Slideshow: Five Great Cheap Indian Desserts In Jackson Heights

Badam Pista Roll at Maharaja Sweets & Snacks
Badam Pista Roll at Maharaja Sweets & Snacks
By far the most upscale mithai shop we stopped into, Maharaja’s display boasts neat rows of plush homemade sweets. The badam (almond, the orange color) pista (pistachio, green) rolls are like tiny cigars, painted carefully with edible silverleaf (“It’s healthy, it gives your body iron,” said the clerk). They taste, unsurprisingly, like marzipan, and weren’t as overwhelmingly sweet as many of the other desserts we tried.

73-10 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-505-2680; $9/lb.

Petha at Maharaja
Petha at Maharaja
Though petha is available at many mithai shops in the neighborhood, they looked the freshest at Maharaja, so we double-dessert-dipped here. Though it looks like some sort of moonrock, petha is simply winter melon boiled in rosewater-laced sugar syrup. Petha is sometimes sold dried, but it’s best fresh, cold and slightly crisp, soaked through with a bit of extra syrup.

73-10 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-505-2680; $9/lb.

Jalebi at Rajbhog Sweets
Jalebi at Rajbhog Sweets
No Indian dessert tour would be complete without this ubiquitous and eye-catching treat, akin to a South Asian funnel cake. Jalebi are made of a flour-yogurt-sugar dough flavored with saffron and cardamom, which is left overnight to ferment slightly, then piped into hot oil in concentric circles. The result is a crispy, slightly chewy sugar bomb, with hollow straws that ooze syrupy sugar when chewed. Not recommended in large doses, but fun to play with.

72-27 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-458-8512; http://www.rajbhog.com; $7/lb.

Gulab Jamun at Al-Naimat
Gulab Jamun at Al-Naimat
Named after the Persian word for rose water (gulab) and the Hindustani word for a similar-looking fruit (jamun), these donut hole-sized treats are made of fried milk solids soaked in cardamom or rose syrup. The gulab at Al-Naimat are fresh and moist, and as an added bonus, they also make an oval version, sliced down the middle and filled with a marzipan-like condensed milk paste.

37-03 74th Street, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map); 718-476-1100; $1 each