November 8, 2009

Diwali 101

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 in Sanskrit[1]. It is traditional for adherents of Diwali-celebrating faiths to light small clay lamps (or Deep in Sanskrit: 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.


Kris said...

How lovely :) I would love to have friends with whom to celebrate Diwali, though I am not at all Indian or a follower of the Hindu religion. I do, however, LOVE Indian food.

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Om namaha shivaya. I bow to shiva. You, in this case, may be the shiva with all this Indian food.

If I didnt have a child, I would be living in India on an ashram practicing yoga with all my other yogi friends eating Indian food.

In the meantime, I happily settle for your post. Thank you for honoring this special day!

Diana said...

Oh my, everything looks so delish! :) Indian food is amazing. Love it. :)

VeggieGirl said...

Festive and fun!

Amelia (AC/DC: Highways to Health) said...

Wow everything looks so good! The samosas look better than the ones I've had in Indian restaurants. Like you said, they're usually HUGE and deep fried. The baked versions look much more appetizing. Yum!

Gina said...

YUM!! I love Indian cuisine. It's my favorite enthnic cuisine, by far. thanks for sharing these unique dishes with us.

Anonymous said...

oooh... that looks WONDERFUL! I love Indian food!

FoodFitnessFreshair said...

I love Indian food, especially samosas! I also love that you were able to celebrate this holiday and celebrate the good within one another!

Erica said...

HOW FUN! I've only experienced indian food once and it wasn't a good experience....This post makes me want to try it again. Those Samosas (especially with spinach and cheese) sound and look fantastic!

Jenny said...

why is your life so jam-packed with fun?! I envyyyyy you.

chrystad72 said...

Wow...everything looks delish! I love Indian food and its something that i have not had in awhile. The Pakoras sounds amazing as well as the Paneer rolls! Thanks for sharing!

lesley living life said...

While I hadn't heard of practically any of those, it looks delicious! :D Thanks for sharing your festivities!

Gena said...

Catching up on comments!!!

What a gorgeous evening. Paneer happens to be Chloe's fave food, and so I'll have to forward this to her :)