Savoring Holi: Delicious Delights and Traditional Treats

Hira Shaikh
March 20, 2024
 min read

Holi is upon us, marking the most vibrant season of the year. No other celebration globally can compare to Holi in its ability to turn streets, towns, throngs of people, and structures into a mosaic of colors. This joyful Hindu festival signifies the end of winter and welcomes the beginning of spring.

Holi typically takes place in March, marking the onset of spring and symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. The festivities are spread over two main days. The first day is referred to as Holika Dahan or Choti Holi, where people come together after sunset to perform puja praying for their inner evil to be destroyed.

The main event of Holi unfolds when people throw water with water balloons and vibrant color powder on each other. During Holi, each nook and cranny is awash with vibrant colors, accompanied by music, dance, sumptuous foods, and cherished moments with loved ones. 

This spring festival of colors is nature’s means of chanting “Holi Hai!”.  It's a time when people greet one another with heartfelt hugs, set aside past grievances, and cast aside their concerns.

Holi is a festival that crosses generational lines, bringing joy to everyone from Indian grandparents to young children, and even those not of Indian heritage. No celebration in India is deemed complete without an array of mouthwatering dishes. Here are our top picks for foods and beverages to enjoy during Holi:

1. Thandai

Thandai is an essential refreshment for Holi celebrations. This concoction combines milk, sugar, and a distinctive thandai masala with rose petals, saffron, and finely chopped nuts. The thandai masala powder itself is a rich mix of almonds, cashews, pistachios, fennel seeds, green cardamom, poppy seeds, melon seeds, black peppercorns, rose petals, and saffron.

Bhang (cannabis) is sometimes incorporated into the drink. Thandai is also popularly consumed during the summer months for its cooling properties. Other delicious desserts with thandai masala powder include thandai rice kheer and thandai cheesecake cups

2. Dahi Bhalla

Dahi Bhalla is a beloved savory delicacy that shines during the Holi festival. This dish is made by soaking lentil fritters in smoothly whisked yogurt, then garnished with a blend of tempered spices, including cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and dried red chilis. 

Each mouthful of Dahi Bhalla delivers an exhilarating burst of flavors.

3. Kachori

Kachori features a crunchy, deep-fried shell encasing a spicy filling of lentils or potatoes, commonly accompanied by mint chutney for dipping.

To prepare the filling, moong dal is soaked, ground into a coarse paste, and then cooked with a blend of sautéed spices including turmeric, garam masala, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and green chilis. This spicy mixture is then enclosed in balls of kneaded dough and deep-fried to perfection.

As a celebrated street food, kachori is an essential treat during Holi, offering a taste of happiness with each bite.

4. Namak Pare and Shakarpara

Namak pare is often considered the perfect savory match for chai. This snack is prepared from a dough consisting of flour, salt, and carom seeds (ajwain). After rolling out the dough, it is sliced into small pieces and deep-fried until it achieves a crispy, golden-brown texture.

Shakarpara serves as the sweet counterpart to namak pare. Its dough is made from flour, sugar, cardamom powder, and ghee, cut into bite-sized pieces, and fried similarly. After frying, shakarpara is immersed in sugar syrup.

The delicious taste of both namak pare and shakarpara is undeniable, turning them into irresistibly addictive treats the moment you start snacking on them.

5. Gujiya

Gujiya is a traditional dessert synonymous with the Holi festival. This pastry, shaped like a crescent, is made from wheat flour or semolina and has a luscious filling of khoya, an assortment of nuts, coconut, and sugar, all infused with the aromatic flavors of cardamom and saffron. 

Fried to golden brown crispiness, gujiyas are then glazed with a layer of sugar syrup, offering an indulgent, nutty flavor that is utterly satisfying.

6. Puran Poli

In Marathi, "puran" means "stuffing," and "poli" signifies "flatbread." Puran Poli is a classic sweet flatbread from Maharashtra, stuffed with a sweet filling made from jaggery and gram flour, and seasoned with cardamom, nutmeg, and saffron. This delightful dish is typically served with warm ghee and milk.

7. Malpua

Malpua is a pancake-like dessert made from flour, milk, sugar, cardamom, fennel seeds, and saffron. It's deep-fried to perfection and then soaked in sugar syrup, often served topped with rabri for an added layer of delight.

Rabri, on its own, is a decadent dessert or serves as a luxurious topping for various sweets. It's a rich, creamy concoction made by simmering milk until it thickens considerably, sweetened with sugar, and infused with flavors of cardamom and saffron.  The combination of malpua and rabri is truly lavish, offering an exotic and heavenly culinary experience.

Indians are experts at hosting memorable celebrations, and Holi is a prime example. Immersing yourself in the Holi festival alongside locals is arguably the finest method to experience Indian culture. 

Therefore, seize the chance to partake in one of the globe's most colorful festivities and join in the chorus of "Holi Hai!" regardless of your location.

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