, one is highly likely to end up with their own weird smelling and weird tasting commercially made box of soan papdi that they gleefully passed on to an unsuspecting relative or friend.
Well, thankfully there is one city in our Motherland where the terrifying soan papdi redeems itself and that is the holy city of Prayagraj. Located in the narrow lanes of Prayagraj are small shops selling shuddh desi ghee sweets like soan halwa and soan papdi.
It is perhaps not known to many that the process to prepare authentic soan papdi is extremely laborious. First, desi ghee is heated in a large kadai to which an equal measure of besan (gram flour) and a pinch of cardamom powder is added. The mixture is stirred till it arrives at the right consistency.
In another large pan, the chaashanee (sugar syrup) is prepared. The lovely caramelized mixture is allowed to harden, put on a large tray, slightly broken into and then stretched out by at least 4 to 6 people using a specific tool.
This process is repeated till the colour becomes slightly blond. The hot besan mixture is added slowly and incorporated into this. It is again stretched out repeatedly till it becomes strand-like in texture and fineness.
The long golden-hued threads are then skilfully laid out on the serving trays and levelled. They are cut into pieces with extraordinary precision and speed. Normally, while making the festive boxes, a generous helping of pistachios and almonds are first placed at the bottom over which these fine strands are placed, cut into pieces and then flipped over, sealed and sold across the counter.
The Prayagraj soan papdi is best described by this Hindi phrase – ” सोन पापड़ी मुँह में आते ही गुल जाति हैं “. It is the real deal and definitely worth the time and effort.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)