A sweet way to let the gaiety linger

As the halwaais extend their shops to set up tiny stalls with huge gas burners and kadais to fry jalebis, one can savour the Dussehra festivities all around!  

After nine days of fasting during Navratris, it is important to indulge oneself and feast on  not just sweets but also other delicacies. This is the reason why families have tradition of cooking ‘special’ dishes at homes. Preparations for the festival begin the minute fast breaks on ashtami or navami and the lady of the house head for the kitchen to prepare elaborate dishes for the family to enjoy the spirit of the festival.

“Kheer is a must and mummy always prepares it,” says 22-year-old Harpreet Kaur who knows that when she goes back home after witnessing the burning of Ravana’s effigy the traditional rice pudding will be ready by default. This is a regular in most Punjabi households. But there are few who prepare other dishes as well. “Like my mother-in-law makes it a point to prepare Bhalla Papdi at home for Dussehra,” says Pooja Gulati, a 33-year-old professional.      

Gulati mentions that “Even the red (tamarind) and green (mint) chutneys are prepared at home to ensure that the dish is completely homemade.” To add to this is the “rajma-chawal or kadi-chawal” that are prepared for the whole family to sit and dine together.  Though the bhalla is somewhat akin to the vada, yet the Kanji Vada that is prepared in a Marwari household is comparatively quite elaborate.

“My mother prepares Kanji Vada and Moong Dal Halwa for Dussehra every year,” says Poonam, a 45-year-old homemaker. Explaining the recipe she adds that “The vada is made of moong dal rather than urad dal. Moong dal is soaked overnight to be coarsely ground the next day. My mother adds pipping hot mustard oil to this paste.” 

The paste is then made into round balls to be fried in mustard oil till dark brown. Poonam warns that the vadas have to be immersed in “water flavoured with salt, red chilli powder and ground mustard seeds” immediately so that it soaks in the tangy water to the maximum.

For moong dal halwa, the trick that she shares is to “roast the moong dal as much as possible and cook it with milk rather than khoya.” 

Contrarily, the Baniya community has its own way of celebrating this festival. “We worship a few utensils and books, along with a drawn figure of Ravana (made from a paste of turmeric and rice). The puja takes about 30 minutes after which the prasad, raita of curd and grated cucumber, is distributed. But this raita is eaten only with a batasha or boondi laddoo,” says 23-year-old Kriti Bansal informing about the auspiciousness of curd.Well, no surprise that Indian festivals and food always go hand-in-hand! 

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