Indian Fruit Salad is usually made up of mixed fruits, often shopped, suspended in sweet milk or custard. Typical fruits would be apples, bananas, grapes, and tangerines. The custard we use is normally an eggless cornstarch pudding. In the end, this salad is more of a dessert than a salad, and it is delicious.
My mom and I would make this whenever we had to go to pujas, although my mom often made it for us to eat at home as well. Pujas are a routine part of life in India. A puja is ceremonial prayer ritual performed to honor a deity, or to spiritually celebrate an event. Now you know what my name means.
From an early age, I loved going to pujas at different people’s houses. There was one pretty much every week. Friends and neighbors held pujas to celebrate a milestone like an anniversary or a birthday. Sometimes it was to celebrate a religious holiday, buying a new house, getting a promotion or even just because.
My mom and I would head out in the evenings whenever they were going on. I remember going from house to house to house stopping at each one, having a quick chat and a little bit of prasad and moving on.
Prasad is a food offering to god. This Indian fruit salad was often our prasad. After you make an offering to god, it is a requirement that all of the food be eaten. If any of it went uneaten, that would be considered an insult to the god.
I always went to these with my mom because I thought they were fun. A lot of women gathered at these events. There was a lot of activity, a lot of hustle and bustle.
In some ways, it was an excuse for women to socialize. I loved tagging along with mom and listening to all the news and gossip about everyone in town. I never participated in these conversations but I took it all in. I knew what everyone was up to and it was pretty fun.
It was common to serve Indian fruit salad at these pujas, because sweets and fruits are highly regarded in the culture.
Indian Style Fruit Salad
- 3 stalks rhubarb roughly chopped
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 3 peaches peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 3 nectarines peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 Korean melon peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 young coconut
- ⅓ cup evaporated milk
- ¼ cup condensed milk
- pinch of nutmeg freshly grated
- pinch of ground cardamom
- whipped cream for garnish optional
- In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar and water. Heat over medium high heat until the rhubarb comes to boil. Let boil for about 10 minutes until the rhubarb falls apart creating a saucy consistency. Once the sauce is done, set aside to cool.
- Chop off the top of the young coconut using a heavy knife. Drain the coconut water and save for another use. Scoop out the tender coconut flesh with a spoon and roughly chop it into pieces. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix the evaporated milk, condensed milk, nutmeg and cardamom. Stir until well combined. Set aside.
- Assembly ( I like to create layers in a wine glass but use anything you like):
- Start with 2 to 3 tablespoons of rhubarb. Then layer the fruits one by one. Then drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the condensed milk mixture. Top with whipped cream and serve chilled.
I like to peel my peaches and nectarines by using the boil method. Just score an x on the bottom of the fruit and toss into a boiling pot of water for about 30 seconds. Take out and dip into an ice bath to stop the cooking. The skin will peel away easily.