Diwali sweets comprise a world of colours and flavours
We checked out two shops as they ramped up production for the festival of lights
There are few holidays as sweet as Diwali, the festival of lights that celebrates the victory of good over evil or the triumph of light over darkness. The festival, which begins this week, is marked by gorgeous confections of all shapes and colours as it is tradition to give boxes of these delectable sweets to those who celebrate it.
The holiday originates in India and is mostly associated as a Hindu celebration, but those in the Sikh and Jain communities also observe it, as well as non-religious people throughout South Asia where it’s a national holiday in many countries. Throughout the Greater Toronto Area, bakeries have ramped up production to meet demand from thousands of families observing Diwali.
This mom-and-pop shop started by sweets master Muhammad Butt is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Butt learned to make desserts from his brother, who also owns a sweet shop in Pakistan. There’s always a steady crowd of regulars lining up at the counter to buy boxes of the house-made sweets made from the Butt family’s generations-old recipes.
“I’ve been doing this for 21 years,” says Butt, showing off incredible finesse as he pipes fine, concentric circles of bat- Anum Butt, left, and her family-run Al-karam Sweets in Toronto where South Asian sweets are made in-house by her dad as well as longtime employees such as Sabahat Beg, right, who has been at the shop for 12 years.
ter into a big vat of hot oil to make the flowery shaped amrati (or imarti as it’s sometimes spelled), a fried Indian sweet that’s submerged in syrup.
His daughter, Anum Butt, runs the online business and says they’ve shipped their desserts as far away as the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and California.
What started as a sweet shop in Toronto’s Little India in 1986 grew into a giant food and restaurant company with three locations in the Greater Toronto Area, when the Pabla family
took over the business in the early ’90s. Brar’s makes about 40 types of sweets and has 10 in-house chefs dedicated to making desserts, says Harjinder Pabla, vice-president of OIC foods, Brar’s parent company that specializes in vegetarian food for the South Asian market.
To cater to the growing mainstream demand for Indian food (Loblaws, Wal-mart and Sobeys carries its products), a 190,000-square-foot manufacturing plant is set to open next year. Brar’s vibrant take on dil khushar contains a trio of pistachio, cashew and almonds.