Finally, the feasting of Diwali is behind us. Loads of boxes of mithai — kaju katlis, boondi laddoos and every exotic fusion flavour in between, (including some very interesting chocolates) — have weighed down our tummies and got us scrambling for our gym shoes this week.
Everywhere, festivities, religious and otherwise, are strongly associated with food, and each specialty food has meaning and relevance and Diwali has the reputation of having more favourites to its name than most other festive occasions. Me, I’m not a huge mithai fan, but the handmade chocolates and melt-in-your-mouth baklava did me in this time.
The deluge of goodies got me wondering if Diwali’s sweet delights top most people’s inventories. Or do they love Christmas goodies most — stollen, plum cake, buche de Noel, turkey with its trimmings? Maybe the modaks and pooranpolis of Ganesh Chaturthi get them nostalgic? I know several friends who travel miles to taste haleem during Ramzan. And a fragrant biryani at Eid must surely top most people’s lists.
Hilton Bangalore’s executive chef Anirban Dasgupta has recently got back from Durga puja in Kolkata, and the kathi roll stalls at the puja pandals have reminded him of the ones from Kolkata’s famous Nizam’s. “The kathi roll is the ultimate street food. It works perfectly every time, from morning meals to late night snacks. It’s been copied all over the country, but nothing comes close to the rolls of Kolkata.” What makes these different are the flaky parathas with juicy pieces of mutton, the zing of the chutney — it’s soul satisfying, according to him. His follow-up favourite is the pavlova, a super-light meringue and fruit-topped concoction, much beloved in Australia and New Zealand for special occasions. The tartness of the fruit, combined with the sweetness of the meringue makes this a festive standout for him.
Arjun Sajnani of Bangalore’s landmark restaurant Sunny’s has spent a major part of his life abroad, so his festive favourites are a little different from the usual. “Pedestrian as it may sound, I love pumpkin pie made at Thanksgiving in the US,” he says. Naturally, pumpkin pie is available at his restaurant during Christmas and Thanksgiving for those who have a yen for it. So is the pecan pie, which he describes as “that wonderfully old–fashioned Southern dessert,” reminding him of his schooldays in Tennessee. “It’s a rich confection, served in the South on special occasions, and my association with it is festive.” As a fellow pecan pie fan (preferably with cognac whipped cream), I hear him. So Diwali might be done, but with many more festivities yet to come, there’s ever more deliciousness to look forward to.
Did someone say, “Christmas pudding?”
Ruma Singh presents a column on observations, insights and what’s buzzing in the city.