Sunday, December 6, 2015

A dessert from my ancestral town

I had invited my cousin home for lunch and   had decided on the menu but wasn’t sure what dessert to make. My son suggested I must make the donuts that I often make. The donuts I make are a hit with my daughter’s hostel friends, everytime she comes home, this is one of the tuck foods she takes to the hostel.

As I was to trying to assemble the ingredients for making donuts, a thought struck me that I must make a traditional dessert which is not very famous or well known especially for this cousin who was born and raised  in the northern India  and now lives in the US. Today desserts/sweets like donuts,pannacotta, tiramisu are more famous while some of our own traditional Indian desserts are forgotten. I decided to list out the traditional desserts and two of my favorite desserts topped the list…the dumroot/ kushmanda halwa of Udupi or the Asoka halwa of Tiruvaiyaru. And Tiruvaiyaru asoka halwa won. The reason......

Tiruvaiyaru is a sweet little temple town on the banks of River Cauvery in Thanjavur district of Southern Tamilnadu. Although this town is famous for the ancient temple, this is more famous as “Mecca of Carnatic music”. Every year in January, Carnatic musicians from all over the world congregate to celebrate “Thyagraja Aradhana” on Bahula Panchami day which is the Samadhi day of the famous Carnatic composer Saint Thyagaraja. Along with music, the other thing this town is famous for is the high calorie orange colored halwa dripping with ghee called Asoka halwa, Which many national and international tourists pack it to their home.

Enjoying to a famous kriti (compostion) sitting on the banks of River Kaveri and relishing this delicious  dessert on a moonlit night is a simple pleasure I want to experience one day in this town. I have experienced this in on a sunny morning at 9 am though. My daughter sang the famous kriti of Thyagaraja “Raghu nayaka.......” at pushya mahal ghat with no one around, I sat on the steps of the ghats and watched the slowly meandering river and listened to her sing the kriti. Pure bliss!!

And there is another reason for choosing this halwa famous in Tiruvaiyaru, because this musical riverside town is our( my husband's)  ancestral village:)

Now over to the making of this dessert….I have tweaked this sinful high calorie  traditional recipe to make it a  guilt free low calorie dessert by adding natura sugar free, substituting food colors and reducing the quantity of ghee.This is also a regular on the wedding menu of Thanjavur Brahmins.

Asoka halwa recipe:


Moong dal – 1 cup
Wheat flour – 2 tablespoon
Natura sugar free – 1/4 cup 
Ghee – 1/2 cup 
Cardamom powder – 1 teaspoon
Cashew nuts – 10-15
Permitted food color-  orange ( I used 1 teaspoon beetroot juice and a pinch of haldi)

                                              The making of Asoka halwa


  • Roast the moong dal lightly and soak it in water for 10 minutes.
  • Pressure cook the moong dal till it makes a mushy paste.
  • In another pan, add a tablespoon of ghee and roast the wheat flour till the aroma emanates and allow it to cool.
  • Now add a table spoon of ghee in a thick bottomed pan and add the mushy moong dal paste. Simmer it on low fire ensuring it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add natura sugar free and blend it well. Once sugarfree natura blends well, add the roasted wheat flour and mix it well till it binds in to the moong dal mixture , add the extracted beet color and haldi.
  • Keep stirring it by adding a table spoon of ghee  at regular intervals till the mixture leavens the pan. Sprinkle the cardamom powder before switching off.
  • Finally,Garnish it with fried cashews.

                                               Guilt free amd Sugar free Natura Asoka halwa


  1. Thanks for the excellent recipe. Pressure cook the soaked one cup moong dal with how much water? Thanks.

    1. Thank you SG! One cup moong dal 2 cups of water for pressure cooking.

  2. Firstly impressed that your family comes from such an illustrious place

    Secondly impressed that you can make halwa

    Thirdly impressed that you are prepared to go through all this trouble to make it

    Fourthly impressed that after eating all this ghee, you are the way you are

    Fifthly .......


    1. This is no trouble. for me cooking is a therapy . thank you and fifthly??!!

  3. Lovely recipe, Asha. Enjoyed reading your write up too! Thanks for sharing the recipe, noted with excitement.

  4. Loved reading your posts.Just had one suggestion.Please don't use the term Mecca of Music.Could you please change it to Kasi or Varnasi or KumbhaMela of music?