Diwali, it’s not something that I personally observe, but when it comes to celebrations, especially ones as beautiful and pure as Diwali, it’s hard not to get caught up in all the loveliness.
Until recently, I wasn’t entirely familiar with the details of the holiday at all, or the customs. What I had heard of was the food. How one-track-minded you people must think I am. But as I started to research I started to find more and more… well. Sweets.
I don’t think there’s any other way of putting it. Think, small little morsels – ‘mithai’, made up of cornflour, carrots, sweet spices, condensed milk or yoghurt and almonds or raisins – nibbled throughout the day. Some families spend weeks leading up to Diwali congregating, creating and exchanging heaps and heaps of these snacks, together, bonding and passing down their skills and keeping the tradition alive. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing you’ve ever heard? I’ve not gone all soft on you yet don’t worry.
Gliding past that heart-warming detour swiftly. There are dozens, hundreds, probably thousands, of different regional varieties of deep fried, baked and popped crackers and snacks, I won’t delve too far into this pit, because I won’t be able to do it true justice. Just know that there’s not just one base recipe or generic snack (that’s sort of obvious), and yes, they sell them in shops, so you don’t have to be on the ‘inside track’ to find the goodies. Check for any, or all (definitely, all!) of the following here’s just a small selection:
‘chivda‘, it’s similar to a Bombay mix, obviously there are tonnes of different varieties but the concept remains the same, savoury crackers, spices, vegetables, beans etc. Sometimes cornflakes are used as a lower fat alternative. They’re super crunchy, savoury and salty and utterly addictive.
‘shakkar para‘ – we’re getting to the sweet stuff. It’s essentially, flour, ghee, semolina, milk, sugar and spices, which is combined to form a dough, rolled and deep fried (you could bake them – probably not half as fun). You know when you eat all of your popcorn before the film starts? I probably wouldn’t even make it to my seat with these bad boys. When they are done right, oh man, fried sugar, it’s enough to make your arteries clog just looking at the description. Once a year though right?
‘sev‘ – a savoury fried, crunchy noodle made of gram flour, spices and oil.
If you did want to try any of them but didn’t wasn’t sure which one you’d prefer. You could always take a speculative tasting session (always delightful), head to the bigger supermarkets if you’re in the UK (the ones with world food sections), or try Indian, Malaysian, Sri Lankan or Nepali speciality shops if you have one in your local area.
Eating good food together, with occasional interjections of heart-achingly sweet and fried snacks – what can you ask for more in life?