Petha (Hindi: पेठा pronounced [ˈpeːʈʰaː]) is a translucent soft candy from North India and Pakistan (Punjab region and metros). Usually rectangular or cylindrical, it is made from the ash gourd vegetable (also known as winter melon or white pumpkin, or simply petha in Hindi and Urdu).
There is a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant/takeout place here in Hamilton called The Himalaya.
This restaurant really doesn't seem like anything terribly magical from the outside. It's in a fairly plain looking strip mall, between a somewhat neglected convenience store and some offices, on a little side street in the east end of the city.
I first went to this place because I happened to be walking by one day after an appointment, and saw a sign advertising Samosas, 2 for $1.
Being the complete sucker for Samosas that I am, I decided to venture in.
What I didn't expect though was to see an entire glass bar and counter filled and overflowing with colourful little cakes and pastries, in all different shapes and sizes.
Some in syrup, some caked with coconut. Some rolled in pistachios, others clearly made of some form of fruit or vegetable.
Ever since my first trip, I've been completely hooked. Not only hooked on their samosas (which are by far, the best samosas I've ever had in my life, I think I've told just about everyone I know to try them) but hooked on trying something new from their counter each time I visit. Sometimes I'll have a little variety box made up and bring them to a friend's house so we can try a nibble of each one.
My first sample was "Petha". It's appearance alone had me completely curious. Anyone could tell by looking at it that this was either fruit or vegetable, something organic, but what? These were translucent, slightly veiny, white chunks, floating in some sort of sugar syrup.
I ordered one small, 1 inch piece, to which not a single eyebrow was raised. And after I bit into it I instantly knew why.
This was sweeter than any other candy or dessert I can think to name. But delicious, and seemingly buttery.
And with an ever-so-slight flavour that I couldn't really put my finger on. Something familiar.
And the texture was similar to a watermelon pickle, or even a little bit like candied/dried pineapple. I had to buy more.
I don't know if they're meant to just be eaten whole, but I eat tiny bits of them on the sides of other things. (like a pickle, or a chutney.)
I tried these quite a few times before I was able to find out exactly what it was I was eating. Often, it happens that the person working the counter doesn't speak much English, so the routine is to just point at what you want to buy. I had looked online, looking up everything I could think of trying to find out what on earth these little bits of deliciousness were.
I was buying them for my friends and family to try, without even being able to tell them what they actually trying.
Luckily, one day a very friendly girl who was working at the counter spoke quite a bit of English and told me what these are. She told me that these are called "petha" (pronounced in a way that I would spell as "pet'sa") a very traditional sweet and that they're made from "Ash Gourd" or "winter pumpkin". That familiar taste that I noticed is something that they add to the syrup...rosewater.
Last month, while shopping at our regular all-around-Canadian grocery store (Freshco), I found these in the "international" section. The same candied gourd, but dried. They were right under my nose the entire time! This variety doesn't have the rosewater or the syrup, but they're pretty close to the real deal.
In fact... went to take a picture today, and found that this was all that's left!
Clearly I'm going to have to hide my future friday foods if I want any left to photograph.
What new or different foods have you tried recently? I'd love to hear about them!
Go out and try something new!
Original Friday Food Fair Post here.