Karah or atta halwa is a sweet dish served in gurudwaras, Sikh places of worship, after the prayers are finished. However, before I go into the details of this dish, a short lesson in the reasons for why food is served in gurudwaras.
Gurudwaras are places of great generosity and immense hospitality. You can walk into any gurudwaras anywhere in the word but especially in Punjab and you will be served food in the communal kitchen. Everyone is welcome to not only come and eat but to also help with the food preparation. The communal kitchens in the gurudwaras bring together the people of all castes, rich and poor as equals to share food. This tradition comes from one of the key tenets of Sikhism that all people of all castes, especially the untouchables should be treated as equal and communal kitchens put that tenet into real practice. This amazing tradition has continued unbroken for hundreds of years and one of my favorite reasons to visit gurudwaras!
Just like all the food that is served in gurudwaras, karah is a simple dish made using three ingredients: wheat flour, sweet and ghee. After the religious worship, two kinds of sweet dishes are offered to the worshippers: a dry mix of sweet treats or karah. I would always pray that the priest was serving the karah rather than the dry sweets and have been known to go stand in line more than once to get multiple helpings!
My mom made karah on special occasions and I am sharing the recipe on the birth date of the founder of the sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev, a man of great vision, benevolence and courage.
I hope you will give it a try.
- 1 cup wheat flour used for making chappatis
- 4/5 cup ghee clarified butter
- 1 cup granular sugar unrefined sugar like demerara sugar
- 4 cups water
In a pan bring the water and sugar to boil about three to four times and then set it on low heat.
While the water is boiling, set another wide-mouth pan on low heat and add the ghee. Once the ghee has melted, add the flour.
Keeping the heat low, keep on continuously stirring the flour and ghee so that the flour doesn't get burned.
After about 15 minutes of cooking and stirring, the flour would change colour to golden and become fragrant.
Now add the sugared water slowly to the pan while continuously stirring the flour. If it's not stirred continuously, the flour will stick together.
Once you have added all the water, you should have a smooth mixture. Remove it from heat and serve it hot.