I remember attending various weddings in India and as any one from India would attest, a wedding in India is a huge undertaking. The various ceremonies, food preparations for the various events, shopping, wedding invitations, guests, guests and more guests. All this starts a month in advance of the marriage where the bride and groom are stars of the show and are treated like royalty, especially the bride.
There are all kinds of ceremonies leading up to the day of the wedding. I remember when one of my aunts was getting married, one of the ceremony consisted of women applying turmeric paste mixed with yogurt and other herbs on her face, arms, hands, legs while singing. The women applying the turmeric would come one after another, take a little of the turmeric paste on both their hands and sing and apply it on the bride-to-be. This would go on until every woman in the room got a chance to apply the turmeric paste on the bride. Of course, after a few of the women had their turn, I was totally bored watching the same thing go on for almost an hour! An hour!! Not sure how my aunt sat through the whole ritual and still have a smile on her face.
There were lots of other ceremonies performed until the day leading up to the wedding day. A day before the wedding, one of the relatives applied mehendi (or henna) with incredibly intricate design on her hands and legs. That process took a couple of hours. After all that was done, my aunt could not do anything else other than talk stories with the various relatives until the henna dried. She would leave the henna as is until the next day. The next day, she would remove the henna by applying a little coconut oil. After all the henna was removed, she had this fantastic design on her hands and legs. This is another important aspect of an Indian wedding.
By the time of the wedding day, we had hundreds of relatives that had arrived and had to be taken care of and served. A huge marriage hall was booked for a few days before and after the wedding. Most of the relatives stayed in the hundreds of room in the marriage hall. The marriage hall had a huge kitchen area with commercial stoves, pots, pans, glasses etc. Watching the cooks in the kitchen make food for nearly 300 – 500 people was fascinating to watch. Yes, that’s how many guests were expected to arrive since the wedding invitations in India usually read as follows:
“Mr and Mrs Patel request the presence of your company on the occasion of the marriage of “insert bride’s name” with “insert groom’s name” on the day of twenty nine august, two thousand and one.
You are invited with family and friends”
The above invitation is of course made up by me and yes, I know, it sucks but the point I am trying to show you is the last line. Every invitation usually has that line that says please come one and all. On the day of the wedding, there are so many people that half of them are friends of our relatives that we have never met! Now you know why the cooks have to make food for hundreds of people!
Anyway, one of the dessert dishes that I would see them make is Lapsi. It is a traditional Jain dessert that is made with cracked wheat, cardamom, slivered almonds, shredded coconut, sugar and ghee (clarified butter). They cooked in a huge karai (or wok) by pouring gallons and gallons of ghee (see photo below) and then adding pounds and pounds of cracked wheat or bulgur.
They fried the mixture with these humongous flat spoons in a humongous karai (or wok) cooking on a humongous gas stove! It was fascinating to watch them cook as they fried the mixture and then added lots of hot water and cooked until the wheat was cooked through. Then went in the cinnamon, sugar and almonds into the mixture. That made me so hungry that I would run to them and ask for a plate of hot lapsi to eat right there! Yum!!
I cooked the lapsi last weekend and had my coworkers try it out the next day. Guess what! They loved it! Every Sunday is my cooking and experimentation day and every Monday my coworkers expect me to get samples of my dishes for them to try out. So far they have loved everything that I have made.
Lapsi (Cracked Wheat with Almonds and Cardamom)
Make sure to buy the excellent quality and excellent tasting ghee from the online link provided. Trust me, it makes a huge difference in taste. Unfortunately, none of the stores carry it (whole foods, PCC natural markets etc). Do not buy the ghee from the Indian stores as it has all kinds of coloring agents in them and does not taste as good as the one I mention in the link on the left sidebar.
This dish can be eaten for breakfast or dinner or lunch. It is filling and yummy.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 – 25 minutes
1 cup cracked wheat (or bulgur)
2 1/4 cup hot water
1/3 cup ghee (clarified butter)*
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
2 tablespoon slivered almonds, soaked in water
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup sugar
Soak the almonds in 1 cup of water.
Heat ghee on medium-heat in a saucepan. Add the cracked wheat to the ghee and fry till it gets a light brown color, 6-8 minutes. Add 1/4 cup hot water at a time and stir. Keep adding until the wheat has slightly expanded and cooked through.
Fold in the shredded coconut, cardamom, sugar and almonds. Cook for 2-3 minutes until all the ingredients are blended.
Serves 4 – 5