“Bura na maano, Holi hai!” ring in the streets as people take to the streets in every shade possible. The festival of Holi in India is a celebration of good over evil, and everyone celebrates it with much fervour and cheer. The mornings are dedicated to visiting family and revelling in bright colours (or running away from those carrying permanent colours). However, the spirit of the festival is carried on by the special delicacies in the late afternoon and evenings. This year, let’s celebrate a clean holi with no water wastage, and focus on these delicious bites instead!
Ah, the classic barfi. This traditional sweet is widely consumed in the country, especially on special occasions. The word 'barf' means 'ice' or 'snow' in Persian. Barfi is a solid dessert made of condensed milk. There are many flavours to choose from—pista (pistachio), rose, saffron, chocolate, and almond. Some believe that the dish was made by Harbans Vig, a wrestler from Punjab, Pakistan in 1912; others say it is a medieval dish originating from Uttar Pradesh.
As the name suggests, the dish contains two primary elements—dahi (curd) and vada (fried dough balls made of urad dal). Both these items are combined and topped off with spices and sweet and sour chutneys to create a comforting dish. It is also called dahi bhalla in North India, and is a popular food during the Holi holidays. Some believe the dish originated in Bengal, some say Delhi and others claim Uttar Pradesh to be the homeplace.
For a hearty breakfast, people often rely on dhuska. The dish is extremely popular in the states of Jharkhand and Bihar. It is a fried dish made with rice, dal, chillies and garlic, and is a staple for Holi. Ghugni is the choiced accompaniment. A simple curry made of black chickpeas ( chana), the latter is a rather widely-prepared dish during the festival.
When you think of Indian sweets, more often than not the first thing to come to your mind will be laddoos. The variations are endless—besan, motichur, til, boondi, the list is endless. This ball-shaped sweet also holds a significant role during Holi. In fact, in Barsana town of Uttar Pradesh, people even play Laddu Mar Holi, where they sing, dance, and throw laddoos at each other, later consumed as prasad.
Kachori is a dish that was accepted by various communities and made their own. It is said to have originated in the Marwari community, however it took several forms (Mogar, Raj, Pyaaz, Nagori, Mawa, Lilva, Heeng, Banarasi). The street food consists of a fried snack made of all-purpose or whole wheat flour and a rich filling, mostly savoury. It is often eaten as a breakfast snack.
Another dish with several regional twists, Gujiya is a popular item at Holi celebrations. Made with flour, semolina, and dry fruits mixture, these deep-fried sweet dumplings are made in ghee and dipped in sugar syrup. It is rather popular in the North and West states in India. Many versions of the dish include dry fruit, mawa, baked, classic.
This Punjab-originated beverage is one of the most, if not the most popular drink in North India. Lassi is a yoghurt-based drink blended with water and other varying ingredients. The concoction can be sweet or savoury, depending on the preparation. You could even opt for different flavours, some with fruits as well. However, the icing on the cake is the scoop of malai dropped on top of the drink. This gives it texture and a rich taste. No holi is complete without a refreshing glass of lassi.
A personal favourite, malpuas are a pancake-style dessert made with all-purpose flour, semolina, khoya and cardamom. These sweets are then fried in ghee and dipped in sugar syrup. One word to describe the dish is certainly ‘indulgent’. A mix of crispy and soft, malpuas are ideal to end your Holi meal. They are mostly prepared in North and East India, but also popular in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The mention of malpuas can be found in ancient texts like the Rig Veda.
Any Bollywood Holi scene is incomplete without the dramatic pour of a glass of thandai. This milk-based cooling drink is often topped off with nuts and spices, and sometimes even laced with bhaang (a hallucinogenic). Ubiquitous in North India (Benaras is called the hub of thandai), this drink is right at the heart of the festival and even offers medicinal benefits! Most of all, it is a perfect beverage for the March heat in the nation.
Namak Para/ Shakar Para
Two sides of a coin, namak para and shakar para are the savoury and sweet versions of the same dish. The latter is a popular dish in West India, especially in Gujarat. Namak and shakar para are fried dough dishes that are crunchy and often serve as a mid-day snack. Tea is the ideal partner for a serving for them. These are a delight after a long morning of playing Holi.