Article

Diwali reminds me of….

Little sweet things that make Diwali, Diwali for our chefs too.

By Madhulika Dash

Ever wondered where do chefs get their festive inspiration from? Many would point out the trend, others may say that every Indian festival has a definite sweet (like Gujia in Holi!); and few others may just put it down to culinary creativity – after all, that is what chefs are most known for!

So this Diwali, Bawarchi decided to ask the chefs themselves to demystify what really makes Diwali, Diwali for them – and what we go was sugar dusted with part nostalgia, part memories and whole lot of sweetness.

A few like these:

CHEF VIKAS SETH, CULINARY DIRECTOR, HOPSHAUS
CHILDHOOD FAVOURITE: PALAKRI


“Even for those who have grown up in Amritsar, this name may not be as familiar as pinni today. But for me it was my Diwali special. In fact, it was made during the few days of Diwali in this small bylane next to my home by this seasoned sweetmeat maker called Bachan Singh Joga Singh Halwai. I call him Meethe Chacha (Sweet Uncle) for this amazing melt in your mouth sweet treat. It was made with maida, ghee and fresh khoya. And it got its soft flakiness and sugar rush from the double sweetening technique that Chacha did. The sweet was dipped twice in warm sugar syrup. It was all about the consistency. Today, it is a rare thing to find – but back then, it was a must-have in Diwali.”

CHEF SHANTANU MEHROTRA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, INDIAN ACCENT
CHILDHOOD FAVOURITE: DODA BARFI


“I grew up in this amazing home of cooks, and Diwali for me meant a house wafting with such amazing aromas of different kind of sweets that it could easily be my version of Charlie and Chocolate Factory. Just that Charlie was this big sweet-toother me and Chocolate Factory was the kitchen of my grandmother home where everything was hand-made with love. And one thing I absolutely digged was Doda Barfi – the warm gooey goodness of caramalised mawa. It was heavenly – and one of the many reasons that I am fond of the Doda Barfi tart in our menu as well. It is home – and Diwali whenever that aroma hits the tip of my nostrils.”

CHEF MIR ZAFAR ALI, EXECUTIVE CHEF, THE LEELA PALACE BENGALURU
CHILDHOOD FAVOURITE: SAGU KESARI


“The beauty of growing in Southern Indian neighbourhood was that festivals like Diwali always had these amazing sets of sweets flowing in from loving neighbours. Thanks to them, I grew up on a healthy dose of two things: Bandar laddu or thokkudu ladoo, an Andhra Pradesh chickpea speciality with this stunning smooth creamy melt in the mouth texture. And Sagu Kesari, one of the most texturally interesting sweet made with saffron, tapioca pearls and a generous helping of cashew, raisins and a hint of kesar (saffron). The visual was itself mind-blowingly addictive. Even today, it spells Diwali in happiness for me.”

CHEF GIRI MANNI, SENIOR SOUS CHEF, THE LEELA PALACE BENGALURU
CHILDHOOD FAVOURITE: SWEET PANIYARAM


“Growing up in a typical Karnataka home meant that I grew up on the same meal and sweet favourites as the erstwhile screen legend Sridevi did. But when it comes to loving something more it was always a different sweetmeat I would deviate towards. One thing that remained my favourite was the rava Sajjappa with its sweet coconut filling. Another was the Sweet Paniyaram…. Those little globes of sweetness are unparallel and can instantly transfer me to my aunt’s kitchen, where she insisted that I have everything warm – and nice. In other words, Deepavali!”

SUJOY GUPTA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, TAJ BENGAL, KOLKATA
CHILDHOOD FAVOURITE: KAMALABHOG


“As a typical Calcutta boy, sweets are the reason I remember festivals. And quite frankly I have a lot of favourites. But Deepavali, which is more of Kali Puja for us, is all about Kamalabhog. And the reason is many – the colour, the fragrance, and the kheer filling. It is perhaps the first sweet that I was enamoured by as a child – and still am as a seasoned chef. The bonus: having one of aunts still make it for me.”

CHEF LAKHBIR SINGH CHAHAL, EXECUTIVE CHEF, COURTYARD BY MARRIOT, BENGALURU
CHILDHOOD FAVOURITE: PANJIRI


“Winters in Panjiri for me, and Diwali is definitely a bowl of warm Panjiri for me. Why? Because of my grandma. She is the one used to make it for me when I was a kid after labouring for hours on low flame turning whole-wheat flour fried, sugar and ghee into this heavenly dish laced with dried fruits and herbal gums .It was the best part of my Winters and Diwali. And it is the one thing that even today says happiness in bold. In fact, it is the first sweet I make for my family, staff and close friends as an ode to her – and the warm childhood memories she gave me with this bowl of warm sweet goodness.”