Skip to content

India is too sweet for me!

May 28, 2009

Finding non-sweet non-alcoholic drinks is a problem here in India. From mocktails and fruit juices to iced tea or coffee, it’s all served with loads of pre-mixed sugar. People like me who don’t have a sweet tooth are in the minority. I do enjoy sweets and sweet drinks, but only as long as they are not excruciatingly sweet.

As a result I cannot enjoy most commercial ice-creams and soft drinks as they are too sweet for my taste. It’s the same with biscuits. They are either too sweet or just salty.

Once I made the mistake of asking the vendor for an ice-cream flavour which was “less sweet” and was delighted when he told me that he had not one but several! But on tasting it I found it as sweet, if not sweeter than the other ice creams. The shopkeeper insisted that it was of the “no-sugar” variety and said that it tasted sweet because of the artificial sweetener. He thought this was what I was looking for! When I tried to explain that it’s the sweetness I don’t like, he didn’t get it.

I am not diabetic and neither do I have any diabetics in my family, on either side. I just don’t like very sweet stuff. It nauseates me. That’s what most people find difficult to understand. Specially as it doesn’t mean that I eschew sweets. In fact I quite enjoy something a little sweet.

I drink my tea black and without sugar, and I drink milk without sugar. And this can get embarrassing when one is offered tea by others. If one refuses it looks bad, as in India you can’t refuse tea. Specially as it’s offered to you as a matter of course. No one asks you whether you would like to be served the sugar or milk separately. I either swallow it if I have to and the nausea that comes with it, or if I am not up to it I make some excuse of a stomach upset. But in the past I have offended people so now I am a little careful!

Not liking very sweet things makes me a sort of misfit in India. It’s not just with those one works with and acquaintances, but in restaurants, coffee parlours and hotels too. The iced tea they serve is too sweet for me as most of them make it with a pre-mixed powder. The cold coffee is horrible it’s mostly blended with sweet ice-cream. Once I asked the people serving coffee at Cafe Coffee Day if they could serve me a non-sweet cold coffee and they said they would. And guess what they served me? An overly sweet cold coffee which they explained was without any added sugar. What they had forgotten to tell me is that the ice-cream which was blended in had sugar! I wondered what had happened to the old fashioned cold coffee we had in the old days. Cold coffee without ice-cream. Have they forgotten how to make cold coffee? Why has ice-cream become a necesary ingredient? Now if I want cold coffee I make it at home  Same with milk shakes.

I am sure that in other parts of the world “less sweet” is not interpreted as “artificially sweetened.” Maybe they have the choice of non-sweet and sweet over there, or more likely, their pre-sweetened cold coffee is not excruciatingly sweet! People have told me that Coke and Pepsi are sweeter in India too, but again this is just hearsay. Nothing official about it! If I am forced to have a cola I prefer Thums Up as it tastes less sweet than either Coke or Pepsi. Pepsi is unbearably sweet. I am not talking of the amount of sugar in anything, just the taste. For example I can eat a good quality chocolate as it doesn’t taste that sweet.

Usually when I am out I make do with jeera paani or salted lime sherbet. There is always beer ofcourse. Or white wine.

(Photographs are by me and copyrighted)

Related Reading:  Coffee shops or hang-out joints?
Street food has less bacteria than a lot of restaurant food

73 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2009 10:27 pm

    Nita, how about telling your hosts to prepare the tea sugar-free and that you’ll add sugar yourself? I don’t think anyone would get upset over that.

  2. May 28, 2009 10:30 pm

    I am sure that in other parts of the world “less sweet” is not interpreted as “artificially sweetened.”

    Well, at least here in Italy ‘less sweet’ is less sweet, or totally sweetless, since people are crazy about getting as few calories as they can. Everybody wants to be thin here, especially women, since they want to look like models (those food starved creatures,) to the extent that sometimes they look like sticks, at least to a person of my generation.

    I didn’t know India was so sweet-oriented. By the way, I love sweets.

  3. May 28, 2009 10:38 pm

    Nita, is this a companion post to your May 21st post? 🙂

  4. May 28, 2009 10:46 pm

    Amit, in an office if I go to interview anyone they bring the tea without asking. That is what I meant. And once at a party after lunch hot coffee was served to everyone and instead of refusing I made the mistake of asking if it was possible to have coffee without sugar. I got some strange looks from people! As if I was being rude or something and troubling the host even though the host had a maid to do the stuff. Anyway I guess it depends on how formal the occasion is. And no, this post has nothing to do with the may 21st post although I have tagged it health. Extra tagging always helps I guess. As I mentioned it’s not the amount of sugar that is consumed that bothers me but just the taste. This post is more of a personal grouse I have. A pretty bitter one at that! 🙂

    Man of Roma, thanks. Nice to know that in Italy one get a decent non sweet drink! But in India, whether rich or poor, everyone likes it sweet. I have seen people put 4-5 teaspoons of sugar in their tea or coffee! And when I ask for separate sugar in a not very expensive restaurant they give me knowing looks….as if I want to sneak in extra sugar! 🙂

  5. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    May 28, 2009 10:53 pm


    //I make do with jeera paani or salted lime sherbet. There is always beer ofcourse. Or white wine.//

    What about good old taak, with a very subtle touch of toop-jiryachi phodani and kothimbir, if you fancy garnishes.

    I love dry wines of course, whether white or red, if they are actually dry without tasting like vinegar.

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      May 28, 2009 11:10 pm


      I forgot to mention that I love sweets — i.e. things that are meant to be sweet and are made and served as such.

      Of course four or five teaspoonsful of sugar in a cup of tea or coffee souds like an excess amounting to atrocity on the tastebuds.

      Have you ever been treated to what the older-generation of well-to-do, small-town and rural Punjabis consider the height of hospitality — tea boiled in whole milk (buffalo, of course) with so much sugar added that, unless it is stirred, the spoon stands upright in the cup. I have heard it referred to as khada chamach, which I find quite amusing except that, when I learnt Hindi, chamach was feminine gender.

    • June 2, 2009 6:48 am

      Vivek: you put a keeda in my head with that taak+fodni/cilantro (and hinga!)

      Now it’s on for dinner tonight 😀


      • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
        June 2, 2009 8:40 am


        Bon appétit!

        Or, if you prefer it in the immortal words of Samartha Ramdas, udarabharaNa nohe JANije yadnyakarma.

  6. May 28, 2009 10:58 pm

    Ohh!! we are poles apart then. I have a sweet tooth 😀 I dislike the taste of jaljeera! Now that u mention it, I noticed that really its hard to get by in India if one doesn’t like sweet stuff.

  7. May 28, 2009 11:12 pm

    I love sweets but yes too much of sweet makes me feel sick too…I don’t know about soft drinks as I don’t drink chemicals 😛

    I like my coffee with the right thickness and just the right amount of sugar(and I get irritated with mom as well now days because she doesn’t always gets it right 😉 so I prefer making my own coffee 🙂 ) …

    And ya I kinda hate the cold coffee, the sweetness takes away the coffee taste which I like…

  8. May 29, 2009 12:00 am

    Nita, I agree with you…Indians do have a sweet tooth and for that reason I avoid drinking tea or coffee outside…I usually drink my hot beverages without milk or sugar so the stuff restaurants serve is undrinkable to me…

  9. May 29, 2009 12:25 am

    I don’t like too much sweet either. But when I was getting married I was served a truckload of sweets whenever I went to the in-laws side. I politely kept refusing and only had a little bit. I add lesser than normal sugar to coffee and tea as well, I sorta like the taste of coffee and tea in excess than the sugar. Oh well, I guess we belong to that minority. But hey, It’s like we are already sweet folks, why do we need more sweet to sweeten ourselves up!

  10. May 29, 2009 12:57 am

    We invited one of our British colleagues here to our house. That day some meethi sawiya were made and we asked him to taste it. He almost choked. 😆 I can never forget the look on his face. He thought it was too sweet although it was just fine for the rest of us. So, I can understand what you mean. 🙂
    And you must taste the orange juice here. You will be very happy. 🙂

  11. May 29, 2009 1:35 am

    That sounds just like me! I like sweets but the not too sweet ones. I even find Tropicana orange juice sweeter in India than here in the UK ! I prefer desserts in Uk coz they are much less sweet in comparison.

  12. Dev permalink
    May 29, 2009 1:41 am

    Nita, that was interesting read. Well, as far as I understand, in India more expensive sweets, kaju barfi for instance, are less sweeter than those traditional sweets which we used to eat while growing up.
    Here, I dont see that hierarchy generally..infact I personally find North American sweets too sweet for my taste..except few French desserts in Montreal..
    I can have tea without sugar but not Coffee here…it’s too strong for me to take it without both sugar and milk.. 🙂

  13. May 29, 2009 2:19 am

    @ Nita : I have done some posts about this in the past:

    Oh well. What you can do is make your own drinks and stick to drinking beer or requesting a lemon iced tea at “barista” without any sugar. They usually seem to oblige. I have been able to get them to fix me iced teas without sugar for about an year now and they seem to have gotten used to it. Another thing you can try is a lemon-soda without salt and sugar. They seem to be happy to do that in most restaurants as well. Other than that I think you are stuck. In India the general rule is, the sweeter it is the better it tastes for most people.

  14. May 29, 2009 2:19 am


    I know what you mean about the overly sweet Indian sweets. I am indifferent to sweets generally. But I agree with Dev on that kaju barfi isn’t very sweet. I am partial to rasmalai (probably because it is the only Indian sweet that is not “fried”).

    Plenty of European desserts, such as tiramisu, baklava, chocolate fondant, are very sweet too . Crumbles and tarts can be less sweet but I don’t like crusty and floury things.

    There is no pleasing everyone with desserts I guess 🙂

  15. May 29, 2009 4:45 am

    came to your blog through indiblogger. very entertaining and addictive.wouldnt dare to call it sweet though!
    keep up the good work.

  16. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    May 29, 2009 6:50 am


    //…kaju barfi isn’t very sweet.//

    Unless you mean something different than what, in Gujarat is called kaju kathli, any variety of ‘kathli’ could, I guess, qualify as not-too-sweet — that includes, especially, badaam and seengdana kathli.

    //…rasmalai (probably … the only Indian sweet that is not “fried”).//

    There are many more. For starters we have rabadi, basundi, phirni, kheer, many varieties of pedha and non-mava-based barfi etc. In the milk-less genres you have the several gool-based preparations in different parts of India, such as sukhadi, til-gool, revadi, maande, battaase and many more.

    You must, at least in your Gwalior days, have been treated by your neighbours and friends to the ukadiche modak that are specially made on the occasion of Ganeshchaturthi. And then, of course, we have puranpoli, which is filled with besan in Maharashtra and moog flour in Gujarat.

    BTW, I’m sure you know the rosogolla and some of its cousins are designed so that the eater can regulate the sweetness simply by squeezing out the syrup according to personal preference.

    Incidentally, among the Bhils inhabiting the Malwa region, they have a delicious, very mildly sweet preparation that essentially consists of the roasted flour of nagli (or any other “inferior” cereal) made into a dough with the juice of the palmyra fruit and either rolled into balls or patted into flat cakes. The latter, if I remember correctly, are lightly roasted on an earthenware tawa on a wood fire. They last longer without spoiling, and have, when fresh and warm, a delightfully smoky flavour. I am told that variations on this basic theme, with different names, are part of the culinary delights of many tribes across Malwa, Bundelkhand, Baghelkhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. It is among the rare instances of sweets being eaten among tribals.

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      May 29, 2009 6:53 am

      Oops! I goofed up on ‘battase’ — they are not gool-based.

  17. May 29, 2009 7:27 am

    I definitely don’t have a sweet tooth. In fact, a lot of sweet stuff actually goes to my head!

    It is interesting that in Indian IT companies, when senior executives or foreigners are served tea/coffee, the sugar is brought separately in cubes. Indians are taken for granted.

    Another thing associated with sweet stuff that irritates me is that almost all holy and auspicious occasions have to be celebrated by eating sweet stuff. I can never understand why humans have such a bias towards one kind of taste.

    With the rising diabetic trends in India, will this ever change? I certainly hope so!

  18. May 29, 2009 9:26 am

    I love sweets. But sweets do taste better when they are less sweet. Down south, there is one sweet called Tirunelveli Halwa. You get authentic halwa only in two shops in that town. That is my all time favourite, and it is not very sweet.

    I like to drink frozen cold coffee with a vanilla ice-cream. Wooow. Maybe my taste is typically Indian!

    Destination Infinity

  19. May 29, 2009 10:15 am

    Wait a minute!!! Once upon a time you told me here that you use गुळ (gool) a lot!!! Now what is this not liking sweet things?? 😀 😛
    You are not exactly contradicting yourself, but still “I caught you!” 😀
    And you share this no-sweet-tea-plz attitude with my mother. She has to put up with rural people, most of them make tea which can be served as गुळवणी 😀 😀

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      May 31, 2009 6:20 am


      //…most of them make tea which can be served as गुळवणी//

      I don’t think you can blame them. India — despite being the birthplace of the tea plant and neighbour to the civilisation that introduced the world to tea as a drink — acquired its tea drinking habits from the British, complete with milk and sugar. Most Indians cannot imagine tea without milk. And given the abysmally low productivity of the indigenous breeds of cow in Western Maharashtra (combined with the notion that milk is an essential ingredient of tea), it is natural for people to try to compensate for low milk content with an excess of sugar or gool. You are lucky to be served at least गुळवणी, and not गुळणी! 🙂

  20. May 29, 2009 10:20 am

    well, I am myself in that category of not-too-sweet please but, here you can’t refuse to any one,I like my tea,coffee,milk without sugar.

    And the dark temptations chocolate by nestle has just too much sweet for a ‘dark’ chocolate 😦

  21. ruSh.Me permalink
    May 29, 2009 11:00 am

    Try Mocha and the green tea.. Its hot and though the quantity is not to be boasted of.. but its pretty much just the flavour of tea.. You can add sugar separately!

    There are some packaged Apple flavoured Ice tea, don’t know if they are available in India? Just the right amount of Apple and tea.. and not sweet at all!!

  22. May 29, 2009 12:06 pm

    LOL, trust “we the Indians” for our love for Meetha & Mithais! And this is exactly the same reason why I dread having tea anywhere outside! Neither I can say no nor I can gulp down those terribly sweet (yea I know I am doing a terrible mistake by adding “terribly” before sweet :P) chais, if I want to have a good chai it has to be home made by me with just a sprinkle of sugar :).

  23. May 29, 2009 2:38 pm

    Vivek K, I love taak but somehow it goes only with Indian food and mostly with food, not with snacks. I always enjoy taak when we have a thali and I enjoy Sol Kadi even more! And no I have not heard of khada chamach, but I’ll give you an example of something I have seen in a scion of the Birla family. I was working with them for a while and in a meeting I saw the man put six teaspoons of sugar in his tea! I counted. I know people who invariably add 3 teaspoons of sugar to a teacup.

    Reema, I find that bengali sweets like sandesh aren’t too sweet and as someone has mentioned even the rassagulla can be eaten after the ras is squeezed out. I always squeeze my rasagulla quite a bit! 🙂 And btw, jal jeera is not my favourite drink either. Just lesser of the two evils! 🙂 I mean, better than a sweet drink.

    Vishesh, you don’t drink chemicals!! Wow, I am certainly impressed! And with coffee I too like it a little sweet, say half a teaspoon of sugar or maybe maximum one. Anything more than that and I feel like puking!

    sraboneyghose, looks like a lot of people have these non-sweet tastes. I wonder why no one is making products for people like us! I think we are just not vociferous enough! I have a problem even finding biscuits which are a little sweet. Most of them are either sweet or salty.

    Dineshbabu, I guess if you are living abroad you have a choice!

    Amit, Nowadays one gets nonsweetened orange juice here in India but it’s very expensive!

    Smitha, I am quite sure that any foreign company launching here makes their product sweeter to suit the Indian taste. I have had foreigners telling me that Coke here is too sweet for their taste.

    Dev, true, kaju barfi is a little less sweet in good shops, but not always. My next door sweetmart makes it extra sweet! You see, the more sugar they add, the less kaju they have to add! And I too do not like black coffee and I prefer it with a little milk and a dash of sugar. Luckily in India when ti comes to hot coffee you can ask for sugar separately.

    Odzer, thanks for that tip. When I go to barista I shall definitely do that next time. I notice that barista sells orginal iced tea, stuff that they make themselves and I guess that’s why they can adjust the sugar content. And I think by lemon-soda without salt and sugar you mean fresh lime soda? I have that as a rule in restaurants! Also thanks for the links. I think I am going to add at least one of them in my main post.

    Shefaly, those desserts you mentioned I have not tasted or if I have then I didn’t know they were called that!

    sudhir kekre, welcome to my blog. 🙂

    Mahendra, hmmm true. No one asks. In fact true hospitality is considered not asking anyone whether they want tea or coffee, or whatever. Just serving it!!

    DI, I think 99/9% of Indians must be liking sweet things very sweet. Otherwise surely they would have devised some way of helping people like me out! 🙂 I wonder if it’s genetic, the craving for sweets, and I wonder what genes I have!!

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      May 29, 2009 3:32 pm


      //I saw the man put six teaspoons of sugar in his tea! I counted.//

      Tch-tch! Bad manners!! It was drilled into my head right from childhood that one must never count how much someone else is consuming, nor indulge in excess oneself.

      //taak … not with snacks//

      You must try it with thalipit. Doesn’t go as well as fresh, home-made white butter, but certainly better than dahi. Solkadhi, yes, but it seems to go well only with coastal Maharashtrian cuisine (whether veg. or non-veg.). Not with, say, Gujarati or Malayali food. On the other hand, considering its affinity with shorba I wonder how it would acquit itself in a wazwan?

      I’m glad you mentioned shondesh. I particularly like the nolen guder…naram paak variety. Which is why I love to go to Kolkata in winter. Have you tried it with a dollop of thick, creamy dahi? (I mean plain, not mishti doi.

      //I have a problem even finding biscuits which are a little sweet. Most of them are either sweet or salty.//

      How about cream crackers? With or without cheese and wine? 🙂

      //I have had foreigners telling me that Coke here is too sweet for their taste.//

      And as if that was not enough, they went and acquired Thums Up!

  24. May 29, 2009 2:46 pm

    Suda, true I like gul, but it’s not as sweet as sugar. My favourite sweet dish is puran poli but the one made with chana dal and gul. I cannot eat even one bite of the one make with white sugar. Not because white sugar is unhealthy (which it is) but because the puranpoli is too sweet. Actually you did catch me, because I like very sweet people! 🙂 The sweeter the better!

    rahul, true bitter chocolote has to be Swiss! Not Indian. Certainly not Indian, because it will have too much sugar in it.

    ruSh.Me, I am not sure where you get the green or the mocha tea. I make my green tea at home. Ofcourse in five star hotels you can get anything but in normal restaurants in India you can’t get that stuff. I don’t see it in coffee bars either.
    However you do get black tea (hot) without sugar.

    Kanupriya, yes!! Home made tea is the best! I am surprised to see so many people have said they don’t like the overly sweet stuff. I think the marketers are doing some blinkered thinking and missing out on an opportunity in India! How about doing a post on that?

    • May 29, 2009 3:11 pm

      True!! Puranpoli made using White Sugar is too sweet. One day I will like to make a law to limit the amount of sugar someone puts in tea offered to guests….. is it possible?? 😀

  25. May 29, 2009 3:05 pm

    We Indians have got sweet tooth.That is why India is called as the Diabetes Capital of the World.We are obsessed with sweet.I guess thatz why itz hard to find non-sweet drinks\snacks over here.

  26. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    May 29, 2009 4:36 pm

    “People have told me that Coke and Pepsi are sweeter in India too”
    Not only Coke,but any standard cereals like Uncle Toby’s or Kelloggs that we get in India, are very different to the ones sold overseas.They have a thick coat of sugar on top.
    Even the Muesli sold in India ,which is perceived as a healthier alternative, is loaded with sugar. Kids are made to develop a sweet tooth and the habit becomes impossible to wean off in their older days.

    Nitin, you have just confirmed what I already believe. I don’t blame these marketers really. I mean, they are just trying to give the Indian public what it wants. I agree that right from childhood a kid is made to have sweet things as if it is a big treat. – Nita

  27. May 29, 2009 6:12 pm

    Nita, you are lucky that you don’t have a sweet tooth. I love sweets but I take my tea and milk without sugar. Perhaps I don’t need sugar in my tea because I put lots of milk in my tea. You are right there are very few choices for people who like less sugar in their drinks.
    Shefaly, rasgulla is also not fried and I love it 🙂

    I know what you mean. If you have coffee without sugar at Macdonalds it is already sweet! Even that is too sweet for my taste because the coffee isn’t strong and the milk they add makes it too sweet. – Nita

  28. May 29, 2009 8:26 pm

    I sip a glass of excruciatingly sweet Maaza as I read this, and it occurs to me how right you are.

    I spent the last four years in Singapore. The food and drinks there are mind-numbingly bland. Compared to those, Indian sweets, drinks etc. are welcome respite, simply because they have taste. I do have a sweet tooth, but in moderation, so I get where you’re coming from…

    Pranav, I don’t like absolutely bland stuff either. for example I love chaats and behl and the like. However I don’t like the food if it is too spicy, just a bit. khatta meetha is my favourite taste. The way we make dal at home we add tamerind and jaggery, both. That’s my favorite kind! – Nita

  29. openlight permalink
    May 29, 2009 8:34 pm

    A sweet post about sourness of sweets!!

    Few points to ponder :

    – Regarding historical perspective, nothing more specific for Indians having sweet tooth maybe due to excessive sweet our political leaders/ bureaucrats/government officials/kings and their officials or middlemen were attuned to assimilate.

    – Indians have the largest variety of sweets (my view may be taken as an research topic / post)

    – Most of the junk food available in the market is also on same plank as sweets are, ice creams /chocolates both use processed sugar. Raw fruits and vegetables have the optimum level of sugar content (I love banana for that) and that’s why I am fond of them. further, these days we don’t eat to satisfy hunger but to cherish tastes

    – I myself have milk without any additives (sugar /boost/etc.) and found an accompanying partner in you.

    – Instead of tea / coffee you can ask for a glass of water instead (its more healthy, easily available).

    openlight, it’s worth finding out why Indians love sweets so much. In China for example they don’t eat sweets much and certainly not with meals. In India we have it as a part of the meal, not even afterwards, like dessert. Although nowadays I find people are eating sweets as desserts. – Nita

  30. May 29, 2009 9:16 pm

    I love sweets. I love my Rasgulla, I love my Sandesh and Icecream and Chocolates. I love CCD Coffee with loads of icecream and sugar syrup.
    I hate black coffee and chai without sugar.
    So yeah, that makes me a typical India.
    You remind me of a friend. He also hates anything too sweet, and loved to have utterly bitter black coffee.

    pallab, I don’t hate sweets as much as I used to as a teen. I have over the years managed to develop a taste for it as sweet things are everywhere! However even now I do not like certain things sweet (like drinks) and as for desserts I prefer them not too sweet. I like sandesh and chocolate. I also love chocolate sandesh which I have made at home at times. Add cocoa powder and it tastes really good! – Nita

  31. locutus83 permalink
    May 29, 2009 11:47 pm

    Well, I guess taste varies from person to person. I like the ‘sweet’ taste a lot, even though the frequency of consumption of sweet stuff is quite low for me, primarily for health and fitness reasons.

    I love creamy cold-coffee with ice-cream, hot chocolate and a bit of extra sugar. But it is a rare indulgence, considering the amount of calories injected into the system. I also love cakes, pastries, biscuits and chocolate, and don’t mind an extra spoon of sugar in coffee or tea, even though I can have pure liqour without sugar too.

    I also like to add a bit of sweet to normal non-sweet stuff like curries and dal. My parents have a slight problem with this, since most traditional Bengali vegetable, fish, dal and chicken dishes do not have sweet as a prime ingredient.

    locutus83, I think you will enjoy gujarati food then as they add sugar to curries etc. Actually if people add gool it is not bad for health. – Nita

  32. auroracoda permalink
    May 30, 2009 12:45 am

    Here in the US they always ask if you want it sweetened or non-sweetened. In some places, when you order tea (I’m a big Ice Tea drinker) they ask if you want Raspberry, blackberry or lemon Ice Tea. Half the time, when I say plain, they’ve got it. The rest of the time they don’t and only have the pre-made, pre-sugared, pre-artificially flavored teas. Bleck.

    When I was in India, it was hard to find just plain Iced Tea. When I went out, I drank the salted sweet lime. Soda’s are always too sweet for me.

    I envy anyone who can have a choice of sweetened or non-sweetened drinks! Heck, I don’t even mind paying an extra price for it, but here there simply isn’t a choice! Salted sweet lime is my standard drink at all restaurants. – Nita

  33. May 30, 2009 5:56 am

    Very cool post and I know exactly what you mean. I have a sweet tooth – I love desserts dearly. However, I never add sugar to my teas or milk or coffee, it tastes awful. Actually dessert with dark coffee or black tea, पुरण पोळी with lemon pickle, शिरा with raw mango pickle are some of my favorite combos. I guess it has to do with the extreme contrasting tastes.

    Soft drinks in US are made from corn syrup whereas in India they use sugarcane product. Hence the difference.

    May the sweet force be with you. 🙂

    Priyank, I invariably have puranpoli with pickle! 🙂 – Nita

    • Bombay wadapav eater permalink
      June 2, 2009 2:27 am

      Puranpoli with pickle…you mean the hot lemon one and shira with mango pickle? Priyank are you pregnant? Nita you too? 🙂 In Germany, they say only pregnant women have weird tastes. I had none. I was just happy if I could retain food and did not need to puke. I had bad heart burn.
      I hated sweets in India. Especially the monginis birthday cakes, gulab jamun, also basundi, phirni, everything. Just to please my grandmother, I ate some of her “madgale” during Ganeshchaturti. When she did not see, I conveniently, gave it to my father. I somewhat liked the other sweet “patoli”. I liked the modaks, somashe tho’ my grandmum made it with sugar which I think is not healthy if it is refined white sugar. I preferred the steamed modaks with gud of her neighbour’s Mrs. Joshi. There is one sweet called “Kunda” which you get in Belgaum which I really like. I hope it is gud-based but I am not sure. Probably Vivek Khadpekar knows better. I like rasgulla after the juice completely squeezed out. I also like sandesh and very few pedas – Panshikar had nice ones in Girgaum but in 2006 I was not happy with them anymore. When I was in Orissa, I liked some milk based sweets – can’t remember the name bu somewhat like ras malai or sandesh…is that champakali or sth like that? But I guess all this is sugar based and I try and avoid all the naked calories white sugar, white flour. Prefer all the whole wheat stuff and brown sugar/ gud (jaggery) based. I also like some dark bitter chocolate and better still pralines tho’ they are only for some special occasion. My favourite pralines being from Puccini.
      I generally like drinking organic green tea and organic herb teas. In Germany, we have a lot of great teas in the organic supermarkets. I also like the white tea they have and my favourite is matcha tea from Japan which is served generally during the tea ceremonies but they are unfortunately too expensive for everyday use so I like the sencha or bancha teas. There is some great Darjeeling leaf organic green tea from Ambootia too which I have been drinking since a few months.
      I never drank the Indian tea or chai. The first time I prepared it was in Germany when all the German friends were fascinated by the “yogi tee” as it is called here and sold for exorbitant prices in organic shops. They were surprised that I never drank it so I was forced to sip and I hated it. I don’t drink alcohol tho’ the riesling white wine is refreshing but I can’t drink more than three sips (also was forced by colleagues during a party). I quite liked the taste of federweisser/ heurige which is the wine made fresh from grapes and still needs to mature. It almost tastes like grape juice but much more refreshing. I used to like the madras coffee in India but here I like the latte with brown sugar and cacao powder on top sth like a khada chamach. 🙂 I wouldn’t want to stir it since I enjoy the frothy warm milk. In Germany we have lots of juices and smoothies without any sugar in the organic markets or with brown sugar. So if you are a health freak like me and ready to shell a bit more on food, you have great options. But most people here drink a lot of coffee and tea but suagr is offered separately and so is milk. But I never go for such things since they will be full of pesticides. I also never drink chemicals as Vishesh calls them all the crap Pepsi et al. What I really miss is Nariyal pani. I would walk a lot to save the money on busfare to spend it on nariyal pani when I was a student (from Xaviers Metro to home Opera House). When I was in Munnar in Kerala, I was disturbed to see the teapicker women with babies in front and heavy teabaskets. They also had to spray pesticides on the tea bushes and many had rashes on their hands and so did their babies. After seeing that, I hope you also wouldn’t want to drink tea unless organic. In Karnataka when I saw the film about how forests get turned into coffee plantages and many elephants dying, I think it is only fair to drink organic cofee of fair trade and if youdon’t have that option, drink one cofee a week.
      I drink probably once in a month. I hope I do get a chance to eat this gud sweet of Calcutta which Vivek K mentions – I remember reading a whole blog on that from rambodoc some moushumi.

  34. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    May 30, 2009 6:14 am

    Final Transit:

    //पुरण पोळी with lemon pickle//

    Thhat’s a new one for me! Of course I am not very fond of lime pickle, so maybe I’ll try it with some other pickle.

    //शिरा with raw mango pickle //

    I do remember, as a child, occasionally having शिरा with lime pickle. But since I do not much care for that pickle, so I would avoid it.

    I assume you are talking about the common semolina shira. There are some special varieties with which I would refuse to take liberties — such as that made from kaNik, or from mugachi daL, or the absolutely yummy satyanArAyaNAchA shira.

    • May 30, 2009 8:38 pm

      Yes its about the semolina kind 🙂 Certainly!

    • June 1, 2009 10:53 am

      @Vivek K: How do you bring in the other language characters when you are commenting?

      Destination Infinity

      • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
        June 1, 2009 12:16 pm


        What I do (as I have done in this case) is to just copy-paste from a handy source such as the one provided by Final Transit in the body of his comment. This means that I am limited to using only what is on offer 🙂 . When I have to go beyond that, I fall back on iTrans.

        I haven’t figured out how to insert the characters on my own, as FT and Suda do. I think I did ask FT long ago for a link to an online tutorial, to which he has not responded. 😦

        Vivek and DI, as far as I know one needs a software for the same. For example devanagari software to write the devanagri script. – Nita

        • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
          June 1, 2009 5:00 pm


          I know that. What want to know about is the key-commands (? an on-screen keyboard operable with a mouse?) and (as far as my specific obsession goes) a complete Marathi-Devanagari font, not one of those stupid hamereku chalenga Hindi-Devanagari things. This last demand is absolutely non-negotiable.

          One has to type the word in English phonetically and the words appear in language but you can also have a devanagari keyboard if you want it perfect. For example if you type Ni on the word document you get it in devanagari. I am sure it can be done on a web page like this one too, and it is some adjustment with the browser or the website. There is some code I think but anyway that is all I know. – Nita

          • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
            June 1, 2009 7:31 pm


            I am familiar with the kind you mention. They are not entirely satisfactory. Some of the commands are too complex and some just don’t register (especially the diacritics that are used in Marathi but not in Hindi).

          • June 2, 2009 6:56 am

            डज़ धिस वर्क? Looks like it does. I’ve just added other language keyboards in the Regional Settings. Then I just switch keyboards between languages. Of course, you have to have to have the necessary fonts installed. But I don’t think it takes more than that.


        • June 5, 2009 3:55 am

          The next post on my blog will be about writing in Devnagari. Promise. 🙂

    • Bombay wadapav eater permalink
      June 2, 2009 6:50 pm

      I love the satyanarayan shira. Can you give me a good recipe for that please Vivek? I would use brown sugar instead of the refined…hope that should be alright.

  35. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    May 30, 2009 8:25 am


    Talking about “less sweet sweets”, one item not generally found in shops but surely made at home, on occasion, across most of India, is the preparation from bovine colostrum called kharvas in Marathi and bari (rhymes with ‘curry’) in Gujarati.

    It would be interesting to know what it is called in other Indian languages.

    There is, of course, an ethical problem associated with this ‘delicacy.’ The consumption of bovine colostrum by humans deprives the newborn calf of its sole nutrition in the early days of its life.

    • Bombay wadapav eater permalink
      June 2, 2009 4:13 am

      My grandmother and my mum and aunt prepared “gine or gina sandan” very rarely which is like an idli out of bovine colostrom. there was nother dish out of it will ask my mum the name. I must admit that it tastes pretty good but today I wouldn’t want to eat this unless I am particularly sure that the cow has excess of milk. I don’t want to deprive milk out of any calf. Experiencing personally how difficult it was to nurse my son and to keep up the milk production (the amount of Malzbier I had to drink and all the weight I have put on due to that) and after facing constant problem, I finally weaned when he was 11.5 months. My friend in Cambridge tho’ nursed both her sons till they were 3 years old which is pretty shocking in the west or probably also in India. So for some period of time she nursed both the sons simultaneously, they being close to one another. So I guess cows differ like we mothers in our milk production.
      But like Nita, I love solkadi tho’ it will never taste as good as in Bombay or Goa and taak, salty lassi and similar products found here like Sauermilch, Kefir, Ayran but I think they do taste good with certain snacks. In Japan they serve azuki bean or matcha tea balls or cherry blossoms with green tea. The base is rice flour and inside there is paste of the azuki bean, certain other fruit I guess – must find out from my Japanese friends. They also had some lovely fig sweet,in Kanazawa and Matsue which goes well with the slightly bitter green tea. In Germany, Austria and Hungary they have a variety of cakes and I must say in winter where there is hardly any fruit, I did get used to eating some cake and some of it is yummy. My favourite being the Baumkuchen – the bitter chocolate variation and the Sachertorte and occasionally I’d fancy the warm apple or rhubarb crumble in England or clotted cream and jam with scones. The warm studel in Salzburg tho’ is better. There is something that they call Palatschinken in Germany and I can’t recollect the name sth Topfen in Austria which originally comes from Hungary is also not very sweet and pretty nice in winter. But many of these are all unhealthy unless you take the trouble of making it with whole wheat and molasses or any other brown sugar variation. I only hope that there would be more jaggery based sweets in India and people would stop eating refined sugar.

  36. May 30, 2009 10:50 am

    you already mentioned it but still, jaljeera is one “mast” drink 🙂 you can try homemade “aampana” and make it more khatta than meetha 🙂 or you can go for “kachchi keri (aam)” sherbot or Tang or, hmmm… i think i am out of the things which i can list here. Probably will come back with more if i remember 🙂

    Sakhi, amm panna which is not too sweet (home-made) is something I am crazy about! 🙂 But Tang is far too sweet. – Nita

  37. May 30, 2009 1:42 pm


    I am amused by all the observations here re how in the US unsweetened versions of drinks and cereals etc are available. Of course they are. And it is rarely sugar but HFCS.

    The whole approach to food in the US can be summarised in this ironic order commonly seen (and yes, I visited and sat observing things in many McDonald’s restaurants while researching stuff): “Double beefburger, with supersized fries… and diet Coke”.

    Indian life is centred on food but it is a much less dysfunctional relationship with food that in countries where industrially processed food is the order of the day.

    Shefaly, things have changed in India quite a bit as you already know. In cities I mean, there is a tendency to go the western way. I have seen youngsters preferring to drink coke instead of water. But here they aren’t that diet conscious, at least not yet. – Nita

    • Bombay wadapav eater permalink
      June 2, 2009 4:24 am

      Yes I used to get really annoyed when my friends preferred drinking a coke instead of a naryal pani just because coke was cheaper.

      I had to indeed get used to so much processed food. So I generally eat at home which I cook unless it is too cumbersome to cook like sushi or sashimi and some Japanese cuisine that I really love. Processed food is so full of hidden things. Many people are proud vegetarians but unknowingly consume a lot of animal fat or products. I am sure that in Europe mostly croissants and bakery products contain lard, gelatine unless you go to an organic bakery. Cheese also generally contains renit (which is from cow) unless it is made with microbial renit. MSG is used in almost every savoury like crisps what we call wafers in India. Aromas are used in fruit yogurts and icecreams which are pure chemicals so both strawberry or vanilla icereams just have the aroma straight from the laboratory and not the real thing tho’ I bet this is the case in India too starting withe streetside golas. Also all the colours they use in the sweets especially which probably are even banned in the EU. So sweets can actually be dangerous.

  38. R.D.B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 3:47 pm

    Oh yeah.. I agree..:)
    we Indians have a sweet tooth evn the coke n pepsi r sweeter in india to suit the locals..
    We realise it more whn U move out of ur homeland..
    My owner is irish . This is whn i had newly shifted here and had some indian festival n invited them over.. Gosh they had a tough time first with our overly spicy food n then overly sweet deserts.. n then sweet coffee…heheheee… poor they…I guess we Indians just love to have evryting “STRONG” in flavour be it sweet or spicy….:)
    [Although in Indian sense ,my cooking is less oily n spicy..:) n less sweet for most…!!!]
    But the Frappachino in Starbucks is as sweet as ur frappe’ in coffeeday, or mayb I got soo used to sugerless blck coffee n tea that I cudn’t njoy evn a regular drink here…

    R.D.B., welcome to my blog. Thats a good point. We Indians like everything very strong! And I think we come on very strong too….we talk loudly, are too friendly, love too much and so on! I guess we just let ourslves go! 🙂 – Nita

  39. May 31, 2009 1:20 am

    I must say that in general, I am not a big fan of sweets from India. But I do love besan ke laddu and karanjis … yummy 😀

  40. Dr N N Dhruv permalink
    May 31, 2009 4:21 am

    //And then, of course, we have puranpoli, which is filled with besan in Maharashtra and moog flour in Gujarat.//
    Well, this is news to me. In our home and in all Gujarati homes that I know, puranpolis (sometimes called Vedhamis in Gujarati) are filled with toor daal boiled and mashed and of course sweetened! But after I started eating Marathi Puranpolis filled with besan, I prefer them over our traditional Gujarati puranpolis. And especially the puranpolis made by the community called CKP are a treat. By the way, Nita, I consider people like you who don’t like sweets as unfortunate!): I wonder if the variety of sweets found in India can have any parallel in the world!

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      May 31, 2009 5:51 am


      My apologies for that slip of mind (I woud not call it a ‘typo’!). Thanks for the correction. It is, as you rightly point out, tuver.

      //…puranpolis (sometimes called Vedhamis in Gujarati)…//

      On this I have been given varying opinions on this by by different Gujarati sources. The first (which Ke. Ka. Shastri shares with you) is that the two are the same (Shastri also gives ‘vedami’ as an alternative pronunciation). The second holds that vedhami is thicker and smaller than puranpoli. According to the third, it is merely a matter of regional differences in usage, with Saurashtra and North Gujarat favouring ‘vedhami’ and Central and South Gujarat peferring ‘puranpoli’. I wonder if you have a more studied opinion than the one you have already expressed.

  41. June 1, 2009 12:09 pm

    “Less Sweet” here means “Normal Sugar” and “More…..” anyway, less or more is something subjective.

    So I usually go for “no sugar” in most of my drinks, because many people do not understand what is “less sugar”.

    Anshul, if one says “no sugar” one gets a very sweetened drink with the sugar substitute. That is my experience, that people interpret “no sugar” as the kind diabetics and dieters like. – Nita

    • June 3, 2009 3:12 pm

      Oh! so what should I ask for ? Something like… with no sugar, no sugar substitute, no artificial sweetener or any sweetener for that matter, no, nothing….. not even water and basic ingredients… 😉 I don’t want this fishy drink only.

  42. June 1, 2009 4:44 pm

    Nita, that was interesting to lear about you! Actually I think I know very well what you mean. Let me tell you something that may surprise you: I also find Indian sweets too sweet, but not sweet enough compared to the Western ones 🙂

    Indian sweets are full of sugar (honey?), and this is over-sweetened for a western taste…but this sweetness is somehow …not satisfiying. I don`t know what the reason is, but if I want soemthing sweet and have an Indian sweets then still it is not “enough”…hard to explain.

    At the same time even a small piece of a Vienese cake which is far less sweet than any Indian one, can satisfy my gusto immediately. I wonder what kind of ingredients make is work this way… no idea.

  43. June 1, 2009 5:45 pm

    Afterall Sugar is invented here before some 1700 years, it suites fully for Indian food to be sweet, sweeter, sweetest! 🙂

  44. Padmini permalink
    June 2, 2009 4:41 am

    In the US, when you order hot tea or coffee, it comes without sugar and milk, which you can add to suit your taste.Indians initially find this quite hard to comprehend since they’re so used to the Indian coffee and tea, which is usually very sweet. However, cold coffee and cold tea are usually sweetened since it’s a ‘brand’ that you select. For instance,I usually get a green tea latte from Starbucks (which is to die for) and it is sweetened with melon syrup and sugar.

  45. June 2, 2009 6:46 am

    Such an endearing post 🙂 I never was a sweet tooth till I had my older kid. That’s when I’d have dahi-sakhar mercilessly – till then I hated that combi!! But yes, in restaurants I’ve always ordered fresh-lime water with salt, no sugar. (At times I’ve even added black pepper :P), or salted-taak. And I always sprinkle a little salt on fruits like watermelon, all berries, guava, grapes…

    I don’t care much about desserts other than an occasional crazy craving. But I do need sugar, ginger & milk in my tea 😀

  46. June 8, 2009 2:05 pm

    hey Nita,

    Good post. Me too have same problem…

  47. Abdullah K. permalink
    June 14, 2009 7:40 pm

    I have a similar problem with Indian food, both with sweetness and spiciness. Even pizzas and other non-Indian foods made in India are “Indianised” to match the Indian taste for spiciness and sweetness.

  48. June 22, 2009 3:54 pm

    You are so lucky that you don’t have a sweeth tooth. All my teeth are sweet 😦 In fact I just distributed some brownies at work which were left over from weekend entertaining. That was the only way to stop me from eating them

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: