With Diwali round the corner, you sure would be stocking on the crackers and the crunchies, stocking up on food and fare. But what’s a festival without all the touches of tradition and the reverence in rituals? And specially when the Festival of Lights is party to such diversified traditional food that encompasses wide and varied flavours, we aren’t complaining. Be it donning traditional attires or gulping up traditional food, Diwali is indeed not the same with the overt dose of modernity. Here are some of the must have traditional foods to gorge over this Diwali after you have exhausted the crackers and your energy!
Diwali celebrations in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh are marked by some very pretty looking munchies. Teepi Gavvalu literally meaning sweet shells in Telugu are exactly what they sound like. A dough of flour and jaggery is rolled out and shaped into shelled curls before deep frying and sugar-coating them.
Kheel batashas are one of the most exclusive sweets associated with Diwali festivities. Puffed rice and sugar confections, that are generally shaped like discs or drops but has interesting variations. There are animal shaped batashas known as khilone while the tower shaped are called Hathris. Intensely sweet and unlike other Indian mithais, batashas occupy a place of significance in the Laxmi puja rituals during Diwali.
Whether or not soan papdi has any traditional Diwali leaning is unclear but in contemporary Diwali festivities, this is a sweet of wide (dis)repute. Whether it be sharing as gifts or in being the staple Diwali sweet, soan papdi is so much a Diwali staple as light itself!
A flaky northern Indian sweet made of chickpea flour mixed with sugar and bound with milk, gifting soan papdi is customary during Diwali celebrations. Love them or hate them, you simply can’t ignore them. That’s what soan papdi never ceases to be!
No matter how much festivals in India come to be associated with sweets, we certainly need our serving of chatpatas and namkeens. To the rescue among the myriad of Diwali sweets are the savoury and crunchy chaklis. Deep fried spiky spirals of salted rice and dal and gram flour batter, chaklis are essentially Maharashtrian crunchies satiating foodies all over. Sounds crunchy enough to go on munching all day long!
A variant of chakli made sans the gram flour called murukku is equally favored as savory delights during festivals. Crisp and crackling, murukkus are much loved in the southern part of India as Diwali favorites ad also otherwise. Murukkus also are diversely interpreted, with even a sweet version upping the festivities even more.
If you are someone deeply engrossed by the enticing spirals of the chaklis, there’s a sweeter version of it as well. Well okay, imartis are no version of chaklis but they at least somewhat resemble each other in their crunchy spirals.
A traditional Diwali sweet, imartis are the lesser known cousin of the very delectable, widely gorged and perhaps the most famous of Indian sweets- the jalebi. Made with urad dal flour, imartis are made by piping out the batter in spirals in hot oil and are deep fried before letting them soak in generous amounts of sugar syrup. Also called jangiri, imarti is yet another exquisitely sweet Diwali preparation to bite into.
Maharashtra has to have some of the most unique of Diwali foods. One such delicacy is the Anarsa, essentially rice flour and jaggery fritters topped with poppy seeds. The significance of this delightful sweet in the traditional rituals of the state manifest in it also being a part of the Diwali faral, that is the morning routine for the Maharashtrians during Diwali.
Far east in Orissa, a sweet preparation Budha Chakuli finds expression during the festivities. Pancakes in their soul and spirit, these are made of a batter of black gram powder combined with cottage cheese, coconut, jaggery and carry the delightful flavour of cardamon and the zest of ginger that indeed make for a crackling Diwali! It even has the feel of Assam’s ubiquitious pithas as well.
Kaju katli might not be an essentially Diwali sweet. But this rich yet humble diamond shaped barfis exhibit enough versatility to emerge as the quintessential sweet to celebrate any festive occasion. Simply, kaju katlis are barfis made with cashews combined with the usual sugar and stuff, and rendered royalty with some shimmery silver warq lining. Nutty in taste and soothingly sweet to the palate, kaju katli remains an all time favorite for all Indians. Gobbling up platefuls withing minutes is no big deal for the most of us!
Be it Holi or Diwali, besan based sweets and snacks are what makes every celebration complete. Gram flour or besan flavoured with spices is made into a dough and rolled out into thin discs before deep frying them. A perfect tea accompaniment, besan papdi is a wonderful break from the over the top Diwali sweetness to keep hings in balance.
Zimikand ki tahiri (Suran ki sabzi)
What can be more refreshing than taking a break from the snacks and sweets to indulge in something pretty wholesome? This is where the very unique of all Diwali foods, zimikand ki tahiri steps onto the menu. A very traditional food associated with the festival of lights and done up with some pooris, the tahiri is essentially a thick spiced yam curry prepared in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.
What makes this particular dish distinctive from any other Diwali recipe is not just its taste but also its significance. Consuming the suran ki sabzi during Lakshmi puja is a must as it is believed that the Goddess herself resides in this edible root.
Diwali being also the onset of the Gujarati new year, it’s not surprising that this westernmost Indian state goes all enthusiastic with its preparations. Another fare on offer from the state during Diwali is bhakarwadi, which is unlike most other savoury snacks.
A rolled snack of gram flour stuffed with coconut, sesame and poppy seeds, bhakarwadis have alternate layers of the dough and the stuffing which makes it quite a treat even for the eyes. The dryness of this slightly sweet and tangy, spiced rolls of savouriness goes particularly well with a cup of piping hot tea with just some extra sugar! With bites like this to look forward to, how can you already be not going frantic over the festival of lights?!
Lapsi is a dish prominent in the Diwali celebrations of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra and is ritualistic significant in the Laxmi puja arrangements. Broken wheat is sauted in ghee and sweetened with the addition of jaggery and dry fruits to make a serving of Lapsi. Delicious and aromatic, Lapsi also has a unique grainy texture and taste for an Indian sweet dish. Plus it’s indeed healthy as well.
Another on the list of crunchy Diwali savouries is ribbon pakoda, a specialty of Andhra Pradesh. Rice and gram flour are mildly spiced and made into a dough before oozing ribbon like pieces out of them. These are then deep fried in oil till golden brown and relished with tea. Also a perfect snacking option, ribbon pakodas look pretty appealing as well.
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Be it Maharashtra or Karnataka, or for that matter any part of India, chirotis are loved sweets ubiquitous to Diwali. Crisp and flaky, these are deep fried layered pastries made of flour and semolina and dusted with powdered sugar. Their crusted texture and airy deliciousness makes them a favorite festive preparation devoured by all.
Yet another Maharasthrian specialty in Diwali is chironji, a food that is distinctively different from the others in the list. Chironji is a type of nut native to India and can be consumed raw or toasted. Not only that, they are also used in some Indian sweets or as spices. But come Diwali and you can ditch all preparations and munch on them just like that!
One of those sinful bites of extravagance, mawa kachoris are what your sweetest dreams would be made of! A Rajasthani specialty, it is an extremely rich sweet that is made by deep frying mawa and nuts or dried fruits stuffed sheets of pastry, before dipping them in sugar syrup. Juicy yet crunchy, flavoursome and also aromatic, any grand Diwali celebration calls for some Mawa kachoris to be gobbled up!
For the lands of Bengal that has been famous for its sweets, it’s surprising that its special platter for a festival as enticing as Diwali would rather serve something savoury. And also distinctively unique at that. Bengal’s Diwali specialty is indeed a ritual more than a celebration. Called choddo shaak, this preparation has 14 varieties of leafy greens cooked together and consumed on the Kali Puja night to ward off evil spirits.
Sata Bhajyun (Sindhi Style Seven vegetable mix curry)
Like the Bengalis, the Sindhis also have their own dish to celebrate Diwali. Sata Bhajyun is a Sindhi style mix curry made of seven vegetables that is a humble yet essential Diwali preparation.
Diwali marks the onset of winters which is why a typical winter sweet called Majun is included in the festivities by the Sindhi people. A sweet that combines the richness of milk and khoya with the nutritious goodness of dry fruits, majun is sent by Sindhi mothers to their married daughters and sisters on the vibrant occasion of Diwali. The piece of richness that majun is, it indeed would set off the coldest of colds!
Ukkarai is a variant of halwa, delightfully grainy in texture and even more rich in taste. Chana dal is combined with jaggery and enriched with the addition of cashews and raisins in this ghee rich dessert that is a staple of the Diwali celebrations down south in Tamil Nadu.
Goa’s Diwali celebrations encompass a very interesting dish known as Vatana usal. Spicy dried pea curry served with poha makes for a really delicious combination to dig into amidst the festivities.
Chorafalis are Gujarati snacks that do up the chatpata quotient of just about any festival. Made from a mix of dal and gram flour, a bite of the traditional chorafalis will indeed have your tastebuds in zingo with a burst of flavours. Salty, tangy and spicy, these crispy yet melt in the mouth deep fried sticks are flavoured further with chili and dried mango powder or amchoor making it a snack irresistible and quite addicting!
You wouldn’t probably expect something as basic as rava laddoo to be a part of festivities as extravagant as the Diwali affair. Yet Tamil Nadu has its own version of healthy and tasty, soft and crunchy rava ladoos amidst its festive spread, rendered richer by the generous addition of dry fruits.