Delhi now has a dessert parlor, Anything But Sugar, that pampers your sweet tooth with delightful sweets made from all natural sweeteners such as honey, dates, coconut palm sugar, jaggery and more
Words & Photographs: Ambica Gulati
Anything But Sugar is no ordinary sweet shop. Located on the main road of Defence Colony, here traditional Indian mithais and bakes and cakes are wrapped in natural ingredients, giving you a ‘guilt-free dessert experience’. From the much-loved barfis, laddus and rasgullas to cakes, pastries, cookies and doughnuts, natural sweeteners of all kinds are blended to give the consumer a healthy sweet. “In India, jaggery has been a staple sweetener with and after meals since centuries. The health benefits of honey, dates and other natural sweeteners have been widely researched and documented,” says Ved Pohoja, the man behind the concept.
Under the Home For Food Tradition (HFT) umbrella, a healthy food catering firm that has been running for five years, Pohoja and young entrepreneurs-Shaurya Sharma and Pallavi Singla-are giving 2020 a sweet note with these gourmet desserts. Not only are there fresh mithais, cakes et al, there is wide range of honeys procured from all over the country. There is even chocolate made with jaggery. Browse around to find pickles and dips made with natural sweeteners and honey-laced Baklava is on the shelves too.
These sweets are suitable for diabetics as well. Pohoja is a diabetic and pampers himself with these delightful desserts. For the skeptics, the entrance boldly proclaims that refined sugar is not used. Going by the data on healthline.com, “Refined sugars may increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. They’re also linked to a higher likelihood of depression, dementia, liver disease, and certain types of cancer.”
While refined sugar comes with its own downside, there is some percentage of sugar in everything we eat. “For as long back as we can trace, humans have foraged for fruits, wild honey and sap sugars. So, keeping it natural is the healthier and balanced way of life. Sap sugars such as coconut palm, dates, honey, jaggery, these are all natural and their health benefits have been well researched. We just need to go back to our roots,” says Chef Jagdeep, the man who has worked over months with his team at HFT kitchens to give a twist to these delish sweets. With an experience of over three decades, the Chef won the Guinness World Record in 2007 by making the world’s largest biryani at 1, 40,640 kg in a specially crafted 10-feet deep handi.
“We had been thinking of healthy sweets since the beginning of 2020. The lockdown became the perfect time to set the ball rolling. Everyone was indoors and cooking! And it took us many trials, hits and misses to roll out the end products. Even for the western confectionary products such as cakes, cookies, doughnuts, we are using natural fruit glaze, pure creams. Our mithais are made with ghee and all pure ingredients. Everything is made in fresh batches. We have tied up with vendors who are giving us fresh ingredients. For instance, Nolen Gur for the rasmalai comes from a farmer in West Bengal. We don’t use the khoya from the market, we make it ourselves,” explains the veteran who has traveled across the world and has expertise in different cuisines, including European.
With changing seasons and weather conditions, the natural ingredients might have a variation, but all those are factored in. “Keeping the quality intact is our prime motive,” say the people behind the venture. “We have researched widely on the natural products that are used in these desserts. For the honeys, we have not changed the labels of the vendors who are selling these products. Most of them are NGOs, and the products are handcrafted by natives.” The plan is to bring in the widest range of natural honeys and other sweeteners and spreading awareness is the key to a new way of eating sweets.
My Experience: The variety can bedazzle and baffle at the same time. You could take guidance from Shaurya Sharma, who will be handling the daily operations, or browse through the brochure. I personally vouch for the cocoa barfi, for which the rich cocoa comes from Coorg. For the gulkand laddu, the gulkand is made in honey. What I would like to try is the fancy titanium-glazed pastry called La Cassasiar. Its exotic lavender coating is a draw.
There is Coconut Chenna Payesh and the yum coconut milk makes it a delightful, low cal sweet. The chocolate made with jaggery is also on my list. There’s jaggery rasgulla and lots more. There is something for everyone—from a rasgulla piece costing Rs 50, brownie for Rs 120 to Almond Katli for Rs 2,000 per kg.
For the time period to consume the sweets, check the label on the back of the box. The bright, well-lit store gives ample room to explore the shelves. The wait time is minimal and the staff is polite.