Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It Is Not Diwali without Deep-Fried Sweets and Savories

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It Is Not Diwali without Deep-Fried Sweets and Savories

Article excerpt

Oil is omnipresent when celebrating Diwali, from the obvious to the sublime.

Diyas or the ceremonial clay oil lamps play a central role during the five-day Hindu festival of lights, which is based on the lunar calendar and so the dates move around anywhere from the middle of October to the middle of November. But Diwali always is on a new moon day and this year it falls on Nov. 7.

Houses are illuminated with diyas and one is kept burning before Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, to welcome prosperity. Lighting the wick in the oil lamp signifies that brightness prevails over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

Revelers take a pre-dawn warm oil bath by massaging their body and hair with it before donning new clothes and lighting firecrackers and sparklers.

And there is no escaping from deep-fried foods, which are eaten all day long, be it spicy crunchies or sweets dunked in sugar syrup. Chevda (fried flakes of rice tossed with peanuts), chakli (fried rice fritters), namak para (diamond-shaped flour crispies),gulab jamun (fried ball of dough soaked in sweetened rose syrup) and jelabi (fried squiggly fritter soaked in saffron-scented sugar syrup) are among the traditional staples that are swapped among neighbors, families and friends.

Another common fried sweet, which bears a strong semblance in taste to a sugar-glazed doughnut, is the makhan vada, aka balushahi, aka badhusha. Made with all-purpose flour and a good amount of ghee (clarified butter), the dough is rolled into small balls, indented like a thumbprint cookie and then plunged into oil and fried before being dropped in a pot of sugar syrup.

It has been traditionally made for Diwali in Manju Mehta's family for generations. The Canonsburg resident, who was born and raised in Jodhpur, the second largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, says her mother and her grandmother before that would typically make it three or four days before the festival along with the sweet and savory mathri (a flat fried fritter made with all-purpose flour) and namkeen sev (fried crisp made with chickpea flour, chili powder and carom seeds). …

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