Festival of Food De”light”: Diwali Dishes that bring India to the Table


A little over a week ago, clay lamps, also known as diyas were lit by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists for five days to commemorate Diwali, the Festival of Lights.

Diwali symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and is most widely celebrated in India, as well as Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, and a province in Pakistan.

But Diwali is most anticipated in India, where it is considered the most significant holiday of the year. The first two days of Diwali are ones of preparation and reflection: houses are cleaned, lamps decorated, and, in some instances, designs made from colored sand, called rangoli.

But food–and plenty of it–takes center stage in the remaining days, as families gather for feasting and the exchanging of sweet treats.

Festival of Sweets

The way The Guardian tells it, Diwali “might almost be called the festival of sweets.” That’s because, outside of the feasts, sweets are exchanged in the way of community. Pastries, cookies, flatbreads and puddings are among favorites, but each dish is prepared with care.

But the tradition isn’t just about enjoying good food. As the mark of the end of the harvest season, it’s a time of giving thanks–not unlike the American Thanksgiving. In a few words: the food shared and made during Diwali is a symbol of hope, gratitude, and a sign of the enduring power of culinary to bring people together.

Fresh Offerings to Bring Clients this Fall

American personal and private chefs may know little about Diwali, but that doesn’t mean they should overlook the delightful autumn plates it brings to so many.

If you’re sick of serving traditional American fare, Diwali treats and savory plates offer an iconic harvest taste but in a way most clients have never experienced. Here are some top picks of Diwali and Diwali-inspired plates to try this season:


  • Beverages

Too often, one of the main components of a meal is overlooked. Drinks serve as a way as to introduce and complement flavors. They also showcase what is to come. Diwali drinks range from adult to non-alcoholic, from fruity to velvety. Mulled wine and rose coconut coolers are among favorites, evoking a mix of earthy and sweet, with the coolers exhibiting flavor notes of mint, citrus, and spices like clove and cinnamon in the wine. For children and anyone who doesn’t want alcohol, ifood Tv recommends smoothies made with bananas, mango, and sugar. Milk-based and milk-inspired choices add a creamier taste: lassi starts with a yogurt base and is highly versatile, with everything from mint to avocado to mango varieties.

Appetizers/ Sides:

Small plates make the entire meal more festive, and Diwali-inspired food is perfect to include smaller bites before the main course. Buttery, flaky crust made with ghee and seasoned with coriander, ginger and cumin makes these samosas noteworthy. Tandoor Paneer Tikka is a vegetarian favorite, marinated in chili paste, cumin, and fennel seeds. Quinoa patties are considered traditional Delhi street food and are a lot of fun: potatoes and ginger create a spicy and hearty twist on an American potato pancake.

Main Course

Even without meat, main courses for Diwali are filling, comforting, and beautifully seasoned, showcasing the bounty of harvest at its best. One of the most commonly served dishes is Paneer Masala, which combines a nutty cashew paste, tomatoes, cream, and hot spices to complement paneer, the Indian cottage cheese. It has the same warming comfort as a plate of lasagna, but with an aroma of its own. For anyone looking for something with some more familiar flavors, Dhaba Dal may be a good option: it’s prepared smoked, with onions, garlic, and ginger. The main ingredient, dal, can be substituted for split peas or lentils; see this guide. Curries, such as Aloo Jeera, Aloo gobi, Kadai Paneer,  and  Paneer Jalfrezi are for the brave, with plenty of heat, and served with potatoes, cauliflower, and other starches vegetables: see recipes here.

Sweet Notes:

Desserts tend to be smaller bites, or “finger foods” and are easy to pass to others. Galab jamun is a type of donut, made with yogurt, milk powder, and crushed pistachios (you may sub a nut of choice, or omit). Patishapta are not unlike crepes, or very thin pancakes, and filled with coconut. For something a bit more formal, try sheera, which can be made with semolina or even cream of wheat and is complemented with cashews and raisins.



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