“Love is my religion.”
So started confectioner Mrs Beharry Singh when asked to share the secret behind the sweet success of her Indian treats.
Beharry Singh, 53, is the owner of IndianSweetsTT. Her picture-perfect, made-to-order barfi, kurma and ladoo sweets are proving to be in high demand as Hindus and the wider national community count down the days to Divali on November 4.
The South-based snack maker says her handmade delicacies are a point of personal pride as they open a window to share the culture she loves with the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
“When I make these sweets, I feel proud making it. I grew up around the Hindu and Indian culture, and it’s my engagement in my culture that makes me happy and it’s what drives me forward.
“My religion is love, everything I do, I do it with love. In essence, I share my love and appreciation for people and my culture through these food creations, and when customers partake, the experience is reciprocated,” Beharry Singh said.
A slow and steady hand
Indian sweets require a slow and steady hand. The process cannot be hurried, Beharry Singh said.
“Sweets making is something that requires patience and must not be a rushed process; timing is important in achieving the right textures and the final outcome of these sweet delicacies,” Beharry Singh revealed.
Beharry Singh, who first started making sweets in her early 20s, says she sticks to traditional methods in her kitchen. That approach has seen her products become a favourite for prayers, special events and other religious occasions. A perfectly made sweet can be a time portal, transporting the taster back to a cherished childhood memory, she noted.
“I try to stick to the most popular or well-known eats, the taste of simple recipes can take people back to their childhood or their most cherished moments; it brings them joy, and I enjoy knowing that something I create can be so impactful when they taste the sweets I make. Every customer is special to me and I will forever be grateful,” she said.
Practice makes perfect, she insists, and encourages anyone thinking of trying their hands at Indian sweets to give it go. In fact, Beharry Singh says her goal is to pass on her knowledge to willing and eager students.
“I went through a lot of trial and error when I just started off, but over time, I improved more and more. It’s an art, it truly is, and I hope to be able to teach people this skill,” she said.
Getting Indian sweets online
Like most small businesses, IndianSweetsTT took a major hit due to pandemic-forced restrictions to the food industry. Rather than sit and sulk, Beharry Singh said she began thinking of new ways to do business and eventually took her inventory online.
“In life, it’s all about adapting. The pandemic happened, but I did not let it keep me down; that’s when I decided to launch my business to an audience online and offer pick-up and delivery services.
“I actually turned this skill into a business only five years ago. Now I am fulfilling orders online for something I enjoy doing. I have a really good support team that assists me online, and I am also learning new ways to build my business,” she beamed.
As business returns to near normal, she says she has a few new ideas that will get customers excited.
“My family and I come from a creative background, so I do have a few ideas in mind that I know customers will be excited about. Building an online presence right now is the main focus, and creating original photos and videos with our Indian sweets is what my team and I are working on. So far, people have been responding positively and I feel very blessed,” she concluded.
Flaky Mini Kurma
Recipe courtesy IndianSweetsTT
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces cold, unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon elychee powder
1/4 cup evaporated milk
Oil for frying
1. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl together with the unsalted butter. Blend gently with your fingertips until the mixture looks similar to breadcrumbs.
2. Stir in milk gradually while gently forming a dough until it is firm.
3. Leave covered with aluminium foil for one hour.
4. Uncover and form two-inch balls and roll thin and long (about half-inch thickness) like a rope, and cut into one-inch pieces until the dough is completely used up.
5. Put oil to heat in an iron pot, and when hot, carefully place the dough pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown. Drain and move on to making the phag or sugar syrup.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1. Pour sugar and water into a pot and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
2. Keep stirring until the phag thickens and feels sticky to the touch.
3. Remove phag from the heat and pour over the fried kurma pieces, and mix quickly until the phag dries and sticks to the kurma.
4. Parcel and serve.