I’ve only been to India once but I already want to go back, there’s so much to eat – especially Diwali festival food.
Diwali is a five day celebration that occurs in autumn each year, following the cycle of the moon, in either October or November. In 2017, Diwali is celebrated in south India in October 18th and in other areas in the world on October 19, 2017.
India’s Diwali is one of the most interesting and beautiful festivals in the world. The ‘Festival of Lights’ was traditionally a Hindu celebration but is now one that is also celebrated by Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, particularly celebrated in India and Nepal.
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This is a bucket list item for me but as much as it’s the Festival of Lights I’m most interested in the food.
This festival is celebrated in late October and into November so we’ve missed the boat this year but it could be a plan in 2018. It is known for the amazing range of candles and lamps, illuminating cities during the festival. Along with the wonderful festivities, there are delicious traditional Diwali festival food. If you are lucky enough to participate in Diwali you can’t miss these eats.
Diwali Festival Food You Can’t Miss
This is a name for all of the Indian sweets and desserts. While sweets are an important part of the culture all year round there are a number of specialty Diwali mithai for the festival.
These traditional Indian snacks are common around the region during Diwali. Samosas are small pockets of pastry, usually shaped into a triangle, stuffed with minced meat, peas, lentils and other vegetables.
This Diwali festival food is a light and flaky dessert pastries. Chirote are stuffed with a sugary filling, deep fried, and usually served drizzled with syrup. You can’t go wrong with fried and sweet!
Creamy sweets that can be served by themselves or with a selection of other mithai. Barfi are a white creamy square made with condensed milk, sugar and nuts. They are cooked together until they solidify then cut into squares.
Small pastry pockets that are stuffed with poppy seeds, grated coconut, sugar, nuts and cardamom. Crescent shaped similar to empanadas, karanji take quite a bit of time to prepare, which is why they are often reserved for special occasions such as Diwali.
Made with potatoes that are shredded and formed into small patties before being fried, these snacks can also be served as a side to a main meal. But do not skip the condiments as will usually find the aloo tikki patties served hot with mint sauce, yogurt and tamarind sauce, or other regional sauces.
Mawa is a thick dried milk product common in the area of Rajasthan where these desserts originate. These small pastries are stuffed with a combination of mawa, nuts, cardamom sugar and often drizzled with syrup to serve.
Another Diwali festival food prepared in the Indian subcontinent are laddoos. These are ball shaped sweets made with chickpea flour, wheat semolina and coconut. Laddoos are cooked with ghee, while some variants will stuff these balls with pistachios or almonds.
These pasty treats are labor-intensive to make, which is why they tend to be associated with the special occasion of the festival, with rice being soaked for three days before being dried and ground into powder. This is then combined with jaggery and poppy seeds before being shaped into discs and fried in ghee.
These savory snacks are deep fried vegetables or minced meat, with egg to bind it together. They are dipped in batter before it is cooked and one of my favourite things to eat. You can also find these during Holi – check out Holi Food: 23 Things to Eat.
This tasty Diwali festival food originates in Bengal. Choddo shak are made with fourteen different types of leafy green stir fried with chilies and herbs. It is usually reserved for special occasions like Diwali as it’s so time consuming to make.
A common fruit in Nepal, this is often candied and shared with friends and family during the Diwali festival, particularly in its native Nepal, with the fruits themselves being around an inch in diameter with a tart, sour flesh which is white, with a green and brown skin.
A sweet that is often cut into diamond shapes and decorated with edible silver coloring. Kaju Katli translates as cashew slice. It is made with cream, sugar and ground cashews, which are made into a smooth paste and then cooked on a flat tray or dish.
These small and light brown sticks look similar to a hardened spaghetti cut into strips of around an inch each. However, gathiya are actually very light and tasty snacks, that are nicely spiced with black pepper and carom seeds, and make for great nibbles during the festival.
Looking like a knot of knobbly rope, mullu murukku may not be the most attractive food, but it is a tasty one that is spicy and made with rice flour and cumin seeds, before they are fried , while a special piece of equipment is usually required to make these distinctive snacks.
Snacks that are quite similar to a Bombay Mix, these nibbles are shared with friends and family and include raisins, peanuts, mustard seeds and a type of flattened rice known as poha, which are cooked and flavored with turmeric powder and green chili.
A dessert that is most commonly found in the northern states of India, sohan papdi is made with chickpea flour, sugar and milk, and although it looks quite dense has a more flaky texture when eaten, and is often served with other sweets.
Often found as a street food in India, these light fried dumplings are given an extra kick of flavor with green chilies and raisins. Dahi Bhalla are usually served smothered with yogurt and tamarind chutney.
Light and crispy snacks that are flavored with chili powder, mathiya are common in the Gujarat region of India, and are made by kneading a light dough with water and ghee along with the chili powder before frying, and are sometimes sprinkled with more chili after cooking.
Records of this sweet have actually been found in medieval India. Gulab Jamun is made with curdled milk and a little flour which are kneaded into a dough. This Diwali festival food is then dropped into hot oil for frying and drizzled with a scented syrup made with rose water and cardamom.
These nuts are cultivated in many areas of India, and they can be eaten raw or toasted before they are eaten, with a flavor that is similar to an almond, with the toasted nuts having a slightly stronger flavor.
Most commonly found in the south of India, puran poli is a flatbread made with jaggery, cardamom and nutmeg and has a nice sweet flavor, while in some areas the jaggery can be combined with sugar to add extra sweetness.
A dessert that is often found in northern India, gajar halwa is made with grated carrots. They are combined with sugar, milk and water before they are cooked in ghee. The dessert is also sometimes garnished with almonds or other chopped nuts.
I love researching traditional food for festivals and holidays. You really see just how diverse a country or even region can be. While we’ll miss Diwali festival food in India, I’m going to see if I can find some of these treats in Toronto, these dahi bhalla are calling my name, who wouldn’t want the spicy, yogurt and tamarind.
What did we miss? Have you been to Diwali? What else needs to be on the must eat list?