Photo by CJ Wadhwa
Deepavali or Diwali is known as the Festival of Lights. In Hindu homes in India and across the world, candles and oil lamps are lit, bright lights and flower garlands are hung, colourful sand is sculpted into intricate designs and delicious; all to symbolise the triumph of light over darkness. But let’s be real, the delicious feast and treats interest us the most out of everything especially for the foodies out there! For many, the continuous ringing of doorbells marks the start of this lively period as people visit their families and friends with overflowing trays of mouth-watering goodies in hand. Keep reading to find out what are some of the Deepavali sweets (mithai) and savouries that you definitely can’t miss!
Indian sweets, also known as ‘mithai’, are a little different from candies and desserts that you think of. It is an old tradition of considering sweets to be pure and an offering to the Gods. There are hundreds of types of varieties ranging from laddoo, barfi, besan, gulab jamun, halwa and so many more.
Mithais are often considered as “sweetmeats”. Many use nuts or vegetables as a base, condensed down with sugar and plenty of milk. They are usually served both alongside a cup of masala chai as snacks, to symbolise good news or celebrations (such as Deepavali, job promotions, marriages) or simply on their own, after meals.
This crispy flaky and buttery fried treat is a must-have for Deepavali. It is a pastry pocket stuffed with a mix of shredded coconut, dried fruits, sugar, sesame seeds and other delightful seasonings. Karanji are shaped like crescents and are usually reserved for Deepavali only as they require a bit of time and effort to prepare. You will find many different variations of karanji as they are known by different names all around India. But they are usually made with a pastry dough that’s cut into circles, loaded with the sweet filling, shaped into half moons and then deep fried. Think fried dumplings or empanadas, a karanji looks just like that and with a deliciously flaky crust. Just one bite of this yummy treat filled with a melt-in-your-mouth sugary coconut stuffing will have you hooked!
Photo by ePhotocorp from Getty Images
2. Coconut Burfi
If you have a sweet tooth, you will definitely love the Coconut Burfi. Out of all the traditional Indian sweets, coconut burfi is the easiest to make, you just need a handful of ingredients. As its name suggests, it is a decadent sweet treat made of coconut and milk. Its creamy, fudge-like consistency makes this a chewy and tropical delight, I guarantee you won't be able to stop! This delicious burfi can also be made with nearly endless other ingredients to create a variety of flavours.
Coconut Burfi. Photo by All Things Delicious/CJ Wadhwa
Gajar halwa, sooji ka halwa, lauki ka halwa, badam ka halwa, moong dal halwa, jouzi halwa, pineapple halwa and the list goes on. This lip-smacking dessert is known for its flavourful and chewy texture. It is one of the more prominent desserts made in Indian households. It consists of a mixture of ghee, water, sugar, spices and occasionally milk. Halwa has definitely won the hearts of all the sweet lovers and will always be a comfort food for many.
Carrot Halwa. Photo by Kailash Kumar from Getty Images
If you ask me what a Laddoo is, I would say think of it as a deep-fried ball of sweet goodness. They are made by rolling the ingredients into a ball firmly using the palms of your hand. Usually the fat of choice is ghee and a flavoured sugar syrup is used to sweeten the ingredients, but this can vary greatly depending on the type of laddoo that is being made. Laddoos can come in many variations as can be flavoured with different spices and ingredients, like cardamom, dried fruits, rose water and nuts. Now, you can even find laddoos made with chocolate or coffee to cater to more international tastes.
Laddoos. Photo by Smaranda Dragans Images
Deepavali Savoury Snacks
Not everything about Deepavali is sweet. There are also many snacks that are on the savoury side.
A snack has no shape, no occasion, and no reason to eat! It is enjoyed at any time of the day or year. And here, we have a beloved and crunchy snack from the rich cuisine of south India. Yes! We are referring to the classic Deepavali staple, Murukku. This golden-brown snack is made of semi-solid rice dough and black bean flour, kneaded into a spiral-shaped paste that is deep-fried in oil. Its name is derived from the Tamil language which means “to twist”. Every household has its own murukku tradition, sometimes it is dusted with sesame seeds and salt, while minced vegetables are often added to the paste before cooking. Although murukku contains, at the most, five ingredients, it is quite a challenge to make. It depends on a lot of factors to create a perfect one, the most crucial being the pressure that the maker exerts. Legend has it that the colour of the murukku is affected by the maker’s mood.
Murukku. Photo by undefined undefined from Getty Images
2. Paneer Tikka
Grilled paneer tikka, now that’s lit! You will agree when you savour a piece of this tender, flavourful paneer with a hint of charred smokiness into your mouth. BOOM! Chunks of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) drowned in a spicy marinade with yoghurt, skewered and roasted in a home oven or tandoor (traditional clay oven), this juicy and delicious dish is definitely a crowd pleaser and sets your Deepavali party on full power mode. The Paneer Tikka also makes a great vegetarian alternative to tandoori chicken, fish or prawn tikka.
What is a Deepavali table without samosas? It is not only the most commonly eaten snack in India, but is also one of the most relished food that is eaten for breakfast, or as a tea time snack. They are loved by everyone! It is a crispy dough pastry filled with vegetables such as potatoes, onions and peas. Imagine sinking your teeth into this triangular treat, you will experience a variety of textures and flavours; soft, crunchy, sweet and savoury. Sometimes, paneer will be found in it but spices like masala, ginger and chilli powder will never be missed out. Don't forget to dip it in a chutney of your choice. However, if you prefer to have it on a sweet side, you may replace the savoury filling with dried fruits. Here’s a fact I bet you didn’t know: most Indians prefer to have this in the vegetarian version. As for meat lovers, minced lamb is the most common addition.
Samosas. Photo by bhofack2 from Getty Images Pro
4. Aloo Tikki
If you are in the mood for something crunchy and tangy, this yummy treat hits the spot. Biting into a perfect aloo tikki is just pure joy! "Aloo" means potato, and "tikki" means a small cutlet or croquette in Hindi. It is very similar to the hashbrowns that we all love! This addictive treat is soft and fluffy in the middle then fried to achieve that beautiful golden brown hue. This staple can be found in street stalls or even cafes. Aloo Tikki is super versatile: the potato mixture used to make the patties can be spiced in numerous ways and they can also be stuffed differently. The patties themselves can be served as is, with cilantro and tamarind chutney, with a scoop spiced yoghurt, or even as aloo tikki burgers.
Aloo Tikki. Photo by SUSANSAM from Getty Images
Just like the beautiful diyas that are lined up outside the entrances of our homes, there is nothing quite like a table filled with Deepavali sweets and savouries. While it’s becoming quite a common sight to people buying some of these delicacies from shops, there’s just something about spending time making them with your loved ones that holds the true meaning to Deepavali and makes the end product taste so more delicious!
Wishing a Happy Deepavali to all who are celebrating!