Sugee halwa is a favourite childhood dessert of mine. It’s such an easy recipe to make and only needs a few ingredients.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
What is Halwa?
The term halwa itself encompasses many a variation. Halwa can be made with semolina, as in today’s recipe. But you’ll also find it commonly made with regular flour, carrot, coconut, dates and other fruit.
In fact, halwa made from wholemeal flour, called atta halwa, is one of the most common versions found in Singapore and Malaysia, a heritage from the emigrating South Indians. Like our prawn vadai here. I have distinct memories of my grandfather making it in my grandparents’ old home in Singapore.
Halwa is another Persian legacy, and is found throughout the Middle East, some parts of the Mediterranean and Balkans, and most notably, South Asia. Depending on where you are, it can be called spelt halva or halvah.
Sugee Halwa Recipe
This is today’s recipe. Let’s take a look at the name, shall we?
- sugee = also spelt suji or sooji, it is the Hindi word for semolina. It is also called rava.
- halwa = comes from the Persian/Arabic languages (حلوا)
Sugee halwa is also known as sheera in some parts of India, and kesari in south India. Alternate spellings and names would also include suji halwa and suji ka halwa. The latter just means halwa of suji.
Like all the other halwa recipes, we make a paste with the semolina, ghee and sugar syrup. The syrup can be made with just sugar and water, or milk can be added to it.
This is what we’ll be doing:
- Make the milky sugar syrup – takes 1 minute to get it going, 5 minutes simmering. We then flavour it.
- Heat the ghee, then fry the semolina for 7 – 10 minutes.
- During cooking, we also add the cardamom (and nuts and raisins, if you want).
- Add the syrup and cook until the paste comes together (3 – 5 minutes)
- Dish it up, that’s it.
Traditionally, raisins and nuts will be added to the paste while it’s cooking. But my kids and I are not fans, preferring a smooth halwa, so I tend to sprinkle those things after.
Ingredients for Sugee Halwa
We use fine semolina for our sooji halwa recipe today. It’s easily found in large supermarkets near the baking aisle perhaps, or somewhere near the rice pudding.
Failing that, any South Asian store will stock it, and of course, you know you’ll find it online.
Can you use coarse semolina to make halwa? Sure you can. But your halwa will have a grittier texture and mouthfeel.
Some people will make a simple syrup with just sugar and water. Some, like me, love adding milk to it for a creamier taste.
And if you’ve been a long time LinsFood follower and my desserts, you’ll know that means evaporated milk! But you can use fresh milk or just omit it altogether, making up the liquid with water.
What about the sugar, you ask? My preference is for white sugar. I think brown sugar makes this Pakistani and Indian dessert a little too sweet and sickly.
Ghee is clarified butter, an essential ingredient in South Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa.
It’s easily found in supermarkets and “ethnic” shops.
If you can’t get hold of ghee, you could substitute it with unsalted butter, in a pinch. It will be missing a little depth, but needs must, right?
I have a tutorial here on LinsFood, for the Ethiopian clarified butter. Follow that recipe to make your own ghee, leaving out all the spices.
A little cardamom powder (ground cardamom seeds) is a must in our sugee halwa (most halwa recipes, in fact), as the added hint of spice and warmth just rounds off the flavour perfectly.
Besides that, I use rose water, a natural accompaniment to cardamom, as you’ll see in many of my Middle Eastern desserts on LinsFood.
I’ve also used orange flower water (orange blossom water) in this, an idea borrowed from the Middle Eastern halva. It makes a deliciously aromatic Indian and Pakistani halwa.
Some folks will also add saffron to this dessert, but here, less is definitely more, methinks.
As mentioned above, most people will add nuts to the paste while it’s frying. This is true for pretty much any kind of halwa, be it today’s semolina version or say, carrot halwa.
If you want to do that, add them halfway through cooking the paste. This way the raisins and nuts won’t be over done.
I prefer to just scatter a tiny amount over the finished product. So those who don’t fancy all the “bits”, can move them out of the way! That’ll be my children.
How to Serve Sugee Halwa?
It’s served as dessert or a teatime treat.
As you can see from the video and images here, I like to turn it out in a shape and slice it up in wedges (or even squares). In northern India and Pakistan, it’s often just served up as it is (all in bits) in a rough and rustic form. You’d then eat it with a spoon.
The shaped form is more reminiscent of the south Indian version, kesari.
It’s up to you how you’d like to serve it.
Another popular way of serving sugee halwa is as part of an indulgent breakfast called halwa puri. The halwa is served with fried bread (puri) and perhaps some sort of chickpea curry or dal. It makes for a delicious combination of sweet and savoury.
How long will it Keep?
I store it in an airtight on the kitchen counter for up to 3 days. But it never lasts that long! We have too many halwa lovers in this family.
You can also keep it in the fridge for up to a week or freeze it, for up to a month.
How to warm up halwa? I just do it in the microwave oven until it’s piping hot. But you could just place the mixture in a pan and fry it for about 5 minutes, breaking it up. Whatever is easier.
And there you have it. You’ll find more local desserts on the Desserts and Drinks page.
Shall we get cooking?
If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating! 😉Thank you!
If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram or Facebook and tag me @azlinbloor and hashtag it #linsfood.
Sugee Halwa (South Asian Semolina Pudding)
- 375 ml water
- 150 g white sugar
- 125 ml evaporated milk or fresh milk, read article above
- 100 g ghee
- ⅛ tsp ground cardamom about 8 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp rose water or orange blossom water
- 150 g fine semolina
Additional Ingredients (I only use this as topping/garnish)
- 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped nuts like cashews, pistachios, almonds, walnuts
- 2 Tbsp raisins
- ½ tsp finely crushed dried edible rose petals (completely optional)
The Sugar and Milk Syrup
- Place the water, milk and sugar in a small saucepan on medium heat and bring to a simmer. Keep a close eye on it as you don’t want it to boil over.
- Simmer for 2 minutes, then take it off the heat and stir in the rose or orange blossom water.
Let's Make the Sugee Halwa
- Heat and melt the ghee in a wok or frying pan on medium heat. Tip the semolina in and roast in the hot ghee for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Go for 10, if you want a slightly darker halwa.
- Add the ground cardamom after 2 minutes and stir well.
- Add the raisins and chopped nuts around the 5 minute mark, if you want to. This will allow them to soften but not overcook.
- Add the milk syrup in 3-4 additions. Go easy with the first pour, as the halwa paste is going to splutter like crazy. So start small. Then, when it begins to settle down, you can add more of the syrup with each addition.Keep stirring at this stage, round and round, and the liquid-y paste will start to thicken.Keep cooking until it comes together in one soft mass and away from the edges of the pan. See video.
- Transfer to a plate or dish and garnish with crushed nuts of your choice, raisins and optional crushed rose petals.