Last night I tasted Sagla Bagla for the first time. There was just a little sliver of the pastry on my plate. A diaphanous pastry crust, which looked like it would blow away at a breath, hid a sweet and creamy paste of pistachio. Coup de foudre is the only phrase I know which describes this. It’s an appropriate phrase since you wouldn’t be very wrong if you just pronounced it “coup de food”. Like all such events, it was entirely fortuitious. An old schoolmate of The Family had returned from Surat recently, and presented the nicely packed sweet to her, remembering that she was very fond of it when they were schoolgirls. The triangular package lay forgotten for some days before she exhumed it last night. Now I would gladly forgo a table loaded with all the sweets I know for another taste. It is one of India’s lesser known sweets, and I can think of nothing that deserves to be better known.
The box it came in had the name of the shop: Zaffran. I read that the sweet was first made in 1901, and the recipe is passed through the family. As far as I know, it is made by only one person, Fatimabibi, whose husband, Khalidbhai, owns the shop. Her son Aiyaz is apprenticed to her, so the recipe for this Bohra delicacy can pass on to another generation. Fatimabibi makes the pastry filling from pistachio, cashew, sugar, and cardamom. The flaky crust of maida, called manda, is rolled in the bakery. When the manda is ready, it is cut, stuffed with the filling and lightly baked. This recipe is said to be a riff on something which Khalidbhai’s grandfather tasted during his travels in the Middle East and Levant.
Amazingly, The Family had completely forgotten about the sweet. Not only did the sight of the box not jog a memory, even the taste did not (take that blow, Proust). But this is not a sweet I’m going to let disappear from my life. I will pursue it.