Indian children growing up in the 1980s and ’90s have fond memories of running to the nukkad (corner) shop or local paan stall and coming back with a small, orange packet of Fatafat every time the vendor couldn’t make change and offered the candy instead. The name Fatafat means “quickly” in Hindi, and they’re marketed as “Ayurvedic digestive pills.” They’re made in the style of churan, a broad category of postprandial herbal tablets (whose recommended dosage no self-respecting Indian ever follows, preferring instead to eat them like candy) meant to aid with digestion, keep acidity at bay, quell nausea, conquer constipation … the list is endless. The name Fatafat quite possibly alludes to how quickly these pills are supposed to work.
The black, pea-sized pills are a little bit sweet, a little bit sour, and a little bit salty, with a spicy aftertaste that leaves the tongue feeling warm and numb if you eat too many at once. The candy is made of liquid glucose, sugar, rock salt, common salt, cumin, ajwain (carom seeds), and amchoor (dried mango powder). The sweet outer coating of the pill makes way for a mosaic of flavors once the salt, tang, and spices kick in.
Fatafat is still sold in India, but the wider availability of international candy has compromised its popularity. However, expatriate Indians all over the world have sustained a market for this candy, which tastes as much of nostalgia as it does of a yummy sweet treat.