With Holi right around the corner, if you walk around the marketplace or listen in on your mum’s conversations with your aunts you will realise that every halwai and household is talking about a certain crispy, golden-brown, stuffed sweet treat. The festival of Holi is incomplete without gujiyas. Gujiya holds a top spot among other Holi delicacies like kalakand, ghevar, and chironjee-sprinkled rabri.
Though many chefs experiment with flavour combinations such as chocolate gujiya, fruit-filled, and for the health conscious, baked gujiya, nothing can ever taste better than the classic version. With your first bite, you can taste a delicate almond-pistachio covered golden brown crust, then you are surprised by a mixture of mawa, semolina, aromatic spices, and dry fruits. And in no time, it all just melts in your mouth.
Contrary to popular belief, gujiya is not limited to one place or festival, it takes on different names, forms and flavours as it travels from one region to another.
For the festival of Holi, in North India people often add bhang to the gujiya mix (make sure to keep these away from kids). In Bihar pedakiya is stuffed with a simple yet delicious semolina and coconut filling. In Maharashtra you can find a flakier version, much like puff pastry filled with khus-khus (poppy seeds), coconut, and nuts, quite similar to Goa’s nevri.
Rajasthan makes chandrakala, here the shape changes from a crescent moon to a full moon with knotted edges filled with traditional gujiya filling of khoya, nuts, sugar, and cardamom seeds. In Vrindavan, both the regular gujiyas and chandrakala are a crucial part of the infamous Chappan Bhog. Ghotab, this crescent shaped, rose-scented, almond and walnut-filled pastry, dusted with powdered sugar similar is a delicacy on Navroze.
Not just India but Vienna also has its own gujiya! ‘Kipferl’, a Viennese specialty, is a pastry dough filled with sweet nuts.