Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Divali cuisine made at home


Mark Fraser

From a little girl to a grown woman I love the festival of Divali, because it is a holiday where the best cooks show their Hindu style. I will provide you with some simple basic recipes so you can make your own Divali celebration meal at home.

Trinidad is famous for its Hindu Divali festivity that takes place during mid October to mid November. This year it is November second. Divali is the Hindu ‘Festival of Lights’. The timing of this festival of lights usually falls on a dark fortnight. It is really a five-day affair, but the third day is the real celebration. My village of Felicity has become synonymous with Divali. It has become a local and tourist attraction to view the lighting of clay oil candles called ‘deyas’ placed on very creative designs made from split bamboo. 

Although Divali probably originated as a festival for the last harvest of the year before winter; inherently Divali lighting signifies the triumph of good over evil. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (or deepa). Indian families light outside their homes to symbolise their inner spiritual light. These lamps are kept on during the night and the ever faithful clear their house, open the doors and windows so the Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth — both spiritual and material, will feel welcome to enter and bestow good luck in the upcoming year.

The noise of firecrackers and bursting of bamboo are because they supposedly drive away the evil spirits. Divali is also good for the economy as all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks. Diwali, or Dipawali, (its East Indian names) is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. This festival is to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians, or Eid to Muslims. On Divali Indians celebrate with family gatherings where excellent food is served.

Divali has many interpretations. In northern India it is to celebrate Rama’s return after defeating Ravana. In southern India it celebrates Krishna’s victory over the demon Nrakasura. In western India it signifies that Lord Vishnu banished the demon Bali. All festivals have one thing in common; it marks the victory of good over evil.

The most well-known story behind Divali is that Prince Rama was ordered by his father, the King, to live in the forest away from his comfortable home for fourteen years. Rama was exiled with his devoted wife Sita and brother, Lakshmana. Romantically Rama kills the demon Ravan and rescues Sita and returns home after fourteen years. His people were very happy to celebrate Rama’s return and lit their homes with earthen lamps (deyas) and decorated the entire city in the grandest manner.

These stories educate you on the basis for the holiday and now I’ve included some traditional basic Divali food recipes to instruct you to make your own festival feast. They are easy and your family can have its own Divali festival at home, before visiting Felicity to see the lights.

All foods are eaten with roti, the East Indian version of bread. There are many types and it takes a certain hand trained over the years to make excellent roti. I suggest if a novice you order some from a local roti shop.


Ingredients: one cup of channa soaked overnight, two TBS cooking oil, half cup chopped onions, one clove garlic minced, two TBS curry powder, one and a half cups water, one pound of Irish potato- washed, peeled and cubed, one TS salt, one quarter TS ground cumin. (One hot pepper seeded and minced optional.)

Method: Boil soaked channa in unsalted water until tender, drain and set aside. Heat oil in  a heavy pot, add onions and garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Mix curry powder with ¼ cup of water, add to oil and cook until thick. Add potato and stir until it is completely covered with the curry. Add one cup of water, salt, (pepper optional) cover on low heat for ten minutes. Add channa and stir well. Cook until water is reduced and the mixture is tender and thick.

Serves 6 to 8


Ingredients: one medium pumpkin peeled, seeded and cubed, one medium onion minced, three cloves of garlic minced, two seasoning peppers seeded and minced, one TS salt, a half TS ground cumin, two TBS vegetable oil

Method: In a medium pot heat oil, add onion and garlic and let cook for about one minute. Add pumpkin and mix well, cover and let cook on low heat for ten minutes. Uncover and add salt and seasoning pepper, cover and let cook for another five minutes. Remove the cover and mix well with the pumpkin should smash while stirring. Add ground cumin and mix well. If the pumpkin has excess water let it cook until the pumpkin forms a paste.

Serves 6 to 8


Ingredients: five green mangoes (I prefer long mangoes.), two cloves garlic minced, one TBS salt, Two TBS brown sugar, two TBS anchar massala, TBS curry powder, one cup water, one TBS vegetable oil, One hot pepper seeded  and minced optional two

Method: Wash and slice mangoes length wise into 6 to 8 pieces. Remove seed and wash, set aside. Mix curry powder in a half cup of water to form a thin paste. Heat oil in a heavy pot add curry paste and cook stirring over a low heat for a minute. Add mango pieces and mix so that all the pieces are covered with the curry. Add remaining water, garlic, salt, sugar (and pepper). Lower heat, cover and cook until mango is tender, you can add more water if you find it to be too dry. Add the anchar massala and mix well, remove from heat and set aside till you are ready to serve.