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Recipes to Celebrate Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors

Bangladesh India Sri Lanka Pakistan Culture
by Sejal Saraiya Mar 1, 2010

Today marks the celebration of Holi, a Festival of Colors celebrated in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. You know the holiday when you see people throw brightly colored powders and colored water at each other. Like so many holidays world wide, food finds its own important place in the celebration.

Preparations begin days in advance, preparing special dishes and sweets like the malpua, mathri, Puran Poli and Dahi Vada. Learn for yourself to make the sweet, salty and intoxicating tastes that help make this festival so lively.

Puran Poli

Filling :
1. Boil 1 cup chana dal or yellow gram (1 cup) with little water until it becomes soft and paste-like. For faster results, cook it in a pressure cooker.
2. Drain it thoroughly, add approximately 1 cup jaggery flakes. You may want to adjust the amount depending on how sweet you want it to be.

3. Cook the mixture in a heavy saucepan while stirring continuously. You know it’s ready when the jaggery blends with the dal, and a soft paste forms.
3. Add 1 teaspoon cardamom, nutmeg, a few strands of saffron. Set aside to cool.

1. Mix 2 cups refined flour, 1 3/4 cups water or milk to make the flour into a soft dough, and 1 teaspoon refined oil (1 tbs).
2. Knead the flour into until the dough forms.
3. Make small balls of the kneaded dough. Take a ball and use a rolling pin to flatten it into a thick small roti.

Assembling the Puran Poli
1. Put the chana dal paste as a filling in the center and seal the roll.
2. Reroll it gently. If the paste slides out, use flour to seal it.
3. Roast the poli on warm griddle till golden brown on both sides.
4. Apply a teaspoon of ghee on it and serve hot.

Dahi Vadas

1. Soak 2 cups urad dal mixed with 1/4 cup moong dal for about 6 hours.
2. Grind the soaked dal.
3. Add salt, ginger, 2-3 finely chopped green chilies and little water to make smooth batter.
3. Beat this batter well or blend the batter in a blender so that there are no lumps.
4. Heat oil in a pan. With the help of the slotted spoon, drop the batter in the form of balls into the oil.
5. Deep fry the balls (vadas) and remove excess oil using blotting paper or paper napkins.
6. Let the vadas rest in cold salted water for a few minutes to extract the oil.
7. Squeeze out the water from the vadas and keep them aside in a deep-bottomed dish.
8. Add 1 cup milk, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder and salt to taste to 4 cups of curd and whip the mixture.
9. Pour the seasoned curd onto a bowl of vadas.
10. Keep it in the freezer for half an hour. Serve chilled with tamarind chutney.

No meal is complete without drinks. For this, try a milky thandai made from bhang, which is distinctly associated with Holi and sold by government approved merchants.

1. Crush 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 cup bhang, that is cannabis leaves and buds together with the pestle.
2. Put the mixture and 1 tablespoon of ghee in a heavy bottom pan and boil it. Turn down heat and let it steep for 15 minutes.
3. Let it cool to room temperature.
4. Make a fine paste by processing it in a blender. Strain it to get rid of any woody fibers.

1. Boil 1 liter milk and allow it to cool.
2. Grind 1/4 cup almonds, 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon cardamom powder and 7-8 white peppercorn to taste.
3. Add the grounded powder to milk and mix well.
4. Stir in the bhang. Add sugar and 3-4 strands of saffron.
5. Refrigerate the mixture for 3-4 hours. Serve chilled.

Here’s wishing you a happy Holi day filled with flying color, bhang thandai and all the vadas you can eat!


For a look at how the holiday is celebrated outside the kitchen, check out Brave New Traveler’s photo essay on Holi.

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