The Indians, it seems, know how to snack deliciously.
At first, I was more interested in the Sweet rather than the Lovely part of this Indian Snack house. They have an Indian version of fudge called barfi. However, a tip on this board made me decide to check out some of the other items on the menu.
A mention in the San Jose Mercury News (linked below) says
Some of the most intriguing fast food in the South Bay can be found at the Indian cafes that serve the zippy street foods of Delhi they offer lively contrasts of tastes and textures. Some of the freshest are served at Lovely Sweets Vegetables taste as if they have been cooked to order. Chutneys sing with the flavors of tamarind, mint and chiles.
If you are Indian, supposedly Lovely Sweets has an excellent national reputation. If you are not Indian, look into this place to see why that reputation was gained and discover some flavorful Indian food like nothing youve ever tasted.
When you enter, there is a display case of the sweets and a huge variety of what looked like Chex mix type snacks. There were all sorts of baked and fried little pretzel like snacks. Some were mixed with nuts. The Chex type of mix was called hot mix. There also seemed to be some dehydrated banana snacks. It all looked fresh, fresh, fresh and appetizing.
There is a link below to a previous Lovely Sweets post on Chowhound and I forgot to bring it. When I looked at the menu the only word that I remembered was puri. So I got that.
Pani puri reminded me of nachos a bit in texture and it had that same sort of snack satisfaction but the flavors were so complex and wonderful. All at the same time it was hot and sweet, crunchy and creamy. There was a small brown cup of tamarind sauce and another beautiful green dipping sauce.
Looking at recipes for pani puri on the web, it seems like it has Chopped Mint Leaves. Chopped Coriander Leaves, Ginger, Green Chillies,Ground Cumin Seed (roasted), chilli powder. There certainly was. The dish has crispy little white fried puff called puri. They are addictive as potato chips. You cant eat one.
In this dish, they are broken open and filled with mashed potatoes. There are also flat puri in the dish. The version I had also had yogurt and it was topped with some crunchy stuff, the texture and look of corn flakes. Add two types of garbanzo beans mixed into it all. As I said, there was a nachoness to it in texture and composition.
Everything about this was good, the smell, the look, the flavor. I will definitely be back to try more menu items.
I recently discovered barfi, an Indian like fudge that comes in intriguing flavors, shapes and pastel colors at Passage to India Bakery. Some of them are brushed with silver. They were delicious and I wanted to see what the Lovely Sweets version was. They are served supposedly at celebrations.
Lovely Sweets has these lovely baskets (think fancy candy boxes) that they will make up for special occasions and weddings. When I asked about the basket, Kumar showed me pictures of the boxes filled with the sweets and they were lovely. Although, if you decide to try barfi, I think Passage to India has the tastiest and prettiest version. If the first barfi I tried was at Lovely Sweets, I dont think I would have sought them out again. However, for anything else, I recommend Lovely Sweets. Also, Lovely Sweets has a more extensive selection of different sweets in addition to the barfi.
There are two locations, one in Freemont and one in Sunnyvale. The first location was opened by Ajay Kumar in 1999. The second location in Sunnyvale was opened by his son, Nimat Kumar, who is really a nice guy and very helpful and friendly.
I would recommend the Sunnyvale location as they seem to have a larger variety of items and it is more American friendly. The look is like a nice coffee shop, there are more tables and they speak English which helps. They also have pictures of all the items on the menu so you can look at what you might be ordering. Also, all the sweets and snacks are clearly labeled.
In the Chowhound link below, the description of the Sunnyvale location really doesnt match what I saw. It DOES match the Fremont location. They are very pleasant in Fremont, but the English is not too good and the décor is a bit funky.
In a 2003 review in a publication called Indian Parent it is mentioned that Lovely Sweets is nationally renowned and that they carry mouthwatering mithai, yummy rosogolos, intricate jeibis, juicy gulab, jamuns and traditional halwai. As I said, the Sunnyvale location has this all clearly marked and will explain it to you.
I tried a new mithai today. Like in English, a sweet can mean anything from donuts to candy. Today I tried the donut like malai chumb. They are stuffed with sweet fillings and come in pretty colors. The donuts are soaked in sweet syrup. In terms of the syrup, it reminded me of baklava which I am not fond of. I wont order these again.
Indian Parent mentions the family still makes everything by hand. It said the restaurant burned to the ground a few years ago and the family persevered and rebuilt.
There seems to be a Saturday special at both places Makki Roti and Sarson da Saag. I have no clue.
At the Sunnyvale location, I asked what type of puri would he recommend. Kumar looked at me and asked if I would like it mild. Not having my chow passport with me, I looked him in the eye and said I want what the average Indian would order. I like spicy if that is how Indians eat it. Also, since the Kumar speaks perfect English, I guess the chow passport was not necessary anyway. He looked amused and suggested the pani pari. As I said, it was delicious.
I am just so full of myself here. Not only do I know what barfi is, but Im comparing different versions. I wanted to finish my mithai taste test as tomorrow begins Lent and I am giving up bakeries of all ethnicities for the next six weeks. While Southern India has a significant Catholic populations, just how many people do you know giving up barfi for Lent?
How about that. I got the tip about Lovely Sweets on the board by the top dog hisself. Should you read this, thanks Jim. It makes up for the La Palma pupusa. Great long distance sleuthing. You know, we have nicer weather and vegetables out here. Ever considered moving?
932 E.El Camino Real
41031 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538
Hours are basically 10 10, but I would call and check as the Sunnyvale location seemed to have an exception about closing at 3 on Mondays.
Below is a link by a Chowhound who actually knows something about this type of food and recommended Lovely Sweets.
Link to San Jose Mercury News mention
Link to a Pani Puri recipe
My post about Passage to India Bakery and Mithai shop
[BROKEN LINK REMOVED]