Sooji Halwa is a very popular sweet dish all over India, usually made with wheat semolina and sugar syrup and is made on religious occasions, as offering to God. Carrots, mung beans or bottle gourds are also used instead of semolina. In Bengali cuisine, halwa is also known as mohanbhog, where milk is used instead of water. Sooji halva is gelatinous and almost semi-transparent, while the sesame and sunflower halva is dry and slightly crumbly and melts in your mouth.
The semolina based Halva is very popular in eastern India, Pakistan, Turkey and Persia to get to the eastern Mediterranean, passing through the cuisines of the Balkans. Each version is slightly different depending on the location and is a sweet simple recipe that is full of scents coming from the cinnamon and rose water that give a special flavour to this wonderful sweet.
The word halva also transliterated as halwa, halvah, Halava, helva, halawa comes from ancient Hebrew and Arabic and means sweet. In Israel, Balkans and the Middle East, the recipe is based on sesame paste, while with semolina in India, Pakistan and Persia and chickpeas in the Mediterranean areas. In the countries of Eastern Europe, like in Ukraine, in particular, it is very common to find the halva made from sunflower seeds, flavored with various flavors of coffee, vanilla, cocoa and in many cases is also mixed together.
The main ingredients of sesame halva are sesame seeds or tahini paste with sugar or honey. Other minor ingredients used in the preparation of sesame halva are the pistachio, paste of coconut, orange juice or lemon juice, vanilla or chocolate. This type is much more popular in the eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, where there are two different types of halva.
Regarding the Jewish religious traditions, as the halva does not contain meat or milk, it is almost always considered pure and can be safely be consumed after a meal of meat or dairy products, respecting Jewish dietary laws Kashrut. The halva is also one of the few dishes invented in Israel, which has managed to earn a place in the sun on the international culinary scene.