Shrikhand is an extremely popular Indian dessert where plain yogurt is transformed into a melt-in-the-mouth delicacy. Essentially a combination of yogurt with fruits and sugar, this dish has a very sweet taste. In North India, it's commonly served for breakfast along with hot pooris, a fried type of bread. In South India, this dish is served as a dessert after the end of the meal. Made from fermented yogurt, shrikand has a creamy, semisoft consistency and is slightly yellowish in color.
This sweet is also made specially for Janamashtami, a festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna, in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It's also served as part of the Gujarathi thali, which is a full meal containing little portions of assorted curries and vegetables. While its exact origins are unknown, it's thought to have come into being when traveling herdsmen strung up curd in a cloth overnight during long journeys.
While this made it easier for them to transport the yogurt, it didn't help modify the taste. Some believe that the practice of adding nuts and sugar to it began with trying to make the yogurt more palatable. A few people compare this dessert in a colorful and spiritual manner to Indian people in general. Like shrikhand, which is obtained by isolating the best parts of yogurt and leaving everything else behind, Indians are thought to have a truly hospitable core, once all else is taken away.
One of India's ancient traditional desserts, shirkhand first became known in the west part of India and is now found widely throughout the country. There are many local variations found in different states. For instance, amrakhand is shrikhand containing mango pulp and is found in some parts of Maharashtra.
Matho is another variation of shrikhand that's quite popular in Gujarat. There are many funky varieties of shrikand. One well-known version called fruitkhand contains pieces of many different fruits like pineapple, apple, and sapodilla. Strawberry shrikand is another popular variation. It's a dessert that lends itself to a lot of experimentation because it's so easy to prepare.
To make this sweet dish, fresh yogurt is made from milk. The yogurt is wrapped in a thin muslin cloth and left for a few hours or overnight for the liquids to drain away. The strained, thick yogurt that's left behind is called chakka, which is beaten along with powdered sugar and a little cardamom powder. Saffron dissolved in a little warm milk is added to the mixture. The creamy concentrate is then refrigerated for a few hours.
It is served chilled, garnished with thin slivers of almonds, pistachios, and bits of dry fruits. Most of the time, it's served at the end of meals as a balancing point to the hot, spicy curries that come before. For some, eating hot pooris with cold shrikhand is akin to the Western tradition of consuming hot pancakes and ice cream. The dessert is a staple in many North Indian wedding feasts and can be easily made at home.