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Diwali 101

Posted Nov 08 2009 10:01pm

This weekend my roomie hosted a casual gathering in celebration of the Indian holiday Diwali, or festival of lights.

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia:

The word दीपावली(Dipavali) literally translates as a row of lamps inSanskrit[1]. It is traditional for adherents of Diwali-celebrating faiths to light small clay lamps (or Deep inSanskrit: दीप) filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil within an individual. During Diwali, many wear new clothes and share sweets/snacks with each other. Some Indian business communities start their financial year by opening new account books on the first day of Diwali for good luck the following year.

And so we shared sweets/snacks with each other. Plus
20-odd friend-types. These sweets/snacks included…



Samosas are sort of pastry-type pockets that may have various fillings. The roomie served two varieties: one with a spicy lentil filling and the other with a spinach-paneer (cheese) filling. These were small and baked, though the samosas you’d order in a restaurant will likely contain a filling of potatoes and peas and have a fried baseball-sized shell. Dippers include both coriander (cilantro) and tamarind chutneys.



Pakoras are what I would describe as Indian tempura. Various vegetables (eggplant, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli…) are thickly coated with a chickpea-flour batter and deep-fried to devilish deliciousness.

Paneer Rolls:


Paneer is an Indian cheese that is found in many Indian vegetarian dishes. The weight and texture is not unlike tofu, but there is no mistaking its cheesiness! There’s a reason it’s so popular. For “paneer rolls,” we were instructed to spread a bit of mint chutney on a slice of naan, place a few paneer cubes on top and sandwich-ify for convenient snackage. These sold like hotcakes! Or paneer rolls, as it were…



Is insanely delicious. A typical street snack in Bombay, bhelpuri is a sort of trail mix made of puffed rice, dried vermicelli and crispy crackers, which is mixed with potatoes and onions and tossed in a tangy tamarind sauce. Probably not a dish you’d find in your average Indian restaurant, but if by chance you do ever come across it, nosh immediately!

We also had about three gallons of kheer, which is a sweet rice pudding, and we barely made a dent in it (I top out after one gallon, unfortunately).

Here’s an example of Diwali decoration—the roomie placed a handful of these delicate candle holders around our living room.


That’s my meager contribution in the background: Lindsay ’s chai-spiced oatmeal cookies. Am I the gringo here or what? Well, I don’t suppose gringo is quite the right word…

Anyway, if you’ll pardon my very second-hand descriptions of the party snacks, I hope you get to try them some day! There are many wonders to behold in Indian cuisine, if you just know where to look.

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