Durga Puja 2019 is finally here! The most anticipated of festivals, Durga Puja however is much more than the festivities. It is an emotion, a way of celebrating life itself. In its fold, the Durga Puja merriment is a time for seeking joy in devotion, for ushering in happiness through the celebration of a religion that is all- inclusive.
As people from all walks of life, irrespective of caste and creed celebrate the festival as a means of fun and fulfilment, it’s imperative that food be brought into the picture. For of course, you can’t live a full life on an empty stomach! And when you have a festival, the biggest of all to fall back on, you sure should gorge on as much food as you can. Here’s presenting some of the most authentic, Puja special food to seek divinity in as you usher Devi Durga on earth with the utmost reverence and joy-
The quintessential delight of Durga Puja has to be the pandal bhog that is the most heavenly stuff you would ever taste. Khichdi might have emerged to be the national dish of the country but Indians will agree in unison that it’s the pandal bhog which is the best.
Bhog during Durga Pujas is the very humble fare of a plateful of khichuri, served with one or two side veggie dishes and the unmissable sweet and tangy bilahi tok. Khichuri might just be a simple equation of rice and lentils, with some vegetable thrown in and some condiments serving up the whole pujo affair, but you still get every bit of divine taste in this very essentially Indian dish. No Puja is complete unless you have had the khichuri bhog that stands at par with other fancier counterparts competing on the menu.
Kheer or payesh is another very humble yet must have dish to gorge over during Pujas. Usually served as bhog alongside khichudi, Payesh is made by cooking up fragrant rice in sweetened milk and rendered more delightful by the addition of dry fruits and stuff. Those who have tasted this sweet- savoury meal of khichdi- payesh will swear by the euphoria it lends to the taste buds in your mouth.
Talking about the multitude of flavours that the sweet- savoury combination is would be incomplete if we don’t mention bundiya- bhujiya as the ultimate jugalbandi. Soft, juicy boondis tossed up with crispy and savoury bhujiya is an indulgence you can’t ever have enough of. The burst of the sweet juiciness of bundiya matched by the bhujiya crunch will make you realise why this combo is a match very much made in heaven. It is only apt therefore that the heavens have to intervene to descend Goddess Durga on earth for mere mortals to be intoxicated with this out of the world addiction!
How can Pujas ever be complete without Jalebis? Those twisters of sugary guilt that go round and round in perfect harmony with their taste isn’t just any Indian sweet. Jalebi is emotion and for many, jalebis heralds the arrival of the Devi more than Mahalaya itself! Crunchy and sinfully sweet, the mounds of jalebis that dot the vicinity of every pandal during the puja days looks and smells so inviting! Maybe it’s time for us to take on Lay’s with our own take on ‘no one can eat just one’!
Okay this isn’t another of those basic sweet- savoury combination. But then you aren’t on gunpoint to have these munchies discretely. Irrespective of whether you eat them as a couple or just pop into your mouth one by one, they embody also the essence of the foodie spirit that is very synonymous with every celebration in India. Nimkis are basically rolled out salt and spice favoured maida dough cut into diamonds and deep fried. Khurmas are almost the same except that they are coated with powdered sugar or dunked in sugary syrup after being fried. Either way, the sweet- salty appeal remains intact.
Luchi- Chanar Dal
Even the die hard non veg aficionados will swear by the mind boggling taste of luchis with a bowl of chanar dal. Luchis are delightfully puffed up discs of deep fried rolled dough that are crisp in texture, yet soft to taste. Making the perfect luchi is an art to learn though with the dainty discs adamant on not puffing up once you have lost the exact time to put them in hot oil. Pairing them up with the perfectly made bowl of chana dal is a taste you will never forget in your life once you have been party to it. Breakfast of those days of the carefree Durga Puja holidays are incomplete with a plateful of luchis done away with spicy chanar dal.
Bengalis are known for their fetish for all things sweet and what better than the most auspicious of festivals to dig into a bowl of flavourful misthi pulao for the perfect Puja feel? Basanti pulao or Kesar Pulao or Shahi Pulao as it is known as, this sweet pulao preparation is distinctive also because of its mildly spiced flavour. The fragrance of a bowl of this very delightful preparation is just enough incitation for you to ditch your resolution of not having anything sweet for the week. Also sometimes offered as bhog to the Goddess, this saffron infused very distinctive yellow colored dish is truly the stuff of the devis and devtas.
Roti- ghugni might be our staple Sunday breakfast but come Durga Puja and the street side Ghugni takes a different interpretation altogether. A thick peas based dish, with a gravy like consistency, Puja special ghugni is made spicier and tastier by serving it with chopped green chillies, onions and chaat masala for added flavour. It might seem ridiculous at first to gobble up a bowl of curry just like that but try once and we bet you will be returning for another spoonful of serving!
For those who want to indulge in the most authentic of tastes this Durga Puja sure should not miss out on a plateful of churmur. Mashed potatoes are mixed with crushed puchkas and tossed with spices, before mingling it with some tamarind water. It is very much the quintessential puchka experience, only that you don’t have to open your mouth wide enough to stuff one of those crispy puris in your mouth!
Close on the heels of Churmur is Aloo Kabli to rev up more the typical Durga Puja experience. A distinctive take on the aloo chaat, Aloo Kabli is made by mixing chopped boiled potatoes with chick peas, finely chopped onions and cucumber, roasted cumin powder and tamarind water for the chaat experience.
Granted, chanachur is not a Puja specialty. You can munch on a bowl of these crunchy, spicy mixture anytime of the day. But the chanachur treats that you get to have during Durga Puja is a different level of indulgence altogether. Finely chopped onions and cucumbers are mixed with the fried chana mixture and tossed with a motley of spices, before adding a final dash of lemon juice. All things munchy and crunchy, chanachur is the ultimate snack to sit around and have sessions of mindless adda with during the Puja holidays.
Mangsher Singara/ Keema Samosa
Indians take pried in their singaras, those triangle shaped deep fried pockets filled with spiced veggies. But the special occasion of Durja Puja commands of course a celebration of diverse bounty. So comes into the picture the very inventive, the very unique mangsher singara or keema samosa. Minced meat and peas cooked with spices and flavoured with lime juice is stuffed in the dough before it is deep fried and served with chutney. A treat to relish if you can’t do without your daily dose of non veg even in tea time.
Of course you can try out any variety of those ‘gourmet’ rolls as something to savour in the midst of the frenzied pandal hopping sagas. But for the authentic and special Durga Puja feel you need to try out something special. This is where the very special, very extraordinary steps onto your platter. The Kolkata kathi rolls are an extravagant treat that puts together a blend of meat and veggies generously done up with sauces and rolled in thin flaky parathas. Sinful and filling, a bite into one of these rolls of indulgence sets you up for indeed the best ever Puja experience!
Fish or mutton, vegetable or eggs, or the more ubiquitous mochar chop or prawn cutlet, your Durga Puja celebrations get mundane if you don’t have a couple of chops soaking up spicy chutneys to wreak havoc in your mouths. Without the hustle of the flavours, puja isn’t puja after all!
Okay guys, cool down! We know chowmein isn’t anything authentically Indian, let alone Pujo specific. But can you even imagine skipping out a plate of hot chow noodles when you are on a street food ravage? That’s blasphemy and the least you can do on an occasion as religious as that of Durga Puja is not commit to such utter blasphemy. Obviously then at least one serving of chowmein from the nearby vendor toh banta hai boss!
Durga Puja celebrations are such deeply rooted in the guts that even their fasting recipes call for feasting! Case in point- a generous serving of sabudana khichdi and a couple sabudana vadas. Tapioca pearls, locally known as sabudana, is not only the health boost you need to start your march unto fasting but also is a really delicious food. No wonder devotees are extra enthusiastic even about the Navratri brat!
Durga Puja festivities come to a melancholic conclusion courtesy some cool stuff. Panta bhat or rice from the night before is the hurried- up meal that revelers dig into amidst the hectic dashami proceedings. As Durga Puja comes to an end with the visargan of the deity, the atmosphere indeed gets somewhat subdued. And Panta Bhat might just be the perfect embodiment of this emotion of parting with the Goddess. Till the next year, that is.