Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated with great pomp across India and the world and is one of the most important annual festivals of the Hindus. Kids have a break from school, and there is a general atmosphere of celebration wherever you go. Diyas or clay lights are lit in the evening. Streaming lights abound, and colorful designs of Rangoli are seen in every front yard.
The times we live in are so driven by economic gain and commercialism that most things we held dear have lost their magic and meaning. The same applies to Diwali. This was the one big thing which every one looked forward to, no matter how old or young they were. People saved up to make sure they had special things at this time. When I was a child, we got new clothes for Diwali and also got gifts for cousins and relatives. This of course meant that you would get some gift too J, causing no little excitement for kids. People spruced up their homes, repainted, or bought big items at this time. A 2 week school vacation meant lots of time to roam around, raise hell and hog the many goodies that were made for Diwali.
Now people shop every time there is a sale, buy clothes on the fly, and eat whatever they fancy whenever they fancy it. It is the era of excess, and we are doing it full justice.
Diwali is traditionally a time to make a lot of great food. There is the Diwali Faral which comprises of snacks with a longer shelf life. These were stored in large containers and offered to guests and family. Although these snacks were made through the year, and available to eat any time, Diwali was the time when they were made all at once in huge amounts.
In my old neighborhood, making the Diwali Faral was a group thing. A special cook called ‘maharaj’ was engaged for this occasion. He would come and set up a chullah or earthen stove in a corner of the yard. This was done by digging a hole in the ground, laying bricks around it and adding firewood. Massive utensils were rented to make all these yummy things. The maharaj collected everyone’s orders. For example, for a thing like Sev( given below), you dumped your share of ingredients into a big mixing bowl and told him if you wanted a kilo or two kilos etc. The maharaj would then start frying the stuff and tell people when their share was done. No one thought of disbelieving him!
For the Boondi Laddu, the maharaj roughly told you how many you would get in a kilo. Then he combined all the flour and made one big batch. All the ladies would then sit in a group and roll Laddus by hand. The total was counted and everyobody’s share was counted out.
The only disadvantage of this group cooking was that everyone’s food tasted the same no matter who’s house you visited. After about 2 weeks, when everyone got tired of eating all the Sev, Chivda, Laddus etc., we would have a cookout where all the Sev etc. was dumped together to make Bhel.
As more women empower themselves with big careers, there is hardly any time to spend a week cooking for Diwali. Most of the faral items are bought from a store. Health conscious concerns have triggered variations like baked chivda, sugar free laddus and the like.
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But there are still a few passionate cooks across the world who not only pour their love into keeping up traditional recipes, but also share them with the world via their blogs and videos. This post is a testament to these long time bloggers who relentlessly show us that cooking for your family is a labor of love, no matter where you are in the world.
The Diwali Faral (fuh-rah-L)
The typical Marathi or Maharashtrian Faral consists of Sev, Chivda, Chakli, Khari Boondi, ShankarPale, Laddus and Karanjis. This is the traditional meal for Naraka Chaturdashi, and is the early morning meal eaten after a ceremonial bath taken with scented oils and herbal scrubs.
Here is a roundup of the best recipes I have found in the blogosphere for these items. I have excluded sources from professional chefs, and given a priority to individual bloggers.
Diwali Faral: Chivda
This Chivda recipe from Dassana at Veg Recipes of India shows you how to make the deep fried Chivda that is popularly available as Laxminarayan Chivda or Chitale Chivda.
Padma provides a recipe for the Marathi style Chivda but her method is completely different from the way we make our Chivda. Not any less delicious though!
The main ingredient for Chivda is Thin Poha or rice flakes, which are first roasted in a pan until fragrant. This makes them more crispy. Other typical ingredients added are coconut strips, peanuts, curry leaves, coriander powder, Dry Mango powder, green chillies and seasonings in the form of mustard, hing, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt and sugar.
Diwali Faral: Sev
Sev is made from chick pea flour. It is a kind of fried noodle in a way. Chickpea flour or besan is kneaded along with ground spices to form a tight dough. This is then passed through a device or mould that rolls out the Sev. There are various discs or filters available and you can decide the thickness or diameter you prefer based on these discs. They are just like the different blades of a food processor.
Kanan at Spice Up the Curry shows us a step by step process of making delicious Sev. She uses a traditional brass Sev maker which is a mainstay in most Marathi households.
Archana gives us a few Sev variations other than the plain salt and pepper.
Diwali Faral: Savory or Khari Boondi
Khari means savory! This is to distinguish it from the sweet variation of the same thing. Boondi is generally difficult to make but Raks makes it sound really easy. She gives us a step by step Boondi recipe with photos that leave nothing to doubt.
Although we don’t add the peanuts or cashews, I think they are an additional complement to any fried thing really.
Once again, the main ingredient here is besan or chickpea flour. The best use of Khari Boondi in our household is to make the Boondi Raita, which is a yogurt based side dish often served with a hot curry.
Diwali Faral: Chakli
Chakli is made up of a special flour mix of lentils and spices called bhajani. You would be hard pressed to find this flour mix in even metro cities in the US. This is one thing that every Marathi person probably always packs to take to the US or abroad.
Chakli is a delicacy and tough to prepare. The texture has to be just right. This is a deep fried snack and it should be crispy and crunchy. At the same time it should not absorb too much oil while frying.
The ever smiling YouTube queen Madhura shows us a speedier version of making Chakli. Seeing that this is an intricate process, I think a video will be better than trying to put this into words.
Diwali Faral: Shankarpale or Shankarpali
These are a Marathi snack loved by almost everyone. I used to love this as a child, and I often soaked them in my coffee or tea before devouring them. There are many ways of making these. Our family recipe involves jaggery or brown sugar for the sweet ones. And just salt and black pepper for savory ones.
Using lots of ghee makes these flaky and buttery.
Maria’s Shankarpali recipe uses Dalda which is a kind of vegetable shortening or hydrogenated vegetable fat. This was a very popular ingredient in the last century, but health concerns have caused many people to move away from this product. However, most store bought sweets still contain this product or a variation of it.
Redchillies gives us a great savory version of the namakpara.
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Diwali Faral: Ladoo
What is a festival without sweets? Most households make multiple sweets during Diwali. And the ones you can’t do without are the Laddus. My Rava Besan Laddu is a must at our place. In addition to that, Besan Laddus are used as an offering for the goddess Laxmi on Diwali day. Another lip smacking treat is the Boondi Laddu which is again hard to make in a home kitchen.
Boondi Laddu uses a sweet variation of the Khari Boondi. The dough does not have any spices and is immersed in sugar syrup after being deep fried.
Sharmi shows us step by step details of how to make Boondi Laddus or ladoos.
Diwali Faral: Karanji
Karanji is a deep fried crispy dumpling filled with coconut and nuts. In Marathi cooking, there are two kinds of Karanjis, those made with fresh coconut and those made with dry or desiccated coconut. Both are equally delish. The ones made with fresh coconuts are generally juicy and syrupy.
Deepali at Lemon and Ginger gives us a step by step recipe for Gujjia which is a kind of Karanji popular in central or northern parts of India.
Greetings and Best Wishes
Is your mouth watering already? Which of these recipes are you going to try for this Diwali? Please leave a comment and let me know.
[quote style=”boxed”]Wish you and your family a Very Happy and Healthy Diwali.[/quote]
Don’t forget to share this Diwali recipe roundup with your family and friends.
I have tried to link to Wikis or give translations for ethnic terms wherever possible. But it hasn’t been always possible since this post mostly talks about them. If you have any questions or need an explanation of any terms used here, please ask me and I will be happy to explain.